Whether you have a family and you’re a new nursing graduate looking to flex your nursing degree or a seasoned medical professional looking for a change, travel nursing poses an intriguing prospect. Becoming a travel nurse can also be a great addition to a new grad nursing resume before deciding on a final hometown. The idea of traveling across the state (or even the country) to help temporarily fill nursing shortages may be an appealing idea for the young and unfettered, but what about nurses with families of their own? Is travel nursing with a family even feasible? While it will definitely take some effort and sacrifice for everyone involved, the fact is that healthcare traveler jobs can actually be both lucrative and vocationally rewarding if you walk in with eyes wide open. In this article, we’ll review expert tips on being a travel nurse with a family.

Can You Be A Traveling Nurse With A Family: Things To Consider

If you’re considering exploring travel nursing with young children, a spouse, pets, or all three, here are seven helpful tips you should keep in mind before you start eagerly applying to open positions that require a road trip:

Tip 1: Make your family a crew, rather than passengers along for the travel nursing ride

At its core, nursing involves a lot of directing those that are reluctant to be directed, and making decisions in the name of someone’s best interests. When you head back home after a long shift, it can be a real struggle to turn that instinct off. When it comes to being a travel nurse with a family, you’ll absolutely need to – your family deserves to be a part of your vocational decision-making process, complete with a veto, if required. 

Remember, by the time you bring up the concept of becoming a travel nurse to your family, you’ve had a lot of time to think about it. Don’t take a lack of immediate enthusiasm and support on their part as rejection – they need time to discuss it and weigh what that career option means for their own world. Listen to their objections and discuss your solutions without being defensive. And definitely avoid playing the “we’re going, and that’s that” card unless you’re ready for some serious arguments, with spouse and children alike, down the road. 

Tip 2: Figure out how much space and how many resources you’ll realistically need

An individual can adapt to nearly any living situation, nurses doubly so – you’re used to shifting your sleep schedule and doing without certain creature comforts in the name of healing others. When your family is involved, however, that sacrifice becomes far less personal and manageable – so be honest with your own housing needs before you start looking. Consider your current space, not only in terms of square footage but also in personal space. Will teenagers have areas they can retreat to if they need privacy or some alone time? Will you and your spouse have space to spend dedicated time together? While close quarters may be doable for a little while, it can quickly feel extremely confining within the 13-week window that defines a typical travel nurse assignment.

If you have decided to take on patient care as a traveling nurse, consider obtaining a multi-state nursing license before making any destination decisions.

Your housing options will depend largely on what area you’re traveling to, but remember that even within that area, you do have choices. Some nurses that travel with families opt for traveling in a motorhome or camper, others move into apartments or rental homes secured by their hiring body. In addition to having enough space for your family, be sure to research considerations such as:

  • How much travel nurses get for housing.
  • How far your living arrangement will be from your temporary hospital or nursing assignment.
  • What the traffic is like in your new potential area.
  • If you plan to share a vehicle with your spouse, how feasible the ridesharing or commuting is.
  • If you have a pet or pets, how readily available pet-friendly housing options are.
  • If you have a child or children, are babysitting options and nearby peers / playmates available?

While 13 weeks might not seem like a long time, it definitely feels like it when you find out that your new apartment complex doesn’t, for example, have reliable laundry machine access. For moms who travel for work, your travel nursing assignment may dominate the decision-making process, but it’s the “little things” that will determine the real success of your work in the long run.

Tip 3: Look at your belongings with an eye for downsizing before becoming a travel nurse 

Having a lot of personal items in a static home with a consistent job isn’t usually expensive – but those same items become very pricey when you’re eyeing a life on the road. When you decide to try out travel nursing in NYC, you’re probably (understandably) hesitant to simply lock the front door and hope for the best before you travel for months. That means either trusting a neighbor to keep a watchful eye on your house at all times, renting an expensive storage unit, or – easiest of all – simply downsizing. 

Go through your closets ruthlessly and pull out anything that doesn’t fit, doesn’t look good enough to admire in the mirror, or anything you may wear that nebulous “someday.” Divest yourself of unwanted shoes, outdated home decor, and anything that doesn’t –as a famous organizer says – “spark joy.” The idea is that the more you can pare down, toss, give away, or donate, the less baggage you’ll have – literally and figuratively – as you travel.  

