I am a registered nurse working in labor and delivery through a travel nurse staffing provider. The thing I love most about the labor and delivery unit is that I can focus all my attention and support on one patient and can truly offer personalized care to that patient and make a difference for them.

That is the level of care I feel I receive from my staffing provider.

I am working under my fourth contract as a travel nurse. While I had heard about travel nursing in nursing school, I didn’t really know much about it until a traveler came to my home hospital unit. I loved her stories and started to look into it. Being relatively new to nursing, I didn’t feel experienced enough to pursue it, but when life forced me to move unexpectedly, I took the leap.

I have been traveling for 2.5 years and have been to four different hospitals — three in my home state of Washington and one in California. My recruiters have been very supportive as I gained confidence as a traveler. My first recruiter explained the details of traveling to me and would call weekly to see how I was adjusting. When she left the company, she matched me with another wonderful recruiter who always has my back and helps me with whatever I need. Anytime I have had a question or problem, she is the first one I call. I’m not sure she ever sleeps! My firm, Atlas MedStaff, has also committed to providing up to two weeks’ paid sick time if we are diagnosed with Covid-19 from a likely-at-work exposure. This isn’t required and shows me that they truly care.

Learning curve. I have found that I enjoy staying at a hospital for six to nine months. My assignment in California, while exciting, taught me I would prefer to stick to travel positions closer to home and take vacations to different areas of the country instead. I have really enjoyed exploring new areas of my state and meeting new people.

I was very nervous during my first two assignments, but I have grown much more confident walking into a new environment. Traveling has taught me how to go with the flow and show confidence even when I don’t know everything. Being a traveler has also helped me learn to balance working extra shifts when I can with taking time to recover when I need to. I would often feel guilty if I turned down an extra shift — a common feeling with nurses.

Pros and cons. While self-discovery is of course a benefit, there are others — the most obvious being the extra money inherent in travel nursing. The added pay has enabled me to pay off my debts and buy a new car. This financial freedom, in turn, has enabled me to take a breaks between contracts to do as I please. I can also plan vacations with confidence. As a staff nurse, I would be lucky if I could get my vacation days off when I wanted them.

Of course, being a travel nurse does have risks, such as greater instability. Contracts can be rescinded without warning and the current climate notwithstanding, lining up a new contract isn’t guaranteed. But the larger paychecks have enabled me to save enough money to cover a few months’ expenses just in case. There are also tax compliance considerations when you receive per diem payments, but there are excellent resources available to help. My go-to resource is Traveltax.com.

I am so glad I took that leap. I have grown a great deal as a nurse and a person in the last 2.5 years. I have met many wonderful people and get to do what I truly love: helping people. If you have wanted to start traveling but are scared, just try it! You will never know if it is the right thing for you until you do.