One Year as a Travel Nurse

It is so hard to believe that a year ago I was sitting in orientation for my first travel nurse assignment! This year has been by the far the hardest year of my nursing career. Working front line during a pandemic 500 miles away from my family and friends was difficult. I was in a hospital where I didn’t know the staff, policies, or where things were. My patients were the most sick I have ever experienced. However, it also has been on of the best years I have had as a nurse. I love travel nursing. While I admit I have had a lot of struggles with my mental health and have felt true sadness and despair, I also have had opportunities and grown in big and beautiful ways.

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

Working on the Covid Unit in Arlington, Virginia

Traveling will pull you out of your comfort zone quick, fast, and in a hurry. At my staff job, I knew the unit, hospital, staff, and policies. I was a new graduate nurse preceptor. I was on committees. I loved teaching and helping new nurses and travel nurses. I had friends at work who I knew always had my back. I had a rapport with the doctors, NPs, and PAs. Then, I left to travel, and all of a sudden I knew nothing other than have to give quality nursing care. You receive one or two days of orientation, and then you are on your own with a full patient load. I didn’t know where things were. I didn’t know anything about the city I was in. I was a float nurse and floated to 13 different units, while I had spent most my time as a staff nurse with cardiac patients. I never truly got to know anyone I worked with on my first two assignments. This could be scary, but also taught me about how resilient I could be and I knew more than I gave myself credit for.

Experiencing a New City/Way of Life

Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Travel Nursing has allowed me to live in D.C. and the Space Coast of Florida in the past year. They both have very different cultures, landscapes, and city life. It’s amazing to me to think I have lived in three different parts of the Country (D.C., Florida, and SC) in the past year. Travel nursing allows you to see new places and gives you enough times (typically 8-13 weeks per contract) to really get to see and know the area and culture. I have seen the national monuments, gone to the Smithsonian National Zoo, camped at Shenandoah National Park, kayaked with dolphins and manatees, watched multiple rocket launches, gone to Kennedy Space Center, spent days at the beach, along with a lot of other fun and interesting experiences. All thanks to travel nursing.

Rocket Launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida

Cultural Differences

Chesapeake Bay, Maryland

D.C. really opened my eyes to different cultures and ways of thinking and believing. On any given shift, I may be the only nurse who spoke English as a first language. My patients were from all parts of the globe. Many had government jobs and shared stories of their travels. I had the opportunity to speak to nurses and PCTs who had families back home in other countries and what daily life looks like. It really was fascinating and helped me to grow as a more culturally competent nurse and person. It also taught me to overcome struggles. Covid nursing was hard on any given day. The patients were very sick. We wore our N95, surgical mask, and face shield for most of the shift. This made communicating difficult, especially if people with accents. I learned humility when I had to ask people to repeat themselves more that I would have liked. I learned new ways of communicating. I appreciate all their patience with me both as a new travel nurse and someone who couldn’t always understand them the first time.

Appreciating Life & Living in the Moment

Breaux Vineyards- Virginia

If Covid-19 has taught me anything, it’s that we should all appreciate life and live in the moment. Sure, it sounds cliche, but it’s true. I have seen people die well before their time, and people who had to die alone. People who were going to have long term debilities from Covid. People who lost loved ones. I hope I brought comfort to my patients and their families during impossible times.

Camping in Shenandoah National Park

Quarantine and a pandemic has also taught me to value and find joy in the little things. It’s something I think I always did, but I am really mindful of it now. A night by the fire with my husband, FaceTime with family and friends, a walk around the neighborhood with my pup. I don’t need an elaborate trip or vacation to be happy (although I do enjoy traveling as a nurse and look forward to doing more traveling soon!) I am also able to live near my parents for the first time since our wedding. I really appreciate being able to drive to eat dinner or go to the beach without an 8 hour car or plane ride.

The Capitol at night- Washington, D.C.

Would I recommend Traveling to Others?

I can say, all in all, I would absolutely recommend traveling to anyone who wants a change and to experience a new way of life and nursing. I was very burnt out at my staff job and found myself falling down the negative rabbit hole far to often. I did love my job and the people I worked with, but it was time for me to make a change. Traveling had been a dream for years, and Covid made me realize it was time to stop making excuses and make our dreams come true. Stepping outside the comfort of what you know and into a world where things are new will really help to push your boundaries and grow as a person. Seeing new places and experiencing new things can bring new outlooks and perspectives on life.

Kayaking at Merritt Island Nature Refuge- Florida

I’m so thankful for travel nursing and the gifts it has brought me. I look forward to seeing what the next year holds!

Sunrise Cocoa Beach, Florida

Check out my other post about travel nursing:

My First 2 weeks as a Travel RN

My First Travel Nurse Contract: My thoughts and experiences

Travel Nurse Contract #2: Washington, D.C.

Travel Nurse Adventures: The Face Palm Moments

And if you are interested in our decision to “go tiny” and live in a camper:

Culbertson’s Go Tiny

1 thought on “One Year as a Travel Nurse”


I am so glad to hear that you love travel nursing. I could not even imagine but sounds like such an interesting journey. I enjoyed reading this. Silently living my nursing career through you 😅

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