Tip 4: Wherever you land for your nursing assignment, carve out distinct space for each family members’ work

You have the hospital or facility you’ll be working at – they have the same four walls they’ll call home for just long enough to get used to before moving on. When the entire living area becomes a workplace, it’s difficult for everyone, no matter what their age, to relax and make a distinction between work and play. Make sure you set up a corner, room, or area that “belongs” to each family member, whether it’s a spouse working from home on a laptop or a child in need of a quiet place to complete digital schoolwork. 

Tip 5: When traveling, make decisions and use smart task delegation with your spouse

If your partner is putting their work on hold (or leaving it entirely to accompany you on nursing assignments), enlist them to help scope out your new temporary home stomping grounds. Getting acclimated ahead of time will help ease the transition as you take your first assignment, and it also helps bring them in as part of that previously-mentioned “crew.” If you have children, your partner or spouse can also delegate small, age-appropriate research tasks out to each child, enabling them to discover their new home and get excited for what lies ahead.

Tip 6: Don’t neglect maintaining connection with your partner or spouse in favor of nursing

Nursing is demanding in any setting, but needing to adjust to a new facility and coworkers and work long hours can leave you feeling fried. Still, even if you’ve had a hard day, make it a point to check-in with your partner and ask about their day – the move itself is necessarily focused on you and your career, so it’s only fair to make a conscious effort to support theirs through interest. 

Take them out on an old-fashioned date on your days off –  dinner, movies, the works –  to ensure they feel loved and appreciated, even when you’re working long hours. In return you’ll receive their support to help you through the most demanding shifts. Be honest about how your work days are going but leave off the gory details, particularly when talking over dinner.

Tip 7: When you’re off the clock, be off the clock

In an unfamiliar city with nothing (yet) to ground you but the familiar rhythms of nursing work, you may have trouble setting that “mode” aside when it’s time to wind down. Make a habit of visualizing removing responsibility along with your scrubs, and taking that responsibility back into yourself when you pull on a fresh set when Monday –  or your next day on –  rolls around. You owe your partner, children, and pets your full attention when you’re finally able to offer it, so don’t let nagging worries about which nurse is going to watch after your patients until you’re back on shift. You’ve earned your time off, so be sure to use it wisely and to the fullest doing what exactly you’d like to do. 

Being A Travel Nurse With A Family: Planning The Future Together

You can be a TOA with a family, spouse, and even pets, so long as you plan wisely and keep communication clear and precise. Most dads and moms who work. As a final piece of advice, don’t overthink the opportunity to travel and land temporary positions at huge hospitals and small clinics alike. Talk with your family, whittle down your belongings, and hit the road once you receive the offer you’ve been waiting for. Being a travel nurse with a family is like having the best of both worlds: an in-demand, career-boosting resume note and your loved ones close by – no matter where you may go. At Host Healthcare, we’re excited to help you find the perfect travel nurse assignment for you and your family!

Sources Cited:

  1. Wirkus, Melissa. “7 Travel Nurse Tips: Travel Nursing With Family Successfully.” NurseChoice.com, (no publish date), https://www.nursechoice.com/traveler-resources/7-travel-nurse-tips-travel-nursing-with-family-successfully/. Accessed July 22, 2020.
  2. Krischke, Megan Murdock. “Making Travel Nursing a Family Affair.” Travel Nursing.com, (no publish date), https://www.travelnursing.com/news/features-and-profiles/making-travel-nursing-a-family-affair/. Accessed July 22, 2020.
  3. “What Is a Travel Nurse?” American Traveler.com, (no publish date), https://www.americantraveler.com/what-is-a-travel-nurse. Accessed July 22, 2020.
  4. Yazdi, Mariam, BSN, RN; Walker, Angelina. “Travel Nursing With A Spouse: Top 5 Ways To Make It Work.” Nurse.org, January 15, 2018, https://nurse.org/articles/5-best-tips-travel-nursing-with-spouse/. Accessed July 22, 2020.