Questions From Those Who Want To Travel With A Family. 

Recently I have been receiving questions from nurses who are wanting to travel nurse with their families.  I want to always be a resource for that because we are so thank for this opportunity that nursing has given us.  It is a hard balance to represent the challenges of travel nursing with the benefits because if I’m not forthcoming with the many challenges I would not be setting anyone up for success.  Here is our conversation from earlier this week that the inquiring nurse asked me to put on our blog post. 

Initial question: Lol I’m night shifting now too… Love the blog… So did you sell your home before u left? Who do u use for insurance? I’m interviewing each agency for benefits…. It’s stressing me out. I want a peace about traveling if it’s something we should do…. I wax and wain. How are the kids adjusted to traveling and how’s the husband adjusted to taking over as the stay at home dad?

Answer:  We did not sell our house. We do however have roommates so that the house is not sitting empty, and to off set some of the cost. Our roommates are family members my sister, her husband and son so it has worked out really well and we still feel at home when we are there. The way the tax laws work you do not get a housing stipend if you do not have a home of some kind as the housing stipend is tax free because it is classified as money to cover duplicate housing costs that are a result of traveling for work. It still can work out if you do not have a home but the logistics and taxes are different. I know people who do it both ways, it just worked out to our benefit to keep our home and have roommates. Joe at traveltax.com is an excellent resource for those type of questions.  We go to the market place for our insurance so that we do not have any gaps in coverage. My taxable income is low enough that our insurance costs are really reasonable and the kids qualify to be free. A large portion of your paycheck as a traveler is housing stipend, and a second stipend for meals and incidentals with only around $20/hour being your taxable wage (This is different at every location we have chosen assignments based on location some hospitals feel like their location is part of the pay package like Hawaii and Alaska). Since my husband does not work while we are traveling we are a one income family and so we qualify and it has been a life saver.  You can pray that God opens the doors you are to go through and close the rest it is very important that you have peace about your decision it is an amazing opportunity to have the whole country as your children’s class room but travel nursing is not easy, you will have some struggles. What is your specialty? I have never had a shortage of jobs, your first one is generally the hardest one to get, but in L&D I have always had a job by a month before my contract end date of the current contract. In September there is a travel conference that is mostly attended by travel nurses. It is great to rub shoulders with other travel nurses and get all of your travel newbie questions answered. It was very helpful for us. It made it so we didn’t feel like we were jumping off a cliff, giving up our stable jobs, being irresponsible adults and parents. It also gave us a travel nurse support system through the networking and friends we met there.  The kids were 9,6, &3 when we started and other than missing their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends they have really enjoyed it and bloomed into quite the little social butterflies. They are now 11,9 &6 I hope the little one remembers all of the fun times we have had. Chad is getting a little stir crazy after 2.5 years of being a stay at home dad. He has loved traveling, but has voiced that he is ready for a break. He also would not have traded this experience for anything. We have bonded as a family in a way that is better than we could have dreamed it is also cool to accomplish something like visiting every state in one huge “field trip on steroids.”   

Question: Wow thanks for all the advice!! I do worry about my kiddos emotional well being, and I only plan to do this for a few years…. So I will look at the market place for insurance……. Ty ty for all your help. Are y’all still ccing I’m hoping we will be able to hop communities while we are traveling

Answer: We have continued to do Foundations at home. I think it is possible to community hop with CC but we have not. We were planning to go back to our same community when we get home although they have said that our 7th grader can’t go into Challenge A until he is 12 which will be in January which is slightly frustrating, so I am not sure what we will end up doing. They are holding our spot, but I don’t want to hold him back especially since he has been in that class with those kids.

Question: So did u all leave family behind? I feel like my family is hesitant for us to leave. Some especially the older ones are like think of your family your safety your job currently and retirement… Our home…. ( we have) but how is the life off the beaten path so to say? Challenging ? Rewarding? How has your family taken it…

Answer: Most of our family lives in Oregon, and most of those live in our home town of Salem. My husband worked for his parent’s family business and had since he was 12. Your family will be the least supportive as they worry about you and they see all of the road blocks.  Having you close gives them a sense of security. We told our families probably a year and a half before we left. That gave them a heads up, but they still didn’t really think we were going to do it. We even had times that we doubted ourselves and our sanity. We had been given a dream though. We felt compelled (we believe by God) to step out of our comfort zone to where we actually had to fully rely on God and put our trust in him not our support system. A dream to take our kids and see the United States, make a life time of memories, an educational opportunity for all five of us. The kids would only live with us for such a short time, they would be grown and gone too quickly. We knew in our hearts that to not take this direction and run with it would be to dishonor the one who had planted it’s seed in our hearts. We had a going away party there were lots of tears on all sides.  The plan was to commit to a year no matter how bad it was, with the plan of being gone 1-5 years. The hardest part about those first few assignments for the kids (really all assignments, but the first two were the hardest) was missing their friends and family. By the time we left most of our family was very supportive, and I feel like the ones who weren’t were perhaps jealous that we were facing our fears of a less stable employment situation which they felt like they could never do.[(I have never not had an assignment by a month out from my intended start date which is early for most travelers) so beside the first one I have not felt insecure and we have had a hefty emergency fund and minimal debt (school loans and mortgage) so we have relatively few bills.] The other concerns seemed pretty in valid to me as well, the kids need stability, what about friendships… Pre traveling I worked swing shift and homeschooled the kids, my husband worked a family business so he would come home early on the days that I worked and make up for those hours on the days that I was off so we never saw each other, we were very rarely all five at home together. We feel that the kids are in a much more stable environment now with their dad home with them 7 days a week and both of us home 4 days a week. They are calm, have matured in character, make friends quickly at the church we attend on assignment, with the other kids in our apartment complexes, at the park or beach. They are never short on kids to play with. They have been given the opportunity to maintain the friendships at home by phone calls, and play dates every time we are going through town and I can’t think of any friends we have lost through our absence. A hard aspect for me, however, was that my friends and family that used to need me, rely on me, have moved on (they totally should have I wouldn’t want them to not have that friend to call for coffee or walking buddy, or canning assistant) but before I felt needed.  It is slightly painful to see that everyone is doing just fine with out me and has gone on with their life. (These are selfish feelings and my problem not theirs) On the other side it is fun to go home because you feel like a celebrity as everyone you see wants to catch up. We have not felt unsafe and accidents can happen in your own back yard we are never guaranteed tomorrow which is why we must seize the time we have been given. I contributed 20% of my income to retirement pre Dave Ramsey 7 years ago and was back up to 10% before I left my permanent job. Since this is a limited time adventure for us we have not been contributing to retirement for these last 2.5 years. There are options through your company, as well as you could contribute to retirement independently. Most of our assignments someone visits us, a friend, or family, and we visit any friends who live on the way or in the area. There are a lot of challenges I don’t like to complain about anything so it is harder for me to talk about the challenges. 

