A Day in the Life of a Trave Nurse :: TravelNurseSource.com

Pick Your Travel Nurse Adventure – Nurses Share a Day in the Life

It’s hard to describe the average nurse lifestyle, because there are so many different types of travel nurses out there!

There’s your solo traveler, your married traveler, people travel nursing with a family, and even those who are travel nursing with pets. Here we’ll break down the different types of travel nurse life options.

travel nursing with a family and pets

Travel Nursing with a Family

Travel nursing with a family is unique, because there’s so much to consider. Where will your children attend school? What daycare options will be available while you’re at work? Where will your spouse find work? Will you be able to find a home that’s big enough? Although it can be more challenging than the single travel nurse life, it’s just as rewarding! Some people traveling with a family choose to live in an RV and homeschool their children so that they don’t have to worry about finding new schools each assignment. They relocate every 13 weeks or so, and their children gain many various experiences from life on the road. If RV life isn’t for you, some agencies provide housing for travel nurses with families. You just have to let them know ahead of time!

The only way that travel nursing with a family will be too difficult to accomplish is if your spouse doesn’t have a job that allows him or her to work remotely. Although technology has opened doors for those looking to live a transient lifestyle, there are certain career paths that simply can’t go on the road. However, you can always take a travel assignment that’s close enough to home so that you can still see your family intermittently while you are working as travel nurse. If there’s a will, there’s a way! You just have to talk about it with your spouse and decide what works best for you and your family. Read this travel nurse blog to learn more about additional things to consider when traveling with a family.

Travel Nursing with a Pet

Just because you’re single, doesn’t mean you have to travel alone! However, if you’re going to bring your pet along with you on your travel nurse adventure the first step is making sure that your housing situation allows pets. Secondly, be aware that you may be charged an additional fee if you want to bring your pet on your next travel assignment. The breed and size of your pet may also impact whether or not they can join you on the road.

Still curious about travel nurse life? Learn more from real travel nurses and check out these exclusive travel nurse interviews!

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Solo Travel Nurse Life with Erin Schroeder

Erin shares her travel nurse stories

Meet Erin Schroeder. She works in stepdown, meg/surg units and has been traveling solo as a nurse since 2010. Pictured above is Schroeder on a travel nurse assignment touring the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood, in Burbank, California, where visitors can actually hold Oscars!

At the time of this interview, Erin Schroeder was on a travel assignment in Charleston, West Virginia. She is originally from Cleveland, so she likes to spend part of her travel career close to home. Before West Virginia, she spent nine months in southern California. Schroeder described her new travel assignment in West Virginia as an “enormous change” from her time in California. Yet, constant change is what she loves most about travel nursing, which is why she often switches location and specialty.

“I like the variety. I don’t like to feel like I’m doing the exact same thing, otherwise I’m not learning anything new.”

Here’s what Schroeder had to say about travel nursing!

What are the Benefits of Travel Nursing?

The biggest benefit to travel nursing is change. Schroeder says you can do anything for 13 weeks. If you don’t love it, look further. If you do love it, stick around. As a travel nurse, when you start to worry about the politics of the floor – this person doesn’t like that person – then it’s perfect, because you know it’s time to move on. Plus, there are no staff meetings when you’re a travel nurse and the pay is great!

What are the Challenges of Travel Nursing?

Schroeder admitted there are some challenges to travel nursing. For example, every hospital has a different culture. Although they teach you in nursing school about the culture of nursing, until you go from hospital to hospital and see how they do things – how they meet obstacles they’re faced with – you can’t quite fully grasp culture. In West Virginia (a very rural area) the opioid epidemic has hit hard, and it has broken down the healthcare system there. There are patients who used to be nurses but aren’t anymore because of drugs. There’s also not the same respect towards nurses in West Virginia as there is in other cities and states.

“I’m currently on a floor where most of the staff on any given night are travel nurses, because the hospital can’t retain its staff.”

West Virginia isn’t the only rural area that Schroeder has worked. She took an assignment in Alaska and at one point she worked as a nurse on a reservation in Arizona. Despite the challenges of these different assignments, “It’s super interesting to see how people cope with such extreme situations,” Schroeder said.

