So I am currently working on a post as a follow-up to Night Shift and Finding Health, and as much as I want to get that post finished, this topic has also been floating around in my brain quite a bit lately, so I decided to switch gears and address it.
Since starting out as a travel nurse in February of 2016, I have been offered an extension at every job I have had. The reality of most assignments is the departments are short-staffed, and once a unit loses a few nurses, it often takes months to rebuild staffing numbers between interviews, pre-employment screening, and orientation that can last anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks. Unit managers have to be aggressive and forward-thinking to make up for a few lost nurses, and often upper management is slow to respond to their cries for job postings. Thus, short-term needs are put out in the form of travel nurse postings. Once on board, it is easy for management to just extend a good worker than to try and find another one to fill the gap for the few months needed to try and fill their permanent staff positions.
I think every travel nurse acutely assesses the unit they are on for the first few weeks of an assignment thinking “What will I decide if they ask me to extend?” We mentally weigh the pros and cons, and have to assess everything from our housing situation to family obligations that may fall within an extension timeframe.
Right before Keaton and I hit the road for real in August, we almost got cold feet. I loved my assignment, the CrossFit box I was at, we were close to family, and Keaton had several permanent opportunities in the area.
But then we remembered why we set out to do this crazy traveling thing in the first place:
Freedom. Freedom to choose where we want to go, and when. Freedom from departmental politics. Freedom from approved time off and holiday schedules. Financial freedom.
We essentially asked ourselves three questions:
- Did our current positions offer something in the way of expanding that freedom?
- Would we feel hampered by our jobs rather than blessed by them in the next few months to a year?
- Would we have the opportunities to save, travel, and smash financial goals if we stayed put?
In July, our answer to all three questions were no. We wanted the choice to travel, to explore new places, to take time off when we wanted. And we had major financial goals that just couldn’t be accomplished on two permanent salaries.
As we made it to the halfway point in our current assignment, we began to assess again. (I should preface with the fact that we had no intention of staying longer than 13 weeks in Wisconsin. It was a great pay rate that brought us here, and we had no desire to spend winter up north.) But, if we extended just 6 weeks, we could go home for Christmas, take a few weeks off, and hopefully finish off my debt by the end of the extension.
We assessed again, using the same questions, and we came to the conclusion that while we did not exactly expand on our travel goals while staying, we were able to save more, make progress on our financial goals, and perhaps save more towards trips in between assignments.
The reality of being a traveling worker is that the next job is not guaranteed. But, you’re not obligated to stay in a job you hate either. We know that we are making good money and accomplishing a lot financially at our current jobs. However, in terms of personal fulfillment and career advancement, there are lots of shortcomings related to both of our positions. We had to weigh all of the pros and cons in order to decide what best fit our goals and dreams, and our vision of what our life should be like.
Ultimately, being home for the holidays, along with good pay was a huge weight this time around. Next time, holidays won’t be an issue, so we will have different aspects to consider when it comes time to ask that golden question: Should we stay or should we go?
Eventually, I know the question will change to “Should we stay, or should get go home?”. The weights we give each of the three questions will shift, and I think the time to hang up our traveling shoes will come with a sense of peace and thankfulness. Right now, I am thankful for our crazy adventure of a life, and excited to see where our future as nomad healthcare workers takes us. We’ll finish out this year home with family and friends and then–who knows where we’ll be off to!
With love and extensions (or not!)