Travel nursing is a strange career choice. It’s different than most career choices, a job that pays you to move around the country staffing hospitals in need. It’s unique because you’re moving quite often, but you’re in each location long enough to feel a sense of “belongingness”. Working side by side with the staff nurses for 13-weeks often means you leave feeling like you’re leaving friends… strangers that have turned into family. However, before you get to each assignment, likely, you won’t know a soul upon arrival. That’s when it’s important to ask the question… should you become a travel nurse with a friend? Or should you travel nurse solo?
Becoming a Travel Nurse With Friends vs Solo
I’ve now been a travel nurse for 4+ years, and have gone to every assignment completely solo. There have been some instances where I knew a couple of people in the city I was going to beforehand, and some instances where I didn’t know a soul. What I’ve learned from my personal experience is that there are pros and cons to whichever way you choose to travel nurse.
Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing With Friends
If you choose to travel nurse with friends, then you’re choosing to spend 13+ weeks with someone. You’ll likely be living together and you may be working together if you work in the same unit. Also, keep in mind that if you travel with a friend… that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be hanging out all that often. There’s a chance you could get different shifts, AM vs PM. There’s a chance you’ll be on opposite schedules and working opposite weekends. Or there’s a chance where the stars will align perfectly and everything will match up!
The biggest pro of travel nursing with a friend is that you have a built-in security system. You have someone to explore with and try new things with. You’ll be able to try new restaurants, go on hikes, and go out at night. If work gets hard or the nurses are catty, you’ll have someone to vent to that will likely know what you’re going through. You’ll also be able to find cheaper housing, assuming you’ll be living together. Splitting rent with someone you know and trust is much easier than splitting rent with a stranger, and much cheaper than paying rent by yourself.
Cons of traveling with a friend are that it limits where you can go. If you’re set on one certain destination then you’ll have to wait for an opening for the both of you, instead of just one of you. There’s also a chance that if you’re both interviewing in the same unit, one of you will get hired and the other won’t. Another con, as mentioned earlier, is that you may get to the same destination and then realize that you’re working opposite shifts. Sally might be working weekend A and Susy might be working weekend B, giving you limited time to explore on your time off together. While you could always bring this up to your manager, more often than not your schedule probably won’t be switched to accommodate the both of you.
Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing Solo
Travel nursing solo is an entirely different beast. You have nobody to rely on but yourself, and those feelings of anxiousness you get before showing up to an assignment for the first time, well, nobody can really relate. On one hand, you’re doing new and exciting things, that might make people back home jealous. But on the other hand, you’re experiencing all of these things by yourself and nobody will quite understand it as you do.
While things may feel scary, there are also really great things about travel nursing alone. You are only responsible for yourself. You can choose where you want to go, which shift you want to work, all without thinking of anyone else. You can be as picky as you want about your living situation, or not! It’s up to you. You’ll also have a more unique opportunity to meet others and make friends because you’ll be all alone and you’ll have to. You don’t have anyone else to fall back on, making you reach out of your comfort zone and befriend those that you’re working with.
The biggest con of traveling solo is the sense of loneliness you feel before you make friends in your new city. Regardless of whether or not you thrive on your own, there’s no doubt that this feeling will rear its head at some point in your travel nurse career. Another con is money. It’s much more expensive to travel nurse alone because you aren’t splitting the cost with anyone else. You’ll either pay more for housing or you’ll live with strangers which can be an entirely different problem. If you drive yourself to your destination you won’t be splitting gas with anyone. And if you choose to day trip and explore surrounding areas, then you’ll be fronting those costs alone too.
The most important thing to focus on when deciding whether or not you should be travel nursing with friends is to focus on what is important to you when it comes to travel nursing. What are your goals? Your dreams? Your desires? Do you get anxious not knowing anyone and do better surrounded by friends? Can you get by being alone?
If you and a friend are both thinking about becoming travel nurses, I encourage you to make a list – separately – of what you’re looking to get out of travel nursing. If your list is to have fun and bond with friends, then, by all means, travel together! However, if your goals are more to experience a place and locals to its core and you do that better without friends, then maybe you’ll think about traveling solo instead.
And when it comes down to it, you can always switch up the way you’re doing things. You can start traveling with friends, and end traveling solo. Or you can start by traveling solo, and end traveling with friends. And who knows… there may be nurses you pick up along the way that become your new friends who you travel with too.