Brutally Honest Truth About Being A Travel Nursing Spouse
If your spouse or partner is a travel nurse, and you have decided to go on this adventure with him or her, I am about to spill the tea on being a travel nursing spouse (aka travel nurse buddy, travel nursing tag along, travel nursing ride or die, travel nursing support system, etc.)
First of All, What the Heck is a Travel Nurse?
A Travel Nurse is a nurse who travels. Just kidding but not really. Travel nursing is just like a regular nurse, but you are contracted by a travel nurse agency instead of being employed by the hospital.
How Does Travel Nursing Work?
Travel nurses have the freedom to choose wherever they want to work depending on what nursing license they hold and where the positions are open.
Each contract is usually up to 13 weeks at a time. Once the assignment is over, you are free to go anywhere else or extend your contract.
Note that you can only stay in one city up to a year to be legally considered a travel nurse contractor. After 1 year, you have to abide by the radius rule and find a different assignment that is at least 50 miles (the mileage ranges from 40-200) from where you currently reside.
Travel nurses have the ability to, more or less, choose where they want to work, but it is always on a as-needed basis. For example, you might want to travel to Denver, Colorado, but if there are no open spots in Denver, you can look for openings in other cities like Lakewood or Vail or look in another state.
If you want to know more about travel nursing in general, there are a lot of available resources out there. Here is a frequently asked questions about travel nursing blogpost by Leah from Off The Clock Nurse.
What is a Travel Nursing Spouse?
It was me!
My husband was a travel nurse, and I traveled with him along with our two dogs.
The travel nurses that we met throughout our travels were all different–some were single, some traveled with their boyfriends or girlfriends, some with family, some were married, and others traveled but left their families at home. Some even traveled with another travel nurse friend.
I am here to tell you all about my experience as a travel nursing spouse/ travel nursing girlfriend.
Our Travel Nursing Journey
I actually met my husband through his first travel assignment.
He was travel nursing to Durham, NC, from Virginia, AND did I forget to mention that he was traveling with an ex (who was also a travel nurse). OMG the tea. Obviously, that relationship did not work out.
In short: We met through a mutual friend in NC, got engaged within 4 months while traveling in Europe, and got married in Colorado 10 months later.
Our Travel Nursing Assignments
My husband did travel nursing for 3 years, and I traveled with him during the last 2 years. He had multiple assignments in North Carolina, Colorado, and Arizona.
Why I decided to Be A Travel Nursing Spouse?
Plain and simple, I had a job that allowed me to work remotely.
Even before I met my husband, I had already traveled to different states and to 20+ countries. I live, breathe, eat, and drink travel.
The universe just happened to put a travel nurse man on my lap, and I did not hesitate to marry it.
Coincidentally, my family happened to live in Colorado. It was a no brainer that we wanted his next assignment to be in Denver. It was a win-win situation since I got to be close to my family, keep my job, and we both got to explore Colorado together. We loved it so much that we got married there.
TRAVELING AND ADVENTURE IN OUR MARRIAGE
From the very beginning of our relationship, my husband and I knew the value of traveling and adventure.
The time and chance to travel can come and go, and we did not want to regret not traveling together and taking such an amazing opportunity. As hard as it was to leave friends and uproot our lives, even now, we know that we can always go back and see our family and friends.
It all boils down to what you want to do with your own life and what works best for you.
The Best Things About Being A Travel Nursing Spouse
Sharing Adventures Together
You get to share and experience all the adventures with your spouse or partner. I cannot even describe the amount of opportunities and things you get to see through travel nursing.
There is such a huge difference between visiting a city for a couple of days and actually getting the chance to experience a place as a local.
Depending on where you go, you get to hike together, go on road trips, get lost, try new foods, meet new people, make new friends, and grow together.
Basically, you do not have to feel FOMO when you travel with your best friend.
With travel nursing, there are a lot of things that have to happen in the background before even getting to your destination. When you travel, people only see the nice pictures of fun adventures.
In reality, there are paperwork, negotiations, packing, moving, and a whole lot of decision making.
As a travel nursing spouse, you can help research and secure housing (which is the most stressful part in my opinion) and get bills straightened out and transferred.
You also can help sort all your belongings, pack, and get rid of things.
Depending on how many cars you will be bringing, you can help drive and keep them company through the move.
If you are reading this and are in a relationship or married to a nurse, then you are familiar with all the stress and pressure that come with this profession.
Let’s be honest, nurses are stressed, underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated. Imagine adding the stress of moving and being in a completely new place to that.
The beauty of being a travel nursing spouse is you can be there for your nurse partner as their support system. You can alleviate the stress from work or from being in a completely new city.
You can share the feeling of being uncomfortable, nervous, unsure, confused, tired, and scared together because your partner doesn’t have to do this alone.
Honestly, this part can go either way. It can make or break your relationship. I am a strong believer that travel can make or break your marriage. It is up to both of you to choose the outcome.
You can use this travel nursing experience to solidify and strengthen your marriage and communication.
I am not going to sugar coat it; travel nursing is stressful. When my husband and I were travel nursing, we fought like crazy. We did not realize until later how many changes and how much stress we dealt with when we decided to go through this together.
If you are having communication issues and problems in general, check out the blog post I have about the things we learned from marriage therapy.
As I have previously mentioned, I was able to work remotely (when we traveled in Colorado. I later quit my job that year and found a different job in Arizona).
There will be instances when your partner’s travel nurse contract will be cancelled unexpectedly. This happens due to several reasons: staffing needs, decrease in patient quota, budget cuts, management changes, weather or health crisis, and other unforeseen reasons. Out of the three years that my husband was travel nursing, his contract got cancelled once.
Thanks to the security of my remote job, the cancellation did not affect us. He found another contract about 1 month later. It’s the beauty of being a nurse. There is always going to be a demand somewhere.
