In this blog, Kaci shares her story about how she came to be a traveling nurse. She talks about highlights of her journey and advice to new travelers.
I’m a small town Texas girl. I lived at home while going to college and had never been on my own. I got engaged to my high school sweetheart when I was 20 years old, graduated with my BSN when I was 22, and landed a job at the big inner city trauma center after graduation.
I grew up in a working class family with two siblings. My parents are amazing but worked hard just to provide us with what we needed, so vacations to exotic places were never on our radar. Being a kid I remembered seeing pictures of places my classmates visited on vacations and thinking, “Man, I want to go there one day!” In my two years of travel nursing I’ve visited twenty-seven states, and my desire to see more places has only grown from there.
I loved my family, the job I commuted to, and my small town, but I knew there had to be more to the world. In 2014 a coworker told me about the travel nursing conference “TravCon”, and I decided to go. At that point I had a year and a half of experience, so I set a goal to get the recommended two years experience and to hit the road in 2015.
The journey has been amazing, from the people I’ve met, the places I’ve seen, the opportunities my husband and I have been afforded, along with personal and professional growth beyond what I’d ever imagined. This is my travel nursing story.
My travel nurse story started before I ever hit the road. TravCon 2014 was really my start. My then fiance now husband, Frank, is not a healthcare professional but decided to come along with me to the conference in Vegas. We had a blast! Companies wined and dined us, we met new lifelong friends, and found out about all the potential travel nursing had. We met another RN/non-healthcare couple there, Becca and Josh, who were currently traveling and they helped me convince my husband that travel nursing was doable as a healthcare/non-healthcare couple.
Becca was on her first assignment in Texas a few hours away from where we lived, while Josh kept up with the house and picked up odd jobs. Like Frank, Josh had worked in auto body, but left his job to travel with Becca. I wanted Frank to experience the country with me, but at first he was a little hesitant to assume the “non-traditional” role. Josh really helped Frank understand that while different, traveling with an RN significant other was a positive experience. So in July 2015, we set out on my first assignment.
The First Assignment
We decided on thSouthern California for my first traveling nursing assignment. Frank was originally from there, and still had extended family in the area. I was ecstatic to land an assignment in Corona, close to his hometown, just outside of L.A. We secured housing with one of his childhood best friends, so moving out for the first time half way across the country didn’t seem as scary. We packed up our worldly possessions in my car, hooked it up to his truck, and hit the road!
I was thrilled when we arrived. We got there a week before my assignment started and began exploring. I saw mountains for the first time, lounged on beautiful beaches, and visited cool breweries.
The next week I started work, and… I was in a complete state of culture shock to say the least. Even though I am a small town girl my experience was in a huge level I trauma center with every resource available within its walls. This place was a tiny, two floor facility, where RNs were responsible for so many things. It was just so different!
I remember later that week getting on the treadmill and just bursting into tears. I missed my mom, we had never lived apart. I missed my work family that had known and loved me since I was a CNA. My fiance had quit his job to travel with me. I thought to myself, “What in the hell was I thinking moving halfway across the country?”
Even though Frank and I had each other I think we both felt so alone. This is the part people don’t tell you about being a traveler. It can be lonely and terrifying, but you have to push through. We started taking trips to San Diego, staying with his cousin in downtown L.A. on my weekends off, and enjoying what was around us.
Before I knew it we both found better, stronger versions of ourselves. I grew so much as a person and as an RN. My first assignment taught us to live in the moment and enjoy what you are surrounded by, to be outgoing and to make new friends. Lessons I continue to embrace and am forever grateful for. I ended up loving Cali and extended my contract there staying five months. We attended TravCon again that year where Becca and Josh met and introduced us to Julia Kuhn. The five of us have become great friends.
The Travel Life
We returned home for the winter and prepared for our wedding. I worked a seasonal position at my home hospital while I decided what was next after the wedding. Julia, Becca, and Josh – our “travel buddies” as we deemed them – all flew in from around the country for our wedding. I couldn’t believe that people I technically barely knew cared enough to come in for my wedding. We hadn’t known each other long, but in the travel nursing community, you often find that other travelers become another family.
Becca and Josh invited us to join them in Florida for vacation after our honeymoon. We did and on that trip it was decided that we should come to Wisconsin on contract and rent a room from them. We did and it was the best summer of my adult life. I had never thought Wisconsin would be a cool place but it was. From the great lake, to Summerfest, to the food scene, and then the good friends, we loved it. We camped, kayaked, hiked, drank, went to concerts, fished in Lake Michigan during the salmon run, and made even more new friends. I never considered myself to be the outdoorsy type, but meeting Becca and Josh through traveling opened me up to so many new things I probably would’ve never tried. We liked it so much we returned this year.
We attended TravCon 2016 all together, met up with Julia again, and by networking throughout the years at TravCon my husband was offered a job as a remote travel recruiter. It is perfect for him since he has lived the travel life with me and is able to understand the needs of travel healthcare professionals from first-hand experience. By me pursuing travel nursing, my husband was also able to find a career he is passionate about. Frank loves helping travelers achieve their goals, get to new places, swapping travel stories, and occasionally running into his travelers on the road.
My travel nurse story is ongoing; I love all that it has provided me and the life lessons it has taught me. People who are considering a travel healthcare positions often ask me for advice.
My advice is this. JUST DO IT!
Research, go to TravCon, connect with other travelers, open yourself up to the possibilities. Go places you never thought you would. You just might love it. Travel nursing opened so many doors for me and my husband while allowing us to live so much. It is scary at first, but now my only fear is that I won’t know how to settle down. We return home for my seasonal position a few months out of every year, but it doesn’t take long for the road to call our name again. I don’t know what is next, but I do know that somewhere down the road lie more adventures, new friends, and another city.
Featured Image Photo Credit: Shauna Fraizer