 Challenges…people talk about how much money you will make as a traveler. Those people are taking the most miserable assignments and renting a room on Craigslist to pocket most of their housing stipend. Do you make more money? Yes. But. You have one income and two households to support instead of two incomes and one household. You most likely will not be making it rich and the difference in benefits alone could account for the difference in pay. You will not have sick leave or vacation pay. If you get sick and miss a day of work 1/3 of your pay check will be missing that includes stipends. Contracts do on occasion get cancelled. (I have never had this happen but it happens at some time to most travelers) your car will have mechanical problems, there will be family emergencies (we have had two family members pass away while we have been traveling, my aunt and grandma traveling has actually been helpful in these cases because the aunt that passed away lived in Arizona and our assignment before she passed away was at 4 corners so we were able to visit her a couple of times. And the year before my grandmother passed away we had a whole assignment near them and spent every day we were not working with my grandparents in So Cal. A month before she passed away we visited on our way through we drove down from Salem to San Bernardino then over to Virginia going quite a ways out of our way. She wasn’t even sick and we didn’t have any idea it was the last time we would see her, it was an unexpected gift that living this life style gave us. The hospital gave me bereavement and I was able to fly back for the funeral mind you it wasn’t paid bereavement. These are reasons why your emergency fund has to be 3-6 months of all expenses. Travel reimbursement from the company will off set some of the cost of moving but will not come close to covering it. We have found a lot of ways to save when traveling like packing our food in a cooler instead of eating out/fast food/convenience store food. We do have a rewards card for La Quinta (they accept all dogs) that gets us free stays every once in a while as well as AAA and a national parks pass that were purchased as a going away gift by my home hospital saving us a lot of grief/worry/ and the expense of the most intriguing education opportunities on the road. We also carry compact down sleeping bags and a backpacking tent and have camped at KOAs and other campgrounds to save money. It isn’t super comfortable camping but we are too short in space to pack for luxurious camping (ok that might be an oxymoron). You may get hostility from staff nurses who think you make twice what they make so you should get the crappiest assignment. You will most likely work all of the holidays unless they are specifically requested off in your contract. Some nurses will feel threatened by you and there are some unit cultures that are very socially/mentally/emotionally difficult. This may be why they needed you to begin with. They can’t maintain staff nurses. In these situations smile and be kind to everyone (killing them with kindness) no matter how they treat you and eventually you will break through their hard shell and discover the real people underneath. Some times I know right away why I was called to an assignment, sometimes I get to spend the three months figuring it out. But I always hope and pray that my presence on a unit is healing for their moral and makes a difference longer than my three months. You will run into practices that you are not familiar with, you don’t agree with, or you feel are unsafe. You must distinguish between them because if it is not going to do harm to the patient you must adopt the philosophy of “When in Rome” do as the Romans do. If you come in disagreeing with all of their policies and procedures you will not be warmly received. You can not say “where I come from they do it like this” this is threatening to them and will come across as you think your better than me don’t you. It is better at least until you have been there a while to instead ask how do you do it here. If it truly is a safety issue you have to do what is right by your patient but you usually can do that quietly with out ruffling too many feathers. You will be tested, by everyone. Usually there is a honeymoon period (not always) but you can’t expect that they will trust you the same way they trust their long time co workers, and this extends to the providers. Don’t take it personally just understand where they come from. Not all travelers are created equal, there is a big difference between those that travel because they have to (financial, can’t hold a job, don’t get along well with others long term) and those who travel because they want to travel. On the flip side of that we have met so many of the most amazing people you will ever meet it is the best part of traveling. We have made very good friends at every single assignment. And may never feel at home again with prices of our heart in so many places. The Capitol buildings we have toured, the national parks, battlefields, museums, historic sites, states, zoos, and local culture have all been amazing. We continue to be amazed.  We wonder why we haven’t planned and given purpose to our days off before. Why didn’t we visit the museums, nature hikes, attractions in our own home state. Why did we think 2-3 hours was a long drive to visit someone we loved and didn’t see often. We pray that when we settle back down which we plan to do in September so I can focus on grad school studies and Chad can help his parents with the business as they are needing him back, that we do not go back to the way things were. We were so over booked with activities we were miss prioritizing everything in our lives. We had something going on every night and no family time. Church, homeschool group, piano lessons, AWANAs, swimming, karate, there was nothing wrong with any of it except that we weren’t prioritizing our family time over it. I probably could go on and on and on all night. Just shoot any specific questions you have before I write a whole novel for you.

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