Ask a Travel Nurse Question:
My co-worker and I have decided to break free from our local hospital and try a Travel Nurse contract. Even though it is expensive, we thought Hawaii would be a nice destination. My question is, does Travel Nursing in Hawaii pay well? How do we make this work so that we are not broke and are paid well?
Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:
Bottom line, Hawaii is expensive. It’s a coveted destination and because of this, they do not really need to pay TOP dollar to continue to attract nurses. However, you do still find Hawaii assignments which means they still have needs and must pay enough for nurses to make it worth their while.
The first notion you must abandon is in making money (or coming out ahead) when taking a Hawaii assignment. The best that you should hope for is to break even. Hawaii is not a place you travel to in order to make money, it is purely about the experience of the islands!
So you must also forget about the “paid well” part. You get paid what they are paying. If you don’t accept that, there are other nurses that will. The variable in all of this, that you can control, is the “not going broke” part. To accomplish this, you must have a monetary strategy and a budget that allows you to pay all your monthly expenses and hopefully have some “play money” left at the end of month.
Ask most seasoned Travelers and they will tell you the easiest way to make money on an assignment is by taking a housing stipend. While this can be a good way to pocket some extra money, it does leave you to find your own housing. This is something that you may or may not want to take on. If this is your first travel assignment, I always caution nurses to take the company provided housing as this is one more burden that you do not want to have to be responsible for on your very first outing. I have actually NEVER taken a stipend when I was away from home because housing is just not something about which I want to worry when starting a new assignment.
However, you are in the unique position of traveling with someone, so that does allow a creative way to have the stability of company provided housing, and make a little money by taking a stipend. The way this works is that one of you opts to take company provided housing with the understanding that you will require a two bedroom apartment. Now the travel company will charge you extra for this (in most places a few hundred dollars a month, but in Hawaii, who knows?), but then you will both have a company provided place with your own bedroom. The other person will take the housing stipend and out of that, will pay the extra money charged for the additional bedroom, and then split the remaining money.
This situation allows both of you to have the safety and security of company provided housing while still earning some money through a stipend. As with any other earnings when traveling, but sure to understand the tax implications on money that is received for a housing stipend but not expressly used for that purpose.
The reason I like this approach, as opposed to both of you taking a stipend, is that the company is responsible for arranging your housing. On one of my Hawaii trips, housing was tight and I had to stay in a one bedroom apartment for about a month before moving to a condo. A few months later, the owner of the condo decided she was not making enough off the rental and I then had to move to another unit in the same complex. The thing was, all of this happened behind the scenes and the only thing I was responsible for was packing my things and moving. I didn’t have to worry about looking for a new location (twice), paying security deposits, paying rents, completing rental paperwork and signing leases, etc. That assignment would have been a nightmare if I had taken a stipend.
Another additional thing to think about is on which island you’d like to work. If you find an assignment on Maui or the Big Island, while these may be less “touristy” areas and have a bit more beauty to them, you will also have to deal with no public transportation (i.e. buses). On Oahu, you can get around quite a bit without an auto (although you may need to rent one on days when you wish to visit the more remote parts of the island). However, the outer islands have little to offer in the way of public transit (or at least that was the case the last time I was there, about six or seven years ago).
On the outer islands, you will have to consider the cost of a rental car, or, if you plan on staying a while, the cost of shipping your auto to Hawaii (which I did the past two times working on Maui). This may certainly affect your bottom line and once you are out there, island hopping is easy to do and not very costly. So Oahu may be the best bet if looking to minimize costs.
One other thing you can do to make a little extra cash is to join local agency or registry while out there. There are several agencies on Oahu and I actually did work for Kahu Malama Nurses on Oahu on my second trip to Maui. You can even pick up extra shifts on neighboring islands.
Hawaii is one destination where you cannot really think about making money, but rather, have to come at it from the perspective of trying not to spend too much while enjoying paradise.
I hope this helps.