MY TRAVEL NURSE LIFE:
14 ASSIGNMENTS, 12 HOSPITALS, 19 UNITS & COUNTING
In building relationships with our nurses and premier healthcare institutions throughout the Midwest we know it’s important to put a human face to who we are, how we work, what inspires us, and more! We'd like to introduce you to Caleb Skyles, an RN, BSN, CCRN and now a recruiter at Next Move.
Here's Caleb in his own words:
If you’re here because you’re interested in getting to know who this guy is that thinks he can call himself an expert in travel nursing – then keep reading!
My name is Caleb Skyles and I’ve been an RN for 7 years, 5 of which I’ve been traveling (and still am!) but now I'm also a full-time travel nurse recruiter.
I wrote this piece so that (a) you can see that I'm a real life human being, and (b) I get a lot of questions from staff nurses and travel nurses alike about everything from what it’s like to be a traveler to how much money to do I really make to how I got started traveling.
So let’s just start there…
How I Got My First Travel Nursing Job
First, I chose the nursing profession, like many of us, because I knew it was one of the few degrees where I’d almost be guaranteed a job straight out of college. I also knew the profession offered a large variety of different skilled positions. So, if I ever became bored or unhappy with one role – I could always up my skill set and switch roles.
But back in 2015, after 2-years of being a staff nurse, I took my first travel nursing assignment at hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. I became friends with a fellow travel nurse who turned me on to the idea and introduced me to her recruiter. From there, as they say, the rest is history!
Over the course of the last 5 years I’ve worked 14 contracts (most of them 13-weeks long) and lived everywhere from Augusta, Georgia all the way across to San Diego, California and a dozen places in between.
The Best Part of Being a Travel Nurse
When you’re a travel nurse, your profession is really as both a traveler and a nurse.
As a nurse I’d say one of my best moments, and it’s really hard to choose just one (but this has stuck with me for years) is when I was riding in the back of an ambulance to manage a critically ill patient while I was on assignment in Maine. It was something I had never done before, so it was super exciting, and the patient had a good outcome, so of course it’s a good memory.
As a traveler some of my best moments are the countless concerts I’ve attended while on assignment (like in Austin), the dozens of sunsets I’ve seen over the Pacific (while working in San Diego) and the many gorgeous sunrises I’ve seen rise over the Atlantic (like my time spent in Charleston).
As the combination travel nurse I’d have to say the best part is the cumulation of all the skills I’ve obtained by repeatedly walking into a new environment and being expected to be an asset on day one. A huge challenge that I’ve always found really exciting. Mainly because I love what I do – and am proud to be that great asset for any patient care team.
What's a Typical Day Like for You?
I get asked this a lot – what is it really like being a travel nurse, like for real? I’d say it’s similar to being a staff nurse – and then of course – slightly different.
Here’s a day in the life:
A typical workday for me is probably similar to that of most nurses. I work 12-hour shifts, so I show up to the hospital around 6:45 AM and it’s “GO GO GO” until about 7:30 PM when I clock out (sometimes later if I have to stay to finish charting).
However, I think a better question might be what are my days OFF like? And that answer is, of course, dependent on where I’m working at the time.
One of my more favorite locations is Milwaukee, Wisconsin where a typical day off would start with a hot cup of black coffee from Colectivo, followed by a long bike ride along Lake Michigan. The afternoon might involve walking around Humbolt Park or visiting one of the many Beer Gardens and the evening would most definitely involve my girlfriend* and I finding a cool place to play trivia and down a delicious basket of fried cheese curds.
*My girlfriend is also a travel nurse – and we will often take assignments together. Yes – you can do that!
Of course, this is a small sample day that I pulled from 1 of 14 contracts I’ve had around the United States, but given that I’m usually only working 3 of the 7 days a week – I’d say I spend a lot of time getting to know each location I’m in.
Advice for Nurses Considering Traveling?
I have three solid bits of advice for any nurse considering traveling:
One: Be open.
Some of the best assignments I’ve completed are in places I never thought of visiting before. There is so much more that goes into a contract besides where it’s located.
Two: Have a solid idea for how much money you’d like to make.
This will help you in two ways: if you have a hard cutoff for what you will accept and what you will not it will (1) help rule out jobs that you will not be satisfied with and (2) saves you the time, stress and energy of trying to negotiate a higher pay package when it’s simply not attainable. Know your worth – what you will accept, what you won’t and stick to it.
Three: OMG Have fun!
Traveling may feel difficult in the beginning (as is trying almost anything new for the first time) but in a lot of ways it’s easier than staff nursing. It’s easier to get guaranteed time off. It’s easier to pay off your debts and/or save money. It’s easier to stay out of politics. And it’s easier to survive when you end up in an undesirable role because hey! It’s over in 13-weeks.
Million Dollar Question: How Much Money Do I Really Make?
And the million dollar question is: how much money do I really make. I mention this in one of my other blog posts but honestly: it depends on how much I want to work. And I'm of the frame of mind, at least right now, to work as little as possible and enjoy life as much as possible. That being said I do make around $110K per year with 4 to 6 weeks off each year.
As with any profession how much you make will depend largely on your speciality and years of experience. From what I've seen travel nurses make anywhere between $1600 and $4500 a week.
About Next Move
Unlike the huge multi-million-dollar nurse travel staffing agencies we’re a local, tightly run agency that focuses on assignments the Midwest. Some of us are nurses ourselves, so we really “get it” when it comes to the realities of being a nurse. And there is a lot of satisfaction in being a part of an organization that really, honestly, truly cares about the happiness and well-being of our nurses.
Regardless of title, we all work together on every assignment to deliver the best results for our nurses. We take the time to not only get to know the needs of our travel nurses as individuals, but also to develop relationships with premier healthcare institutions throughout the Midwest. Often times these institutions will come to us first with exclusive contracts because of the incredible partnerships we’ve cultivated with them.
We operate under one guiding principle: give nurse travelers the best travel assignments with the highest pay and the most personalized recruitment experience possible. If that means we get a text from a nurse traveler at 4:32 am. We answer that text at 4:32 am. If that means a nurse traveler wants an assignment that’s only 32 hours a week, we find them that assignment. If that means a nurse is looking to make upwards of $3,000 a week – we bend over backwards to make that happen.
Our obligation to our travelers is quite simple:
Always give our travelers the best possible offer the first time, no low ball offers with full transparency and zero bullshit.
Be our travelers best advocate and make sure each assignment gives them exactly what they need. Specific days off? No problem. Block scheduling? No problem. Limited hours? No problem.
Make each of our individual travelers our top priority and be available to them any time of day or night.
Constantly growing and building, we also have relationships with healthcare institutions throughout the country. Interested? Contact us today!