By August 22, 2011 0 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: Is it realistic to think that I can be a travel nurse with a family?


travel nurse and daughter on beachAsk a Travel Nurse Question:

Is it realistic to think that I can be a travel nurse with a family? I have a husband that works a full time job and three small children. Would it be worth my while to take this on? I love the thought of travel but hate the thought of leaving my family behind. I have to be honest as well and say I am thinking of traveling for the money. Is it not worth it?

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

It is not unrealistic for anyone with a family to be a travel nurse. However, the other question you had, “Is it worth your while?”, might be a better place to focus.

You mentioned a husband that works full time. Is he the primary earner in the home? Would he be able to find work when you travel? Would losing his income affect your family’s finances? These are the things you need to ask yourself when considering travel. Can you make a good living being a travel nurse? Sure, but the days of thousand dollar completion bonuses on every other assignment are gone. You can still find assignments with completion bonuses, but they are not as prevalent as they once were.

I know many nurses who travel for the money, but they are always going from company to company in search of the top hourly rate. They also tend to take high paying assignments that might be high in pay because no one wants to travel to that location. Or it could be that it is at a facility that will float you often during your contract (float positions tend to be harder and therefore should pay better). It’s possible to concentrate on the monitory aspect of travel nursing, but I have always been more about the location than the pay.

Plus, once you are on the road you will have several other things to think about. First, as we mentioned before, does you husband work for a company, or in a field, where he can easily find work while you are on the road? Who will watch the children if you both work? What will you do for schooling? All these things are not impossible to overcome, but you need to look at each variable to figure out if the situation is doable.

Call up a few recruiters at the travel companies and see what you might expect to earn in your specialty. Ask them what assignments they currently have available to give you an idea of what to expect. Also ask them what their company would charge you for the extra options you might require. For example, most assignments come with free private housing; however, that is commonly a one bedroom unit. Would you require a two or even three bedroom place? Would you be adding your family to your insurance once you started traveling? If so, how much more does that cost? You really need to have forethought and plan accordingly.

As you can see, there are a ton of variables in this equation. Do you plan to take your family, or is it possible to leave them behind? If you take a travel assignment just a state away, you might leave your family behind and group all your days together and then head home on your time off. You could then also just take the housing stipend and stay in a hotel during the days you work. At $50 a night, you could sleep in a hotel for each shift (assuming 12 hr shifts or 12 days a month) and that would only be $600 a month for hotel expense. Your housing stipend would likely be over $1000 a month. So, in this instance, you would have an extra $400 each month (assuming it was only $1000 a month for your stipend). You could also deduct many expenses on your taxes, especially if you have a “tax home” (some place you normally stay, where by going on the road, you would be doubling your expenses).

Without knowing all these specifics, it’s impossible to tell if it would be worth it in your situation. However, I’ve hopefully given you a few things to consider when asking yourself that very question. The great thing about travel nursing is that you might even be able to take a leave from your current position and “test the waters” a bit.

I hope this has helped as far as thinking through the process. Once you have the financial information from the travel company (as far as what you would be paid, what family plan insurance would cost, any costs for larger housing, etc), sit down and discuss it with your family. While not impossible, traveling with a family does certainly require more attention to detail and it will be an adjustment for all.


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About the Author:

Hello everyone. I’m a travel nurse originally from Ohio who graduated in 1993 from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus. I completed a critical care fellowship at Riverside Methodist Hospital in 1994 and started traveling in that specialty a year later. My first travel assignment was in Maui and since that time I have completed close to 40 different contracts in various states with multiple travel companies. I am the author of Travel Nurse’s Bible (A Guide to Everything on Travel Nursing), in addition to my writings here and in the pages of Travel Nursing publications such as Healthcare Traveler Magazine and American Nurse Today. I am presently on assignment in Phoenix, AZ and travel anywhere from six to eleven months of the year.

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