ExecutiveChronicles | Travel Nursing with a Family Poses Unique Challenges | There’s nothing quite like being a travel nurse. I first signed for it about six years ago, and it’s been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my career and of my life. I always imagined it would be a temporary thing for me, but here I am in the thick of it six years later. The money has been great, the benefits are unparalleled, and the actual work itself has been tested me in ways I didn’t know I could be tested, and I’ve come out stronger as a nurse and as a person.
One of the most grueling trials that I’ve had to face is how to maintain this life while also having a husband, a young daughter, and the absolute cutest corgi in the world. There’s no way around it, travel nursing with a family has its challenges. If you’re like me, you feel the call to go where the need is greatest and give your all in the service of something greater than yourself. If you’re also like me, your husband both loves and hates that about you. Luckily, being a travel nurse doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your family life. Believe it or not, you can have both – provided you have a spouse who can roll with the punches the way you can. Here’s what I’ve learned in over half a decade of doing this.
What Can I Expect?
Let’s get the easy one out of the way. Unless you really want to, you don’t have to leave your family behind when you take on the job. If you do want to leave your family behind on assignments, I recommend finding a good marriage counselor! When you first sign on as a travel nurse, part of the process is talking to a recruiter who will try to meet your needs for each assignment. You may be on a long-term posting that has you there for weeks or months at a time, and that requires housing. One of your recruiter’s main responsibilities is to make sure you have a place to lay your head when your shift is done.
If your needs include having a family (or pet), your recruiter needs to know. Your family can go with you, but your recruiter can’t accommodate what they don’t know about. Your first step is to tell them how many you need to take with you, including pets. There will be extra challenges, of course; having extra people or pets will put limitations on what kind of housing is available. This is especially true if you’re taking kids with you. However, that’s something your recruiter and dispatcher can work on. It’s their literal job to make sure you have what you need.
What Can My Family Expect?
There are challenges to being the family of a travel nurse. One of the biggest problems is going to be your spouse’s potential job or career. I got lucky; my husband is a novelist (there’s a good chance you’ve heard of his work!) who can work from anywhere, so the travel doesn’t disrupt his work at all. That said, if you have a spouse with a more demanding career, moving all over the place might be a problem. More and more positions allow remote work thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic; if your spouse can work remotely, they should look into doing so.
Alternatively, your spouse might not have to work at all. As you can see here, a travel nurse can make over $100k for what we do. With a lot of your expenses already covered, such as housing, you might find that your paycheck is more than enough to maintain a good lifestyle. Of course, that’s a conversation that you and your spouse will need to have, and only the two of you can determine your unique needs. My husband could theoretically stop writing (not that he ever would, he loves it!) and we’d still be fine in perpetuity. This option may not be for everyone, but it is an option on the table for you to consider.
The greatest challenge I’ve faced isn’t financial or logistical, it’s emotional. The work is grueling and taxing, and you may find that you’re too drained to engage in the usual relationship activities after your shift. A good spouse will support you in your rest, but I know there have been times I’ve missed my husband while he’s lying next to me. There are ways to deal with the stress, some of which can be found at https://www.loyalsource.com/travelnursing/travel-nursing-stress-5-ways-to-cope, but I recommend further that you set aside something special for your relationship. Pick a TV show or movie series to watch together. Commit to an activity. Trust me, it’ll go a long way towards helping you stay connected to the people you love the most.