Assignment number eight took me back to Seattle (for the second time!) to be a travel nurse in one of my favorite cities. This time around as a travel nurse in Seattle, I was able to enjoy neighborhoods that were more off the beaten path (SODO), take day trips to both Victoria and Leavenworth, and dive deeper into the food scene. I had a blast visiting the city for a second time, only cementing my love for Seattle and the surrounding areas.
Now that I’ve spent 13+ weeks (twice!) as a travel nurse in Seattle, getting to learn the ins and outs of the city; I a sharing with you everything you need to know for a successful assignment in Seattle. Hoping that you can acclimate quickly, get all of your travel nursing questions answered, and thoroughly enjoy Seattle in the short time that you’re there.
Best time to be a travel nurse in Seattle
Located in the Pacific Northwest, this area of the US is known for being rainy. While temperatures are mild all year round, never getting too hot or too cold (however you do get the occasional snowfall); the best time to sign a contract is in the summer months, June-September. This is the “sunny” time of the year while October-May sees consistent rainfall and cloudy days.
My experience: Both contracts I have signed have been from June-September. This is the ideal time to come to Seattle and if you have the option I would highly recommend signing a contract during this time frame. However, if you prefer winter sports then winter months are also optimal to be in Seattle because there are many winter resorts close by.
Travel nurse guide to living in Seattle
One of the most stressful things about being a travel nurse is figuring out where to live! Luckily, Seattle sees tons of travel nurses and therefore offers tons of housing options. I’ve seen prices range from affordable (rooms outside of the city), to exorbitant (studios in trendy neighborhoods). My best luck when searching for housing has been utilizing Furnished Finder, Airbnb, and most of all the Facebook group – Seattle Travel Nurses.
Please keep in mind that if you search Airbnb prices will be outrageous. This is because many people that are placing their homes on Airbnb are doing so for a short time, but they have an option to choose “extended stay” without changing the price (as to give you a discount). If you find a place you like, always message the host explaining your situation and asking for a discount. (If you’re new to Airbnb use my referral code for $55 off).
For a more comprehensive guide on how to find housing as a travel nurse, read Resources for Finding Housing As a Travel Nurse
Neighborhoods to live in
There are at least 28 neighborhoods that are recognized in Seattle. The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing where to live is whether or not you’ll be traveling in a car. If you have a car, your options are limitless! However, if you don’t have a car you might want to be careful about picking somewhere close to a bus stop or the Link light rail system.
When finding housing, make sure to tell the host whether or not you have a car. If you do bring a car you’ll want to know if there’s safe parking and if there’s a fee associated with it. If you don’t have a car you’ll want to clarify and specifically ask if there is a bus stop, which bus comes, and how far away it is. You’ll also want to ask where the closest light rail stop is and which stop it is.
The Seattle neighborhoods that I thoroughly enjoy exploring include Capitol Hill, Downtown, Pioneer Square, Belltown, Fremont, Queen Anne, and Ballard.
My experience: The first time I got a travel nursing job in Seattle I worked at Swedish Medical Center First Hill and lived in Beacon Hill. I originally had a car but ended up getting in an accident. It was quick and easy, taking only 10-minutes to get to work. After crashing my car I would take the light rail. I got on at the Beacon Hill stop to get off at the Capitol Hill stop. My commute in total took approximately 45 minutes. Swedish Medical Center offers discounted light rail passes for nurses – $15/month. In the off chance, I would take an Uber/Lyft, costs varied from $7-$12/way.
The second time I signed a contract in Seattle I worked at Seattle Children’s Hospital and lived in Capitol Hill. This time I did not have a car and living in Capitol Hill was extremely convenient. To get from Capitol Hill to Seattle Children’s you hop on the light rail and take it one stop north to the UW station. From there the Gold Line shuttle (a free resource for those working at Children’s) picks you up outside the light rail station and drives you directly to the hospital. This doesn’t operate on the weekends, and prices for a weekend Uber/Lyft would run me anywhere from $15-$30/way.
If you’re new to Uber use my code vi9bs for $2 off your first three rides
If you’re new to Lyft use my code KYLEE45415 for $5 in ride credit
Travel nurse guide to transportation in Seattle
Seattle is a compact city that is easily accessed on foot, bike, or train! While you can drive, the streets are usually pretty congested so driving isn’t suitable for short distances (plus parking is a nightmare)! On a nice day, an easy way to get around is by renting a bike. There are JUMP and LimeBike’s scattered throughout the streets of the city. Usually easy to find, all you have to do is unlock them from your phone app. For JUMP you need to have the Uber app and for LimeBike you need the LimeBike app. It’s a cheap and easy way to see the city and get from place to place!
If you have further distances to go or the weather isn’t suitable for being outside, the Link light rail services Seattle north to south (and vice versa). It goes from Angle Lake all the way to the University of Washington. Prices vary depending on where you get on and off the train but typically range around $2-$3 one-way. The downside to the Link is that it doesn’t go east and west. Therefore neighborhoods like Queen Anne, Fremont, and Ballard are all missed. If your main choice for transportation is the Link you can purchase an ORCA card and place a balance on it so that you don’t have to purchase a ticket each time you enter the light rail station. If you get an ORCA card make sure that you scan in AND out each time you enter and exit. This tracks how much money to charge you and if you don’t scan out then you’ll be charged the maximum amount. It’s important to always scan your ORCA card or purchase a ticket because there are fare enforcement officers on the trains at unpredictable times. Also, don’t forget to ask your hospital if there is a discount for an ORCA card for being a nurse!