Depending on your financial situation, it is beneficial if you, as a travel nursing spouse, can provide some type of financial support when these unexpected cancellations happen.
Vacation Time Between Assignments
Aside from the pay, this is one of the biggest perks of travel nursing. Because contracts are 13 weeks at a time, travel nurses can take time off as long as they want until they want to sign a new contract.
Typically travel nurses would take 2 to 4 weeks off to backpack internationally or explore the US.
This means that you are able to plan your vacations strategically around the times when your travel nurse husband or wife is in between assignments. Think extended Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations.
Being a Travel Nursing Spouse Was Not All Sparkles and Rainbows
We Had One Car
This was the hardest part for me and took a huge toll on my mental health. When we first started traveling, we only brought one car with us (and somehow fit all of our belongings into this SUV).
Because of this, I had the hardest time making new friends. Of course, he was able to introduce me to his coworkers, but it was not the same as having my own. We always joked that he was my only friend.
In addition, I was pretty much stuck at home which contributed to a lot of our fights. I couldn’t go anywhere because I did not have my own car. I worked from home, so I was alone all day and was excited to talk to him (or just someone really). My husband, on the other hand, would have just gotten off a long 13-hour shift after dealing with patients and families. I was excited to talk, but he was not.
We eventually turned to marriage counseling. See the tips that we learned here.
If you can help it, my suggestion is to bring two cars for both of your sanity.
It's Stressful AF
Travel nursing is an exciting rewarding adventure for couples; however, you will experience tremendous stress if you are planning on moving every three months. That was our original plan, but it was just too much especially with the 2 dogs.
In addition, your travel nurse partner will probably not be able to secure his or her next contract until less than two weeks before the current assignment ends. It is the nature of the job.
- This means scrambling to find new housing sight unseen in such a constrained amount of time.
- This means that you have to pack immediately and somehow make everything fit in your vehicle. Or get rid (or ship everything you own), so you could fly to the other side of the country.
- This means that you won’t know what your job situation will be until you start applying (if you have to look for another one).
- This means that you have to move your life and drive again.
- This means you have to cut your current internet, water, and electric connections and set everything up again in for your next assignment.
- This means that you have to say goodbye to the people you just met.
This is why I say that travel nursing and traveling in general can really make or break a relationship. Yes, you get to go through this amazing adventure with your partner, but you have to be willing to work through the hard times too.
Relying On One Income
You can be a travel nursing spouse without working or having a remote job. In fact, many travel nursing families end up doing this. It is all about being creative in sustaining this lifestyle.
Given your financial situation, spending habits, and goals, it is totally possible to rely solely on the travel nurse income for your family. Non traveling families do this all the time, especially if they have children.
This decision is based on what you and your partner are comfortable with.
In any case, you just have to remember that having one income is most likely going to be less flexible than having two, which can always cause issues in your relationship.
A year into my husband’s assignment, I quit my remote job. Even though that job provided me with all the flexibility in the world, I came into terms that the stress and low pay were not worth all the stress that it had put me through.
When we got to Arizona for my travel nurse husband’s next assignment, I got to work immediately and applied for every job possible. We had decided that we would stay a bit longer during this assignment, so I was okay with finding a more permanent job. I had gotten a job as a recruiter and worked until we decided to go backpacking in South East Asia after 8 months.
Here are other travel nursing spouse job options that I have previously come across:
- Substitute teacher
- Math tutor
- Soccer coach
- Part time sports facility worker
- Online coaching
It Could Get Lonely
Being in a completely new place becomes too much sometimes.
You might end up in an assignment that is located in the middle of nowhere. Maybe it is your first time being away from family and friends during the holidays in the cold winter months.
Whatever the reason is, you will have hard lonely moments. You have to be prepared for this. I am an only child and used to being alone, but it still affected me pretty badly.
Because I did not have a car, I experienced some depression and loneliness while travel nursing. This is why I highly recommend having two cars. Unless you are traveling in a city like New York where you can use public transportation, you need your own car to have a sense of freedom and time for yourself.
Travel Nursing with Children
There is so much more to consider when traveling with children.
As a travel nursing spouse, are you going to stay home to take care of them? If not, who will? Will you be working and hiring someone to nanny?
Where are they going to go to school?
Can you and your partner time the contract to align with your kids’ summer vacation?
We did not personally go through this since we still don’t have children.
In my mind, the most ideal scenario is for the travel nursing spouse to work remotely while homeschooling. Again, every family is different, but bringing your kids adds a whole layer of adjustments and sacrifices.
Travel Nursing with Pets
There was no way we were going to leave our dog children behind. It was nice that they got to enjoy everything with us.
The most important thing to think about is the housing restrictions when you bring pets along. Given the short amount of time that you have to find housing, having a pet narrows down your choices. Even if your housing allows pets, there is typically an additional pet fee.
A lot of places do not allow dogs and cats. Thankfully, North Carolina, Colorado, and Arizona were very dog friendly.
Is your significant other considering travel nursing? Are you considering traveling with him or her? A huge part of my marriage revolved around traveling nursing, so it has been quite a journey for us. Do you have any other questions? I am always happy to help.
You and your husband are so cute! And, your pups are adorable! I’ve always been intrigued by the travel nursing life and I feel like I learned so much about it from your post!
Thanks so much!
This is such a delightful and insightful read. Thank you for taking the time to create this for other people to read, and for taking me back to the those hectic/wonderful/amazing/stressful 3 years travel nursing with you. You are a gem, and I am a fan. I love you.
This was so insightful! I always wanted to know more about how nurses traveled, although I could never be a nurse myself. Thanks so much for sharing!
You are so sweet. I’m so glad you found it helpful!