Another challenge is getting from place to place. For Schroeder, who chooses to drive to her assignments, she deals with traffic and getting lost. A second challenge, after adapting to new cultures, is learning how long your commute is going to be and getting that feel for each new location.

Since Schroeder is from Ohio, she doesn’t qualify to use the compact license program. Instead, she has to apply for a license in each state that she wants to work in. The wait time for a state license depends on the state, but the longest she’s had to wait is about six weeks. She uses a database called Nursys.com, which allows her to keep track of her licenses in once place.

What Advice Would You Give Someone Starting Out?

“Make sure you love your recruiter. Make sure you have a super good relationship with the person who’s going to find you the next job,” Schroeder said. She said that you always want to make sure the recruiter is listening to what you’re saying and that they know where you want to go. For example, for Schroeder, it’s not always about the money but more about what’s going to be fun – and her recruiter knows that. She added, “Pick someone who knows what you’re looking for, who knows what you want to do, and is actually listening.”

She also noted that most interviews happen over the phone, so neither party has to be entirely honest. You won’t know until you show up for your assignment exactly how things will work out. The person interviewing you could tell you that staffing ratios are beautiful, but they might not be. Her advice – always be honest and know when you go into things that not everything might be what you expect.

“You will always feel like you’re starting blind. I don’t know if there’s any perfect way to go in. There are always questions you don’t know to ask. I still feel like sometimes I get a little bit surprised at a location. Issues will pop up. Make sure you can roll with it. Figure out how you’re going to cope with them. Issues you have in the very beginning are minor and they will work themselves out. My advice is, wander into those situations blindly and be surprised. That’s how you learn if you’re going to cut it as a travel nurse.”

What are the Benefits to Using a Recruiter?

As she stated above, the benefit to using a recruiter is having someone who knows what you want and has the time to help you find the perfect assignment. They also know more than you do, and talk to a lot of people in the industry. Schroeder’s example – she had no interest in taking a travel assignment in Delaware, but her recruiter insisted that she did. It turned out to be a blast and she learned a lot at the hospital she worked at. That experience made her grateful for her recruiter relationship. It might take you some time to find that perfect relationship though, so there will be times when you have to dump your recruiter, so to speak. That’s the number one thing people find super awkward, Schroeder said. They could like their recruiter but not the agency. She compared cutting ties with a recruiter to feel like a very awkward break up.

Real Talk About Picking an Agency

When it comes to selecting an agency, you have to know what’s most important to you. For Schroeder, she started out with a really big company, and she felt more like a number than a person. She learned through that experience that she wanted to work with a smaller agency, because she didn’t like feeling like a number. With a smaller agency, she can call payroll and they would know who she was and have built a very personal relationship with her. She also likes having her recruiter available when she needs her. She might not have as good of benefits or pay with her current agency, but at least that piece of her life as a traveler is consistent and reliable.

“At the end of the day it was the recruiter that sold me,” Schroeder said.

Tips for Meeting New People in a New Town

“Meeting people… I don’t feel like I worry about it. I’m okay with going and doing something by myself,” Schroeder said. Plus, working as a nurse is pretty social as it is, so it’s good to get some alone time in. She often tells patients, some of whom have never lived anywhere else, that she’s new to town. They tell her what to see and do. “There are always people around who are willing to talk about what they do for fun. I don’t know if I’ve ever been anywhere where they weren’t excited to have a travel nurse. I’ve met so many good people,” Schroeder said. “You’re immersing yourself into an entire area, so just ask. People are happy to tell you about cool stuff to do, and they’re happy to take you to do a bunch of things.”

Not only does she rely on patients, but also on coworkers. She says you’ll become friends with them or you’ll become enemies with them. When you do make friends with other travel nurses, and there’s a group of you together who are anxious to explore, there’s always mayhem and chaos to discover. “I’ve never had any trouble finding interesting things to go do,” Schroeder said.

As far as maintaining relationships with people back home, Schroeder said her friends are used to her popping up and disappearing. She has longstanding friendships though, so they usually pick up right where they left off.

How Competitive is it to Find an Assignment?

