I never realized how smooth the transition was to be hired as a full time staff nurse until I compared the paperwork for a traveling nurse. My fellow traveler nurses had warned me about the initial time consuming paperwork but I suppose you never really understand until you’re actually doing it. Now, this isn’t intended to discourage anyone because I always say that with anything in life, it may not be easy but it will be worth it.
I am currently working frivolously to complete the endless online modules, sign these lengthy contracts, pass the competency exams, send over my medical records, determine what is a tax home, prove I am a US citizen, and so on.
Luckily, if you choose the right company they will be extremely involved with keeping you up to date on things you need to accomplish and when you need to accomplish them by. The agency I am working with are consistently making sure I have everything I need to be in compliance with the hospital. Here are a few things I have learned that I wish I had know regarding paperwork and contracts thus far. Now, remember I am not an expert but if someone would have told me just one of these things I feel I would have been better off. If I manage to educate at least one person based off the following information I will be a successful blogger in my mind!
1. Tax Essentials. This, my friends, was something I struggled with for weeks! I had no prior knowledge regarding taxes or what is considered a tax home or primary residence. So – needless to say – I spoke with numerous accountants, fellow travelers, and even the IRS. I was able to conclude my research with the fact that you must claim a tax home in order to be eligible for the tax free stipends. This is something that no one really explained to me thoroughly, I understand I might be hardheaded sometimes but I need to fully understand something before I am believing what they are saying. The best resource I was able to find was Joseph Smith at Traveltax.com. He answered tons of my questions regarding taxes and the best way to even organize your paperwork so at the end of the year tax season isn’t a nightmare thought. I highly recommend contacting him for any questions you may have prior to starting your journey. Staying organized will make for a smooth transition into the travel nursing life and eliminate many of the headaches I endured.
2. Pay Packages. Make sure you fully understand the way the companies are breaking down your pay. It can be extremely confusing the way they all break it down because some companies include the tax free housing stipends, health insurance, or even travel expenses. It is extremely important that you ask your recruiter to explain everything in detail to you until you fully understand it. Once you finally get it, they will all make sense and it will make it easier for you to compare between agencies what they really are offering for the same position. Don’t be alarmed that your base pay will be significantly less than what you are currently making at your full-time position. It is completely normal because of the stipends they pay you with will cover what you are missing. Also, most companies don’t offer PTO or sick leave so remember that if you miss work you will also not get paid in these stipends. So, try to find a company that guarantees your hours every week so if for some reason you can’t go to work one day you will have the option to make it up during another shift.
3. Housing. It is so much more cost effective to find your own housing. I recommend taking the housing stipend and find housing on airbnb.com or vrbo.com. These are fully turn-key places that have everything you can possibly need for the most part. Also, most owners will be happy to give you a discount since you will be staying for a few months. This may require some more research than you are willing to do about the area you’ll be moving to but I highly recommend it. Plus, it will give you an excuse to check out your favorite area and exactly where you want to be!
4. Relax. I highly recommend taking at least a week off in between the transition to becoming a traveling nurse. First of all, it will give you plenty of time to explore your new town without the added stress of having to start the new job. Also, it will allow you to settle into you’re new abode. I feel the need to make it your home because technically it will be for the next 13 weeks. There is no better way to settle in than by unpacking all the things that make your new location a home. Whether it be your pictures of family and friends or even your favorite comfy blanket you love to snuggle.
5. Explore. If for some reason you can’t financially afford to take a whole week off of working then I highly suggest you spend that first weekend in your new town exploring. While it’s nice out, you have to take advantage of the new surroundings you are in no matter how tired you are from unpacking, take some time to soak it in. You are only here for 13 weeks! You have to make it worth your while. Get out there and enjoy!
I knew this was going to be a learning experience, but never would’ve guessed that a large portion of the lessons learned would be before I stepped foot in my first travel assignment hospital!
And then I realized, adventure is the best way to learn!