My decision to go from travel nurse to staff nurse was not a decision that I took lightly (you can read about it here). I spent many months agonizing over whether or not staff nursing was right for me. After overanalyzing and playing out every scenario in my head, I finally decided to go for it with the realization that nothing is truly permanent. After all, if I hated it I could go right back to travel nursing.
What I learned from heading back to the bedside as a permanent staff member is that while the hour to hour is essentially the same… get report, do your safety checks, take care of your patients for 12 hours, repeat. Staff nursing felt entirely different than travel nursing – both at work and outside of work.
Gone were the days of receiving a hefty paycheck once a week, being excused for not knowing people’s names or where things were because I was a “traveler”, and the itch to explore the ins and outs of my city knowing that I only had 13-weeks. Instead I began to adjust to a smaller paycheck every other week. Having more pressure placed on me to know each policy, where things were, and my co-workers names. And a bit of laziness around exploring Chicago seeing as I was now a “permanent” resident. I would be lying if I said that the shift was easy, but now four-months in I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And with that, a list of tips that I wish I had known before taking a step back into staff nursing.
The Best Tips for Going from Travel Nurse to Staff Nurse
Outline Your “Why”
First and foremost, sit down and outline your “why” for going from travel nurse to staff nurse. If you’ve been a travel nurse for an extended period of time, why exactly is it that you want to go back to staff? What are you craving or missing out on that traveling is no longer giving you?
My “why” for going back was to create a sense of community. I knew (and still know) that taking a pay cut was going to be a huge issue – and it is. However, I also knew that my “why” – creating community – was bigger than a paycheck.
Circle back to your way every time you wonder if you’ve made the right decision going staff and continue to evaluate. Just because it was the right decision at the time, doesn’t mean that you can’t backtrack if your “why” no longer serves you.
Save Money (and Then Save More)
As I’ve reiterated over and over again, going from travel nurse to staff nurse was a huge pay cut. Luckily, I had saved quite a bit of money from my time as a travel nurse, but that doesn’t mean that my pay cut was a walk in the park. In fact, it can still be a reality that’s hard to swallow!
I recommend saving for at least two months of rent and for any expenses you may incur along the way. The reason I suggest savings two months rent is because you won’t be getting paid for the first couple of weeks that you’re a nurse, and with the pay cut, it may take you sometime to get your barring’s and figure out what you can and can’t spend. It took me a few months to really hone in on what kind of money I had leftover after paying bills.
I also recommend saving for expenses that you may incur along the way. For me, this looked like moving expenses and furniture shopping. You may not have these things, but take everything into consideration before you quit travel nursing.
Read more: How to Manage Your Money As a Travel Nurse
Rent Within Your Means
Another hard pill to swallow was what I was able to afford in terms of renting. I really had no clue how much money I’d be bringing home after taxes were taken out of my paycheck and it felt like a shot in the dark guessing how much I’d be comfortable spending on rent.
Unfortunately, I ended up at a place that is quite expensive and a bit out of my budget and while I love it, it’s also created a bit of a financial strain on me. Looking back, I’d definitely do things differently as I firmly believe that experiences trump “things” (including rent).
Consider a Side Hustle
One way to steel yourself from the blow of less pay is to start a side hustle where you can earn a little bit of extra cash for those “fun” things you want to continue to do like shop, go out with friends, and take vacation. Plus, a side hustle away from the hospital ensures that you aren’t relying too much on the hospital and getting burned out from picking up extra shifts.
Read more: Why You Should Have a Side Hustle As a Nurse
Only Pick Up Extra When You Want Something Extra
Another shock to me was that as a travel nurse, I never had to work extra to afford extra things that I wanted. That was a sad reality for me when I went staff, learning to say no to things that I couldn’t afford and being okay with it. I got sucked into a vicious cycle of feeling guilty for not picking up extra shifts, even though I knew that working more would be bad for my mental health.
When I finally let myself be okay with not picking up an extra shift every time I was asked, I felt like I was truly putting myself first and that felt good. Now I only pick up an extra shift when I want something extra – like to take a vacation or pay for expensive skincare.
Going back to staff nursing and suddenly having to pick up multiple extra shifts to afford your old lifestyle is a toxic habit and one that will cause burnout quickly. Honor yourself by accepting that it’s okay to have to cut some things out of your life, and when it is something that you really truly want – then pick up an extra shift.
Pick a City You’re Dying to Live in
Whether you’re going home, staying in a city that you had an assignment, or heading to a city you’ve never been – make sure that you pick a city that you see yourself permanently staying. While nothing is permanent, your best shot at liking your staff job is also liking life outside of work. Meaning you’re going to want to make sure that you’re picking a city that you’re REALLY wanting to live in.
I suggest making a list of things that you’re looking for in a city. Do you like big cities or small ones? Do you need to be near outdoor activities? What kind of weather are you looking for? Have you considered how long it will take you to get home or what kind of an airport your city has?
Pick a Hospital You’re Dying to Work at
I can’t stress enough how difficult it is to go from travel nurse to staff nurse having been a traveler for 5 years. Working in a hospital that I really wanted to work at has made all the difference. Again, I recommend making a list of what it is that you’re looking for in a hospital. What’s the unit like? The staff? Ideally you’ll work in a hospital that you worked in as a travel nurse, but if not, the time to learn about the unit is during your interview.
Going from travel nurse to staff nurse hasn’t been all bad. But it has been an adjustment. I was a little bit unprepared so my hope for you is that you feel more prepared so that you can make the best and most informed decision for yourself!
If you have any tips that I missed, please leave a comment below!