The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects more than 175,000 job openings for registered nurses each year through 2029. While the demand for healthcare professionals is high, so are stress levels. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, approximately six in 10 healthcare workers felt stress that affected their mental health during the pandemic. Fortunately, there is a solution for stressed nurses looking for a change in routine: becoming a healthcare traveler.
Jenn Silvers works as a traveling trauma nurse for Travel Nurse Across America (TNAA), which places healthcare professionals on multi-week assignments in facilities across all 50 states. Jenn took her first TNAA assignment in 2017, and she's traveled with the company ever since.
"As a traveler, I have the freedom to take my routine anywhere in the country," Jenn said. "I can change my scenery and the people I'm surrounded by and work with. It made me happy to be a nurse again."
Nurses with the required experience can begin traveling in any season of life. Some nurses take their careers on the road after two years in their specialty, while others choose to travel closer to retirement age. Some nurses travel solo, but others take families, kids, pets, or friends along for the ride.
Amy Nava, a TNAA ambassador, tours the country with her husband. The couple longed to explore the U.S. while still making a living, and traveling as a nurse was the best choice.
"We have made so many friends across the country," Amy said. "We're working in Washington state for a second time, and we reconnected with friends we made the last time we worked here. Each area of the U.S. has different cultures, which makes us more well-rounded individuals."
Laura Rogers began traveling after her three kids were adults. At the time, she worked as a PACU nurse in Alabama and had grown tired of her routine. Since working with TNAA, Laura's life on the road has allowed her to view the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in person, work at Martha's Vineyard, visit Yellowstone National Park, and watch a sunrise at the Grand Canyon.
"I look at it as being paid to be on vacation," Laura said. "It's 13 weeks, and then you move on or you don't. Either way, you are there to work and get paid to travel around."
Laura has loved every place she's visited while on assignment, but she acknowledges there are bittersweet moments. She said it can be difficult to leave behind friends met on her adventures, but there is a bright side to making nationwide connections.
"You have left part of your heart all over the U.S., and you know exactly where to go to find it again," Laura explained.
For Jenn, another exciting part of traveling is exposure to various methods of healthcare. TNAA works to place nurses at the top facilities across the nation.
"There is so much to continually learn about nursing, and medicine is constantly changing," Jenn explained. "I work mainly at Level 1 trauma centers and teaching hospitals, so you are at the forefront of medicine. You get to work alongside new residents to help shape them into outstanding physicians one day, and you get to work alongside some of the most innovative surgeons in the country."
The career-building opportunities are endless, but becoming a healthcare traveler can also help nurses combat burnout.
"I love nursing, and traveling keeps things fresh," Amy said. "It has been the single most important element to preventing me from burnout."
Anna Catalano became a TNAA traveler because she knew mentally and emotionally that she couldn't stay at the staff job she had at the time.
"I figured I could try [traveling] for a year and see if I liked it," Anna said. "Well, one year, four locations, and four contracts has turned to almost five years, nine locations, and approximately 18 contracts or extensions."
As a traveler, Anna says she doesn't get involved in hospital politics or extra-curricular requirements, and her time off is hers to enjoy.
"I love the flexibility and adventure of traveling. I get to take a vacation when I want to without waiting for approval," Anna said. "I also get to explore the U.S. without breaking the bank and taking time off. I'm a resident tourist for three-plus months."
Becoming a travel nurse is exciting, but getting started may seem daunting. That's why it's vital to pick the right agency to have the best experience as a healthcare traveler.
TNAA prides itself on supporting nurses every step of the way. Their healthcare travelers are supported by industry experts, from recruiters and a clinical support team to quality assurance specialists and a housing department. They obsess over your experience to get you on the right assignment quickly. TNAA also offers travelers best-in-class benefits, including paid sick leave from day one, travel reimbursement, weekly pay, free continuing education, and much more.
"Travel nursing, especially with TNAA, has been the best experience of my life," Anna said. "I won't deny that there are difficulties in the career, but when you're working with the right company, recruiters, and support, those difficulties are hills of growth instead of mountains of defeat."