If you don’t have a car and want to take a day trip there is a service called Car2Go that operates in Seattle. It’s a car-sharing service that costs similar to what renting a car would cost. You can reserve the car for minutes, hours, or days and all you do is pick it up on the street. If you’re planning on using this service make sure to apply ahead of time. You have to submit your license information and a background check is performed before you’re allowed to use Car2Go.
My advice: If you’re near a light rail stop you don’t need a car to get around the city. However, if you’re in a neighborhood that isn’t serviced by the light rail I would opt for a car.
Hospitals in Seattle
There are tons of hospitals serving Seattle and the surrounding areas. Because of the laws put in place to protect nurses, and a few hospitals in Seattle being a part of a union, there will always be a need for travel nurses. Washington isn’t a compact state so if you want to get to Seattle make sure to apply for your license well ahead of time!
My experience: The first time I did travel nursing in Seattle I signed a contract at Swedish Hospital First Hill campus. The closest light rail stop is the Capitol Hill station, which is 15-minutes away on foot. If you have a car and you want to park in the parking garage on campus, the fee is $15/day or $5/night. The garage is located just steps away from the hospital.
The second time I was a travel RN in Seattle, I signed a contract at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The closest light rail stop is University of Washington station, which is 1.5-miles away. During the week the hospital provides a free shuttle – the Gold Line – which operates from the UW station to the hospital and vice versa. There are employee parking lots, however, I’m unfamiliar with how they operate.
Cost of living in Seattle
According to Business Insider, compared to the national average, it is 11.8% times more expensive to live in Seattle. Perhaps this is thanks to Amazon and Microsoft and the big tech companies who are moving to the city? Or maybe it’s just that people are starting to figure out what makes Seattle so exciting and adventurous in the first place!
Where I’ve signed a travel nurse contract; ranked from most expensive to least expensive:
Boston, Massachusetts $$$
Santa Barbara, California $$$
Seattle, Washington $$
Austin, Texas $$
Phoenix, Arizona $
Omaha, Nebraska $
Prioritizing your 13-week stay as a travel nurse in Seattle
Whenever I arrive at a new destination, I sometimes feel completely overwhelmed at the number of things to see and do. I think to myself, how in the world do I accomplish all that I want to accomplish without wasting any time in 13 VERY short weeks? And that feeling didn’t escape me the first time I signed on to be a travel nurse in Seattle. Although I felt much more comfortable and not as overwhelmed by the time contract two rolled around!
While there were definitely things that I did, the places I ate, and neighborhoods that I visited that I would not recommend… Seattle is brimming with things to do! For that, I’ve made a comprehensive list of things to see and do, where to eat, and where to enjoy a cocktail or two. (Oh, and places to avoid as well!)
Things to see and do
Visit the oldest public farmers market in America – Pike Place Market. While brimming with tourists and quite overwhelming at times, this attraction is a must-do in the city. The good news is that since you’ll be around for 13-weeks you can explore it at little intervals throughout the weeks! There are tons of shops, restaurants, and bars in and around the market to be discovered! Before going, read my comprehensive guide – Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Pike Place Market.
Get out in nature and explore the surrounding areas of Seattle! Make a day trip to the kitsch Bavarian town of Leavenworth. Make a day of hiking Lena Lake and finishing up with a late lunch at Hama Hama Oyster! Or visit the little wine region of Woodinville that is located right outside of Seattle. Washington has loads of things to offer beyond Seattle.
Go full-on tourist mode at the Seattle Space Needle and Chihuly Gardens. Again, both touristy… but both the necessary attractions to see! Both of these famous sites are next to each other and the best part is that if you buy a combined ticket, entrance fees are reduced.
Rainy day in Seattle and you’re going stir crazy locked up inside? Check out all of the things that there are to do in Seattle despite the dreaded rain!
Where to eat
Seattle is one of my absolute favorite foodie cities. Fresh seafood and twists on simple dishes, the only thing for certain is that the chefs in Seattle sure know how to keep you on your toes! Whether it’s house-made strawberry dip n’ dots on raw oysters. Or fried oysters dunked in buffalo sauce and placed atop deviled eggs… there’s nothing this city won’t try. For a guide on eating and restaurants in Seattle, check out A Foodie’s Guide to Seattle; or Seattle Sweets Tour.
Where not to eat
Out of the many restaurants that I’ve been able to try in Seattle, there’s only two I wouldn’t return to. Skip the French, Vietnamese fusion restaurant – Stateside. And the seafood restaurant RockCreek. While neither were bad, they just weren’t exciting. There are too many exciting places to eat in Seattle to settle for subpar.
Where to drink
While Seattle lacks clubs, upscale bars, and fancy cocktail restaurants… what you can find in the Seattle drink scene is dive bars and breweries. (Note: There are a couple of upscale bars/fancy cocktail restaurants). Read my comprehensive list on the Seattle drink scene here.
When all is said and done there’s no way to accomplish everything there is to do in Seattle in such a short timeframe! With hiking to do, tourist stops to see, and restaurants and bars to explore… you could spend years in the city and only begin to peel back the layers. Luckily, for the time being, travel nursing jobs are hot. My hope for you is that you will have endless opportunities to sign a contract in this special city.
Are you interested in being a travel nurse in Boston too? Read The Travel Nurse Guide to Boston to brush up on the city before arriving!
Do you prefer visuals over words? Head over to my Instagram page/highlight reel for a visual look at my time in Seattle!