Although competition is high in the travel nursing industry, Schroeder says she never has trouble getting accepted to the assignment she wants. She attributes that to her recruiter. She only applies to jobs that she’s confident she’s a good fit for and she doesn’t usually apply to jobs in areas that are really hard to get into. She used Napa Valley as an example. “Know what you’re good at and go for it,” Schroeder said.

How Far in Advance Do You Look for New Assignments?

Your first travel assignment will take the longest to gain because there’s so much paperwork and benefit information to go over. Plus, you have to tell the agency the story of your life as a nurse. Once you build that initial relationship with an agency, it will most likely be that they update your file with your newest assignment and things will move faster. Schroeder and her recruiter start talking about her next assignment when it’s about six weeks away. When she’s down to one month left at her current assignment, she already knows where she’s going next.

Additional Advice for First Timers


It’s best to have a permanent residence if you can. So, for example, Schroeder uses her parents’ home as her permanent residence. That’s where her mail goes and then they can forward it on to her wherever she is in the country. She knows of other travel nurses who rent their house out while they’re away. For tax purposes, she does have to pay rent, so pays something towards her parents’ bills so that it qualifies. You can learn more about taxes and travel nursing within this guide, but talking to an account about specifics is highly recommended.


Schroeder highly recommends using the housing that agencies provide. This way you’re set up with housing that is already furnished and typically in a reasonably safe area. Some people find their own housing on Craigslist – but, she mentioned that she doesn’t feel comfortable with that.

Deciding on a destination…

“I completely admit that I am a straight up snow bird at this point. I don’t see the need to be hanging out in Cleveland or Wisconsin in the middle of January or February,” Schroeder said. Yet, she admits that she likes seasons, so she wouldn’t want to live in California all the time either. This is why every contract she signs is what she refers to as a “searching contract” in the beginning. She always starts off with a 13-week assignment and then she can decide if she wants to extend her stay or move on. She also tries to give herself some breaks throughout the year. For example, she planned a trip to Iceland around Thanksgiving and sometimes she tries to take an assignment near home or take time off to go home just to catch up and see family and friends.

There are so many things that can impact the quality of the experience you’re going to have at an assignment, from the quality of the hospital to tourism options to weather to the people you meet there. Each assignment gives you a unique experience. For example, “When was the last time you got to hold a head together while somebody stapled it?” Schroeder asked. For her, that was a small hospital in Alaska where she had to do everything from her typical med/surg specialty to sometimes even labor and delivery.

“Every assignment brings you something different, but I don’t know that there’s one place I loved more than all the others,” Schroeder said. “Now I get to be a nurse and be a tourist on my days off.”

A day in the life of a travel nurse in Alaska

Schroeder got to see bears swimming at a bear preserve at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park while on a travel nurse assignment in Alaska. “We took a sea plane into the park and had to wait for a bear to pass further along before we could get ashore,” Schroeder said. “The summer is so full of bears they do a live stream [on social media] so that people can watch the bears catch salmon. They make you take a bear safety class.”

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New to Travel Nurse Life with Kristle Slason

Kristle shares her travel nurse stories

Meet Kristle Slason. She works in the emergency room and has been traveling as a nurse for about one year.

At the time of this interview, Kristle Slason was on a travel assignment in North Platte, Nebraska. She is originally from Arizona and has worked as a nurse for seven years. She’s always worked in emergency care and has even worked as a flight nurse. She chose to switch to ER travel nursing because she was burning out from flight nursing, where she was working 24 hour shifts in an understaffed workforce.

“I had the opportunity to go and do it [travel nursing], so I said, you know what, I’m never going to get this opportunity again so I’m going to take it.”

So far on her travels, Slason has been to Sun City, Arizona, St. Louis, Missouri, and now her assignment in North Platte, Nebraska. She recently chatted with a good friend who wants to learn about travel nursing, so she’s had some practice sharing the pros and cons, the do’s and don’ts. Here’s her friendly advice on travel nursing!

What are the Benefits of Travel Nursing?

The first thing that came to mind for Slason when asked about the benefits of travel nursing is the experience you gain. Slason has worked at different level trauma centers on her travels and she’s gotten to see how they all flow. “You get a lot more experience in a shorter time frame than you would if you were a staff nurse,” Slason said. “You get to see how different areas of the country do things, which is also exciting.”

