Not all housing and not all travel companies are the same.
Currently, I'm on a travel nurse contract, and the place I'm working has several different agencies represented. As you likely know, nurses talk. While we don't have "water cooler" chats, we certainly talk it up between rounds or at the nurse's station.
So what do travel companies, housing, and chatty nurses have to do with any of this?
Well, the thing is, many of the nurses are here for different reasons. Not all are here to enjoy the nomad life. And on that note, not all are necessarily here simply for the money.
And that leads us to why these following few questions are so critical when you're choosing your housing for your travel gig.
Look, when you first consider and then start a new travel nurse assignment, there are numerous things to consider. Things like what kind of money can I make? Where will I be able to travel and visit while I'm there? Is it hot or cold, so what should I pack? And of course, should I take agency-placed housing or the accommodation stipend and locate my own?
Regardless of your reasons for becoming a travel nurse, living where you will be working is crucial. The choice to live in agency-provided housing or look for your own isn't any different. Meaning that either way, you're going to need a roof over your head and a bed to tuck into.
So while there are benefits and drawbacks to both, here's what you need to be asking first.
Why did you become a travel nurse?
Now don't get too introspective here. All I'm really prompting you to do is think of those reasons why in terms of your lifestyle.
For instance, did you want to travel to make a higher salary? Or perhaps it was the allure of the nomadic, travel healthcare lifestyle, and money is secondary? It could be you were just sick and tired of staff work.
The point is that if money is the driver, then taking a stipend and finding an economical housing option may be the choice.
See what I mean here?
Going back to my opening bit about all the nurses here, I've come to find out that some are rooming together and saving lots of dough on housing. Basically, they're actually making money on housing and are enjoying the company of a fellow traveler.
And for those travel nurses where money isn't a huge concern, agency-placed housing might save you time and effort.
What's your savings look like?
No, I'm not trying to get all in your business, and only you know the honest answer here.
The reason I ask, and the reason you should too, is because if you seek housing on your own, you may need to come up with a lot of cash. Think deposit, first and maybe last month's rent as well. So will your current state of financial affairs cover this outlay?
It's critical to understand the total cost of a rental before you go on your own. If you don't have enough cash to pay for these upfront expenses, it may not be a smart option for you.
Going back to my story, I'm currently housed in a hotel. For me, it was all about convenience and making my work life simpler.
What happens if something breaks?
I have a fellow RN friend who chose the Air BnB route.
Their child clogged the toilet real bad, and the owner of the Air BnB told her it was all on her. Sure enough, it was in the fine print, and she was out the plumber's cost, some parts that were needed, plus the time she spent waiting for them to arrive and do the work.
I don't know about you, but that's not something I want to be liable for.
You're liable if something goes wrong with your apartment or your lease, whether you find it on your own or through a broker.
One of the worst-case scenarios for finding housing on your own and signing an agreement is if the assignment or contract cancels early.
You'd be on the hook.
Think through this part, folks.
Location, location, location
The simple question to ask is, "where do you wish to actually live?"
I get it. If the travel company selects the housing for you, then it's likely to not be in your dream location. But sometimes it's the small price we (don't pay) for convenience and ease of travel housing.
In my experience, most of the excellent travel companies have pretty good housing locations, departments, and practices.
On the flip side, when you locate housing on your own, then you obviously have way more say-so in where you'll lay your head at night.
The final word
It's essential to think about your reasons for becoming a travel nurse before deciding whether or not you want agency-provided housing.
This way, you'll be able to decide which type of living situation will work best with what is most important in your life. If money isn't an issue and the cost of finding your own place doesn't scare you, then locating on your own could save time and effort when it comes to house hunting.
However, if this sounds overwhelming or like something that would take up too much time in addition to being difficult financially, then taking a stipend may make more sense given the higher salary rates available through some companies and assignments. If convenience and ease are paramount concerns (which they often should be), then choosing company housing just might be the ticket.
And don't forget, if you aren't happy with your living arrangements, it's only temporary like most everything else in the world of travel nursing.