5 Great Working Vacations for Summer Travel Nurses

June 29th, 2011

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By , BSN, RN

It's summer vacation, and for many people that means hitting the road for an exotic or unknown destination, adventure, sight-seeing and new experiences. This same description could be an average assignment in the world of travel nursing. Combining the two — work and adventure — is a great option for that family vacation, and all it takes is a little time and planning.

Signing on as a travel nurse can be a way of life or just a summer adventure. If you aren't willing to give up the stability of a home, have kids who need to be in school, or are wary of just being away from the familiar for too long, try a simple summer vacation with pay.

I have heard of some hospitals that will give nurses leave for the occasional away assignment. I know nurses who have negotiated contracts with their home hospital where they work a certain amount of time, say six months, and keep the other half of the year free or committed to a second hospital. If you are a school nurse, summers are yours. Or maybe you work per diem, which means you can arrange your own time. There are lots of possibilities.

So, where should you go? After five years on the road myself and making friends with travel nurses nationwide, here are some suggestions:

  1. Bright Lights, Big City — Always wanted to go to The Big Apple but found it cost prohibitive? If you've been hankering for a slice, a dog, or a real bagel with a schmear, check out New York City. There are hospitals in all five boroughs always looking for help. With the right timing, you will be living the good life in a Manhattan apartment. It will be small but you are there, with no exorbitant hotel costs, time to explore everything from the Statue of Liberty to The Cloisters, and I can guarantee friends and family will want to come visit.
  2. Island Paradise — Palm trees, pristine beaches and drinks in coconuts with umbrellas can all be part of your down time if you head for the islands. Licensing is just like any other state or territory, but instead of being stuck at home, how about Hawaii or the Virgin Islands? These assignments come and go pretty quickly, but they are out there. And, since you really can take all you can fit in a couple of suitcases, it's not that hard to pack — scrubs, swimsuits, shorts and sneakers only. Bring the family and while you are at work the kids can learn to surf, snorkel and sail.
  3. History in the Making — There are plenty of jobs dotting the East Coast, and what a great chance for family and friends to learn a little about who we are as Americans! Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. offer the Freedom Trail, the Liberty Bell, and the White House. Whether working five 8s, four 10s or three 12s, there is time to take in the sights. Add to that some of the greatest museums in the U.S. — and even the world — and it’s an educational adventure with great fireworks on the 4th of July.             
  4. Go West Young (Wo)man — If you're a hiker, biker, climber, hunter, or fisher, the American West is where you should spend the summer. From Washington State across to Montana, California to New Mexico, Colorado to Wyoming and Utah, the great open west is the outdoor enthusiast's destination. Spend a few days a week in a hospital helping the ill, then head up to mountains or down to a canyon, hike a valley, or fish a cold stream far from the hustle and bustle of hospital life — only a few miles away. There's something for everyone to do, and if you are traveling with your family, the kids will be worn out at the end of every day.
  5. North to Alaska — It is the last American wilderness, and it deserves more than a passing glance from a cruise ship. Nurses are in demand summer and winter in Alaska. Remote clinics or city hospitals combined with spectacular scenery, amazing wildlife and the last frontier make for a great vacation with a job on the side. It can be quite a drive up that far, or you can fly or ferry from Washington or British Columbia. Make sure to pack the cameras, binoculars and sunglasses. The weather is fine but you may find yourself exhausted all the time. It is hard to go to bed when there is so much to do and the sun is still up at midnight.

The adventure is yours to make, as is the money. No need to give up your income in pursuit of seeing the world. Call a travel company, reach out to contacts in different cities, and see what's out there. Find out if the state you want to visit is a compact state, or start the licensing process. Remember that there is a nursing shortage, and you are in demand. There's no reason you can't demand to enjoy yourself, too.

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