Another benefit to travel nursing is that you get to go places that you wouldn’t think that you wanted to go. For example, St. Louis was not on Slason’s list. She wanted to go to Texas, but there was nothing available with the pay she needed. “St. Louis called and I was like, I’ve never been to St. Louis,” Slason said. “It was fun to be there. Everyone was super nice there that I worked with. I made friends.”

Slason drives to all of her assignments, so she gets to make some stops along the way. For example, a few months ago she hiked the Grand Canyon, from the north rim to south rim – something she may not have made the time to do otherwise.

Kristle enjoying her travel nurse lifestyle at the Grand Canyon

What are the Challenges of Travel Nursing?

The challenge is the “little everyday things that you don’t think of and then you’re like – oh wow, I’m not used to this.”

The biggest challenge Slason is experiencing in her first year of travel nursing is learning to live out of a suitcase and not having all of her belongings with her. Slason admitted that she’s the type of person that packs 20 outfits for five days – you never know what you’re going to need, right?

“That’s kind of why I did it. I knew I was that type of person and I thought, well, let’s try and do something different. Let’s see if I can change that,” Slason said. Also, there are little things that you don’t think about, like when you go to the grocery store in a new part of the country and they don’t have the food you’re used to eating. “Thank God for Amazon Prime,” she joked.

She also admitted she hasn’t quite figured out what makes you more marketable than others as a travel nurse. For example, when she doesn’t get a travel assignment she applies for – why not? “I pretty much just say it’s not meant to be,” Slason said.

What Advice Would You Give Someone Starting Out?

Don’t think that you know everything or what you did in a previous facility is the best way to do things, Slason says, adding that travel nurses should be willing to adapt and change from assignment to assignment. Nobody likes someone new coming and telling them to make changes. The biggest take away is to really enjoy each assignment and get the best out of it by going in and being willing to take the experiences as they come. Although the protocols and procedures might change, at the end of the day you’re caring for patients and that doesn’t change. “Sometimes you’ll have bad assignments but just chalk it up to, ‘What can I learn from this?’ and grow and learn for the future,” Slason said. “I think every assignment I go to I learn something new. It’s kind of a trial by error thing.”

What are the Benefits to Using a Recruiter?

Slason has only used one recruiter so far and has only been with one agency. She has no need to change things up because her recruiter is very loyal and she enjoys working with him. For example, he’s not constantly checking up on her. He knows that if she wants something, she will text him (which is convenient because she works night shift) and he’ll get her the information she needs. Also, she’s working with a smaller agency that offers her health insurance and good benefits. “The fact that they have that option for me – I love it,” Slason said. In the beginning, she did shop around for a recruiter and an agency and she’s satisfied with her choice. She talked to other travelers, learned about their experiences, and found something best suited for her.

How Far in Advance Do You Look for New Assignments?

Usually Slason starts looking for her next assignment about a month before her contract is up. Her recruiter helps her with this process a lot and she lets him do the location hunt. She never uses the housing options through her agency, but finds her own housing. She uses different resources such as Airbnb.com and a few Facebook pages set up for travel nurse housing, such as Gypsy Soul Travel Nurse Housing Options.

Pink Hair and All – Unsolicited Advice for First Timers

At Slason’s very first assignment, she had dyed her hair and it had pink in it. She had been on assignment for about two weeks before the manager noticed her hair was pink. The manager asked her to change her hair color. Slason, knowing it would wash out soon, opted not to. She worked until the end of the month and then her contract was cancelled. The hospital still gave her a great review, but it ended with something along the lines of, “unfortunately her hair was pink.” Although that was a negative first experience as a travel nurse, it was a learning lesson for Slason.

“I’ve learned to be a little more diligent,” Slason said. “See what everyone else is doing at the hospital and stick to the policies. My hair is currently pink right now, but I knew that I could do it.”

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RV Ride Along: Travel Nurse Life with Kelley Richards:

Kelley Richards and her husband travel together across the country in their RV to wherever her next nurse assignment is. Originally from Florida, they go home every winter. The rest of the year, they’re on the road. At the time of this interview, Kelley was on a travel nurse assignment in West Virginia. Listen to her first-hand account of what it’s like to travel as a nurse!

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