Is Travel the Cure For The Type A Nurse?
Have you ever been told you need to loosen up? Been called bossy or a control freak? Growing up, friends would tell me to “take a chill pill.” (Shoot – I think I just aged myself.)
That’s life for us type-A folks. We tend to choose careers that allow us to indulge in these tendencies. Many of us are drawn to nursing because it suits our personality. It’s rigorous. It’s exacting. It requires precision.
Controlling our environment brings comfort to people like me. But it can also keep us from growing. Taking a travel nursing job can be the kick in the pants we need. I turned to several current travel nurses to see how the decision to hit the road has affected their attitudes towards work and life. Here are a few things I learned:
Never knowing what comes next can lead to unexpected joy.
Rachel, a travel nurse from Colorado, credits her new career with granting her the ability to let go. She suggests going in to travel nursing without a plan — which gives my Type A heart palpitations — but she has a good reason. When you don’t have a plan, you leave yourself open to all possible experiences.
Rachel admits she hated going with the flow at first. She knows she could have held onto the familiar and rationalized her way out of travel, but she’s forever grateful that she didn’t. She admits, “I could have made 1,000 excuses not to travel and I tried … ‘I own a house and I have a great job already and I have dogs and I have a boyfriend…’ until I thought, if I want to make this happen I absolutely can.”
Making it happen led to the discovery of places she never considered visiting, let alone living in. She says, “If you told me a year ago that I’d be working in Ohio I would have thought you were crazy. We don’t know where we’re gonna be next, and that’s what makes travel nursing such a great experience.”
Change isn’t always easy, but it’s almost always worth it.
Some people aren’t naturally filled with wanderlust; they find new environments uncomfortable rather than stimulating. But we only grow when we push ourselves beyond our comfort zone. “I don’t do well with change. The first month I traveled was kind of terrible,” admits travel ICU nurse Taylor.
Taylor is glad she stuck it out through the tough times. She’s learning to surf, trying her hand (and arms and legs!) at paddle boarding and discovering miles of hiking trails. She’s in love with Southern California and tempted to stay, but now that she’s found one new place that feels like home, she realizes there could be lots more out there…
Work isn’t everything.
Lydia is a traveling home health nurse married to Sky, a travel behavioral health nurse. They chose to leave home not to see new places, but for the increased income and flexible schedule. They went to North Dakota in the middle of winter because the salary offered was off the charts and they could pay off their debt (which they did within 6 months). But it wasn’t just the money, it was changing things up and spending time together that really mattered. To make that possible, they had to let go of the stability and security of their staff jobs.
“We needed to get out of our rut,” Lydia explains. “We were in debt and didn’t have the tools to meet our financial goals. The sky was working overtime, nights and weekends I was working Monday through Friday. We didn’t have a single day together.” With their debt paid and a newfound abundance of quality time off, Sky can assuredly say, “Deciding to travel was hands down the best decision we’ve made as a couple.”
You can’t learn new things if you don’t try new things.
Chelsea was a staff med Surg nurse from Louisiana who decided to travel because she craved something new and different. When Chelsea was on the hunt for her first assignment, her recruiter asked if she’d give telenursing a shot. Her first thought was, “Well, it wouldn’t kill me to learn something new!”
Travel nursing often requires learning new things, like a new specialty, or trying new things, like night shift when you’ve always worked days. Not the dream scenario for my Type A tribe. However, I’ve spoken to travel nurse after travel nurse who said that after forcing themselves into change, they not only tolerate it but crave it. Despite constantly working with new people, adapting to new situations, living in new environments and generally upending his life every 13 weeks, travel psych nurse Carl quips, “The only real challenge is deciding where we want to go next.”
When you leave your comfort zone, you’ll find help along the way.
“I feel like part of a small, tight-knit community of travel nurses. Everyone knows everyone,” says PICU/CVPICU traveler Megan. Fellow travelers understand the joys and hardships of life on the road. Leaning on them can help.
We all know nursing is a difficult job in the best of days. When you add huge stressors like living in a new city while working with unfamiliar people to smaller stressors like not knowing where supplies are, it’s enough to make any control freak’s head explode. But, when you realize you’re not in it alone, things get easier. Letting go becomes, dare I say … fun?
Touting travel nursing as the “cure” for Type A tendencies may be a tad hyperbolic, but for those who can handle the challenge, it can become a salve for the anxious soul. It provides at least a small piece of that chill pill I’ve often been told to take.
Travel nursing forces you into constant flux. Growth is inevitable. I encourage every nurse, no matter how tightly you hold on to safety and control, to venture out and see what lies beyond the known.
April Hansen, RN, MSN, is the Executive Vice President, Workforce Solutions and Clinical Services at Aya Healthcare. April has an extensive background in critical care nursing, education, and leadership in healthcare systems, the ed-tech industry, and the staffing industry. April is the co-founder of a clinical management technology as well as a nurse engagement mobile application and has dedicated her professional career to solving real-life workforce challenges through innovative solutions.