I wanted to become a NICU travel nurse since nursing school and I was determined to make it happen. I knew all the steps I needed to take: land a new grad job in a NICU, gain experience for 2 years, then secure my first contract.
But, I never could have expected some of these opportunities that came from my travel nursing journey.
1. Seeing parts of the country I never would have otherwise
Travel nurses get to choose the locations they want to work. I grew up in New York, so when I was finally able to travel, I made my way up the west coast. From Los Angeles to Berkeley, California, all the way up to Everett, Washington, I saw new landscapes and cultures I had never experienced. I never imaged I’d be able to experience living in some of the most expensive cities in America. And if someone told me I’d be living in Everett, Washington for three months, I would’ve denied it! My most recent contract took me back to the east coast in Georgia – another place I never would’ve expected to be living!
2. Time off between contracts to travel the world
I knew travel nurses didn’t have to wait for approval on PTO to plan a vacation, but I never expected to be able to take so much time off! I always take several weeks off from work between each contract to travel. One time I took a four-week Europe trip through Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark. Another trip was spent backpacking through Asia for three weeks, followed by a week in Hawaii. I also got to take my little brother on a sibling trip to Iceland and Denmark. After that, another trip to Sweden!
3. Paying off all my student loans
I knew travel nurses were paid well, but I didn’t realize how much I’d be able to accomplish with the extra cash. I was able to pay off all my student loans in the first year! Then, the extra money went to my savings and paying for more traveling. The boost in income can be a blessing for so many nurses and I’ve heard of some who paid off their homes with the extra income.
4. I became a better nurse
I’ve now worked in over 8 different NICUs around the country, including Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, which was ranked #3 NICU in the U.S. when I was working there (by U.S. News and World Report). I have learned new ways of doing things and have taken care of some of the most unique cases and babies with rare diagnoses. I’ve become a nurse that can easily adapt to different challenges and settings. I’m now a more well-rounded nurse and will always take my collection of knowledge with me as a souvenir to new facilities.
5. I learned how to live minimally
Relocating every few months meant that we (my husband, myself and our cat) needed to be mobile. When we decided to travel nurse, we went all in. We sold all of our furniture and most personal items. Everything we owned fit in our car! Something special came from it though – I realized how little “stuff” was actually needed to enjoy life. Shedding all of my physical items was surprisingly a huge weight off my shoulders and I have learned that less equals more when it comes to physical items. I value experiences over materials.
6. Meeting nurses from all over the country
I’ve met nurses from all the country and have made some lifelong friends thanks to travel nursing. One nurse friend of mine moved to Australia. Others continue to do travel nursing and see new places. I now have a couch to crash on in so many parts of the world with friends who can show me around like a local and that is priceless to me.
7. Starting my own business
In 2020 when covid hit, I had free time between contracts to get creative. I made my own NICU nurse t-shirt to wear to work and shared a photo on my social media. I didn’t realize how many nurses I had actually met from all over the country until my inbox was flooded with messages from tons of nurses who wanted one of my shirts. Within a month, I fulfilled over 300 t-shirt orders of all different specialties for nurses across the U.S.!