As a nurse, I have been blessed with a career that gives me the ability to have a flexible schedule. I cannot count how many times my friends who work 9-5 jobs, 5x a week say they envy my schedule. I mean, it DOES come with a price to pay!
Think about it, the hospital NEVER closes. it is literally open 24/7...which means, there are nurses 24/7--holidays, weekends, times people are asleep, times people are awake, times people partying on the weekends/holidays. I mean, you get it that there is ALWAYS a nurse watching over someone's life, or just making them comfortable. And as you can imagine, it is FAR from being easy.
So this means, yes, we should only work 3-4x a week as full time. Yes, we do get BURNT OUT. And yes, it does give us the luxury of the ability to have long days off in between shifts to de-stress, gather ourselves, and even EXPLORE :)
So how do we do it?
Nurses who work on the hospital floors typically work 8 or 12-hour shifts.
And there is a wide variety of positions that can be worked. Anywhere from per diem, part-time, full-time, travelers, registry. Day shift, PMs, or nights. There’s many to choose from! If you find the right position at the right time, you may just be able to find that perfect schedule that works for you and your lifestyle.
And after years of taking on different positions, I’ve finally found what works for me and my lifestyle!
How do YOU do it?
Between two jobs, I work anywhere between 2-4x a week. (So you're like: okay pause, WTH how?)
I am committed to work 2 12-hour shifts a week at one hospital. At the other, i am committed to make myself available to work 4x a month minimum.
And so because of this, I am able to travel around. :)
Now, it may not be as long of trips as others would take, but by this, I have learned to maximize my days off by booking my trips then!
Use NO PTO!
Here are some patterns that you can use, depending on your work-commitment a pay period (2-weeks)
DISCLAIMER: The biggest thing to be aware of when scheduling yourself is avoiding the risk of overtime. Hospitals and schedulers are huge sticklers for this. So be sure to research your hospital's policies on number of hours per week (or how many days in a row) you can work before going into overtime.
GET 6 DAYS OFF IN A ROW: If you work EIGHT 8-or 10-hour shifts a pay period
GET 7 DAYS OFF IN A ROW: If you work SEVEN 8-hour shifts a pay period
GET 8 DAYS OFF IN A ROW: If you work SIX 12-hour shifts a pay period
GET 10 DAYS OFF IN A ROW: If you work FOUR 8-, 10- or 12-hour shifts a pay period
For more days off: Use PTO or VACATION WITHOUT PAY in conjunction with these patterns!
For example, I work 2x/week. If i used 2 days of PTO, my 10 days off just turned into a 12-day vacation!
**The speed at which you accrue PTO will depend on your hospital's policy based on what your position is. In short, the more days you are committed to work, the faster you gain PTO.
Some hospitals will also offer a number of vacation days without pay a year. Find out how many yours offers!
Depending on your work schedule, you may be able to work things out where you can work a number of days in a row, so that you can be off for a good number of days in a row. This may take some early planning, making trade deals with coworkers, using some PTO, but I guarantee you it’s absolutely worth it!
Make it a regular, and work long stretches
Working long stretches, can be pretty exhausting, so I suggest trying it out first, and listening your body is important in making this decision. But having a nice stretch off is pretty sweet, if you ask me :)
For example: I work 2x a week at one of my jobs.
So now you’re probably thinking, just work 4 in a row and take 10 off. Sounds like an easy thing to do right? YUP. You are right. It’s exactly what I did. With the help of some awesome coworkers whom I made switches with, I was able to book summer trip to go island hopping Greece between the 10 days!
Now, it may not seem like a lot for some people, but being new to my position with NO PTO in my bank, I humbly took what I could get. 😁
Nurses with the best schedules for traveling
One of the beauties of the nursing profession is that there are so many avenues one can take-bedside, clinic, clerical, school nursing, teaching, legal nursing...there are SO MANY things you can do!
