Is the ability to travel one of your top considerations when choosing a career path? Is your bucket list essentially a list of destinations? If you are a nurse with a travel bug, travel nursing might seem like the most logical option. However, don’t let the name fool you; working in another state or country does not equate to having the time and flexibility to explore and enjoy your new location. If your travel aspirations are not limited to donning your uniform in a new zip code, you might want to consider PRN work instead.
The Realities of Travel Nursing
Generally, travel nursing assignments are 13 weeks long, but 8-week or 26-week assignments are also common. Travel nursing agencies might put nurses up in one-bedroom apartments or even in simple hotel rooms for the duration of the work contract; otherwise, nurses receive a housing stipend and have to find their own accommodations. Although travel nurses have the flexibility to choose which state they want to work in and the costs of travel are also covered by the agency, this is the extent of the similarity with a paid vacation because once the assignment begins, travel nurses have to work the same schedules as full-time staff nurses do:
- Five eight-hour shifts
- Four ten-hour shifts
- Three twelve-hour shifts
This is why travel nurses aren’t always able to reap the benefits of being in a different state or even a different country until the end of their work contract, at which time they can choose to take unpaid time off.
Although the higher pay is certainly an incentive, it can be tiring to always be on the road with all your belongings reduced to a suitcase or two. It can also be frustrating for nurses who are lured by the promise of travel to be so consumed by work that they cannot get much sightseeing in. Furthermore, travel nursing agencies mostly require registered nurses (RNs), so licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) need to find other ways to fulfill their travel dreams.
What Is PRN Work Like?
PRN work, on the other hand, does not in itself require travel, but it makes travel possible for nurses who wish to do so. The term PRN stands for the Latin ‘pro re nata’, meaning ‘as needed’. These jobs are created by healthcare facilities to fill urgent staffing needs and are temporary in nature. In fact, the extent of the commitment between the healthcare facility and the PRN nurse is typically a single shift. Therefore, PRN nurses have complete flexibility to work as much or as little as they want and to take time off to travel whenever they feel the desire to do so. They can plan their work-travel schedule on a monthly or weekly basis, or they can make spur-of-the-moment decisions to take a few days off, pack their bags, and go on a road trip to the Grand Canyon, New York City, Miami Beach – or wherever the wind might take them.
Nurses who work PRN jobs can work in other states if they wish, but they can also stay at home and work these temporary jobs without uprooting their lives. In other words, PRN jobs give nurses the flexibility to travel as much as they want to while maintaining a home base. Just like travel nurses can, PRN nurses can work hard for two or three months and then take some time off, but they also have the chance to be more spontaneous and take a few days or a week off whenever the need for a change of scenery is strong.
Furthermore, PRN nurses also make significantly more per shift than staff nurses do, and this opportunity is not limited to RNs but includes LPNs and CNAs as well.
Which Type of Job Is More Conducive to Traveling?
How much nurses travel depends on a lot more than the type of job they have. The main determining factor is motivation. Despite their names, travel nurses might not have any interest in traveling at all. They might simply take on these assignments because of the higher pay without a second thought to the location or what they could discover there. They might live in a different state for three months but never leave the one-bedroom apartment they were put up in aside from going to work. Others are motivated by travel, but they are limited by their full work schedules and can’t truly explore much until their assignments are over.
Similarly, not all PRN nurses travel; however, their jobs give them the flexibility to be able to do so. In the end, although PRN nurses usually work in their own cities, if they take advantage of their flexible schedules, they can travel quite a bit more than travel nurses are able to.
Tips for Traveling as a PRN Nurse
If you are a PRN nurse or are hoping to become one, here are some tips to help you take full advantage of the flexibility that PRN work can give you to finally cross those destinations off your bucket list.
- Create a travel-buddy group with other PRN nurses – you know you’ll find someone who can go on a spontaneous road trip in the middle of the week.
- Plan around the schedules of other people in your life – take time off when your partner can travel with you or take the kids on an adventure during their school vacation.
- Meet people on the road! If you love to travel, you most likely enjoy meeting new people from different places as well, so travel alone and make new friends!
Some Practical Aspects
- Travel within your means; if you haven’t saved up enough for international travel yet, take trips closer to home until you are able to cover the expense of international travel without going into debt – spending more money than you have would make the trip more stressful than relaxing.
- That being said, it’s a great idea to apply for a rewards travel credit card; the rewards you earn and the signing bonuses that some cards offer can help you cover the costs of your dream trip – not to mention free upgrades and late checkout!
- Always travel with more than one card – in case one is swallowed by an ATM! Also, have cash on hand in small bills; in many countries, cash is the norm, and your credit or debit cards will get you nowhere.
- Make sure your insurance plan will cover any healthcare needs abroad or get additional travel insurance.
How to Guarantee an Amazing Experience
- Do your research. You might feel like some places are simply must-sees, such as New York, London, and Paris, and visiting these places would certainly be wonderful, but make sure you know what those cities can offer you! Do you enjoy visiting museums and touristy landmarks, or do you prefer to explore the more authentic parts of town and visit the places the locals frequent?
- Stay flexible. As much as you might have researched a country or city, the locals always know best. Take their advice regarding the best sights and best places to eat. Even if you don’t want to approach people directly, you can keep your eye out for people waiting in long lines to buy from a specific restaurant, stall, or food truck – you know it must be worth the wait.
- Be willing to compromise. Unless you are traveling alone, you will have to make plans with your travel companions, and you won’t always share the same ideas; try to find the interests you have in common, and as for the points you don’t agree on, either take turns deciding where to stay, what places to visit, where to eat, etc. or go your separate ways every once in a while so that everyone can enjoy what is most meaningful for him or herself.
What Are Your Travel Dreams?
For many people, all their travel aspirations are fulfilled by going all out with one annual vacation. Others are happy to work hard for a few months at a time and then need a change of pace and scenery. Still, others crave the ability to pack up their bags at a moment’s notice and hop in a car, plane, boat – or on any moving object – and see new sights, have new experiences, and meet new people. Whichever type of traveler you are, PRN work makes all these travel options possible.
So what will it be for you? Do you prefer to be spontaneous or to plan every last detail of the perfect trip? How often would you like to travel? Do you prefer to travel with friends or to fly solo? We’d love to read about your travel dreams and how PRN work can help you achieve them!