Miami, FL

How a Travel Nurse Picks Their Next (or first) Dream Assignment

Rick Martinez RN

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We all have some dream location where we've wanted to be a travel nurse, am I right?

For some of my RN friends, it's the beach. I mean, who wouldn't love a gig in LA, Miami, or even the northwest around Seattle or Oregon. Then some want big cities, and some who shun the hustle and bustle of city life.

And even on occasion, maybe if you're like me, you simply want to remain close to home.

The truth is, most of the current travel companies can find you that just perfect contract. With the shortage seemingly increasing and the pandemic just not relenting, more contracts are open than ever before. In fact, I'd bet your dream assignment is right at your very fingertips.

So with all the current availability of travel gigs, only one looming question remains.

How does a travel nurse decide where to go for their dream assignment?

For the first-time travel RN, it may not be as cut and dry. The main reason is that you're likely being courted by numerous recruiters and a plethora of agencies. You feel like a star in your own travel movie.

Plus, the first-time traveler is still unsure what to expect, so they may choose to remain near home.

Some nurses are concerned about where to work or how far away from home they'll have to live. Both are valid concerns. While other new nomad RNs are daring and ready for anything for the first time.

Regardless of how adventurous the nurse is, many do indeed elect to stay close to their roots, and the top reason is that if it doesn't work out, they don't have far to return. And as a travel nurse myself, I have to admit that there is quite a bit of comfort knowing that.

Besides input from fellow travelers and speaking to hospitals, we nurses should for sure turn to our recruiters for their skilled input. It's more than oft their input that can compel us to take that far from home adventure and love it.

Does age have anything to do with where to travel?

I'd argue yes. Not only age in terms of literal how old are you. But age in terms of how seasoned of a travel RN you are.

The experienced traveler knows the ups and downs and may be more likely to head farther away from home. The other side of that coin is with age comes tremendous experience. And with experience comes less flexibility, mainly because these nurses know the real deal behind travel nursing.

All that being said, I've also found that the young travel nurse might also tend to jump into the deep end simply because of their youthful spirits.

How much impact can a recruiter have when advising nurses about where to travel?

More than one might think is the quick and dirty answer.

A good recruiter will ask questions. Lots of them. They'll want to know what's vital to the RN. They ask if they prefer sun and sand or snow and ski. They'll dig into the kind of lifestyle you like and even want to know if you're an introvert or extrovert.

The bottom line is a good recruiter will ask pertinent questions and really help you understand and decide the best place for your next, or first, contract.

The best of the best recruiters won't just strive to make the placement and seal the deal. Nope. The cream of the crop will go above and beyond for you and match you with the perfect location based on the strength of the relationship you'll both create.

But what if you're a super-selective RN and not too flexible?

Look, the truth is that being flexible is always a good thing.

But it's not a good thing if it doesn't feel right or fit right into the career path you're on.

Finding good assignments takes some research by both the nurse and recruiter. There are many sources available to find current feedback on hospitals. Recruiters will also have an idea of where the good assignments are based on their experience and feedback. 

But in the end, the less flexible a nurse is, the more challenging it is to find a good assignment.

What if I have certain, very specific places I want to work?

I'm sure we all have some bucket list places where we want to hang our hats.

I know I did. Places like Montana or northern California, for instance. Perhaps yours is South Beach in Miami or maybe even Louisiana. The point is that your specific place is your particular place for a reason.

In my years as a travel nurse, I can share with certainty that while I've been to many locations, the truth is I always go back to familiar places. And for me, that's Texas. Not only is Texas home, but it's a place of comfort for me as a professional traveler.

The final word

Now, that being said, it's important to note that there is such a thing as compromise.

For example, I'm not originally from Texas and would prefer not to travel back to my home state of California, but I'll go if the contract and pay are good enough. And while I don't love all parts of Cali, I'll go if the contract is super lucrative enough.

The point is that location is just as important as the client. If they match, then you're on to something great. No one knows where you want to travel better than you do. And just like nursing itself, it's all about finding that balance of comfort and adventure. So if it's Montana or Miami, maybe even Houston or Salt Lake City. Be sure to ask your recruiter lots of questions and do your homework before you start looking for that perfect place to travel to. And make no mistake, there is no such thing as the best location.

There's only the right location...for you!

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I'm a freelance writer and a decades-long travel nurse. Writing about the travel nurse industry and healthcare.

San Antonio, TX
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