School nursing is a great way to be able to travel! My husband, James, is a school nurse. And it’s actually a pretty great job to be able to travel with. Think about all the times you were off from school when you were a kid--- he's off too! :D
Travel nursing is also a great way to be able to get around! Not only are you able to travel to different parts of the country for work, but you are able to take as little or as big of a break you want in between assignments.
Many of my friends who do traveling LOVE LOVE it, as it gives them the flexibility and freedom to choose where they will work, and how long in between assignments.
So if you are one to enjoy longer trips, this may be for you :)
Per diem nurses
If you are young enough to be on your parent's health insurance, married with a spouse with great health insurance, or brave enough to face the uncertainty of shifts (depending on which hospital you work at), BUT want reap the rewards of making more $$ in lieu of benefits, then this is a great option for traveling!
Most places will only require 4-5 shifts a month of availability, and then you decide how many more you want to work (or not to work).
It's definitely something that you have learn to budget with, and learn to save for the rainy days, but it's absolutely worth it once you've got it down!
The beauty of registry nursing is that you tell them when you want to work!
With a few years of nursing under your belt, this one is a great job for extreme flexibility!
You basically sign up for a registry, and when there is a need in different hospitals/facilities, and you want to work it, you work. Simple!
Downside: these jobs are un-benefitted.
Every few times a year, certain nursing associations will hold conferences for their members (and non-members) in certain places that can be vacation destinations. This is one way to be able to travel as a nurse, and learn!
For example, the Academy of Neonatal Nursing is holding a conference this year in Orlando, Florida...and you've got it---Disneyworld! Perfect, isn't it?!
The biggest battle of newer nurses in the system is SENIORITY. Vacation planners, days off, etc ALL depend on seniority (for most institutions). Know your institution's contract/policies for the nurses.
As a newer nurse, it may be difficult to get days off especially in the summer and certain holidays. Bummer, I know. BUT there is a plus to this! Luckily for you, traveling during low season means less crowds, and CHEAPER everything!
Now, depending on how many days off you can get without burning all your PTO, there are plenty of places you can go to! As envy-striking as Instagram and digital nomads can be, traveling doesn’t always have to be for so long and so far!
You may not be able to take off for months and months (unless you are a travel nurse or just per diem), and be able to go backpacking for weeks on end. But I promise that you will appreciate it more, knowing you don’t have much time to spend in a certain place. It has for me, at least.
Knowing that I only have about 10 days (if Im not using PTO) when traveling makes me appreciate the places I see, the people I encounter, and the experiences I go through. It makes me realize that life is short, and that we shouldn’t let it just pass us by. And that’s what pushes me to work to fill my pockets with just enough to live comfortably, and my soul with experiences.
FIGHTING THE URGE TO BE A BLOB
I totally get this. When I am on, and working my long stretches, all I really do is eat, sleep, and go to work. Once I am off, especially on the first day, I just feel like shit, and really do not want to do anything but sleep or watch Netflix. FIGHT this urge.
There is nothing worse than only having a day off or two, and realizing that you just had spent it sleeping!
So set that alarm, get up, and PLAN SOMETHING. Don’t let life pass you by :)
This helps me train myself to be productive, especially when traveling, to just go out and explore.
One of the beautiful things about nursing is it's flexibility. Being that the job itself is physically, emotionally, and mentally draining, it is only appropriate that we are given enough time off in order to gather ourselves, so that we can perform our jobs effectively and with the compassion we have had since the beginning. That being said, our shorter work weeks make it quite easier to be able to gather ourselves, enjoy OUR lives on our days off, so that when we can enjoy SAVING OTHER lives when we are back on :)
I hope this is helpful, especially to the new nurses out there! I know it's a struggle, in the beginning. Just know that despite the difficulty our profession, the reward of being able to help others as they go through difficult times in their lives will only make it better... So REWARD and TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, you are amazing! <3
HAPPY NURSING AND TRAVELING!