Being a parent comes with wild responsibilities. From changing diapers to arranging play dates and constantly brainstorming kid-friendly meals, parents have their hands full. Now imagine being a medical traveler in addition to being a mom or dad—if you actively started feeling stressed just thinking about that, same. Yet, there are folks out there who take the plunge and double as both a superparent and a super medical professional. To these brave individuals, we salute you.
However, hitting the road with your family doesn’t have to be as challenging as you might think. Of course, you’ll hit speed bumps along the way, but the best part is your closest support system is there to lift you up when you need it most.
Life as a Medical Traveling Parent
A new level of parenting
For nearly a decade, Angela, her husband, and their three kids have traveled across the U.S. to support Angela’s career as a travel nurse. In October 2011, the family sold their New Mexico home, and transitioned to a new life in a travel trailer. They made the tough choices to decide what belongings come with and which find a new home in storage and started a new adventure in their tiny 30-foot trailer.
“As a family, we have been able to see so much of this beautiful country that we live in,” long-time Fusion Medical Staffing travel nurse, Angela Schmid, RN, said. “It’s almost like getting paid to be on a family vacation. Three days a week I go to work and the kids do schoolwork with my husband. The other four days we get to explore and go on adventures.”
Perks of bringing your family on assignment
With your family by your side, life as professional med traveler is even sweeter:
- Parent-child bonding time. Life as a medical traveler offers enhanced schedule flexibility that promotes a healthy work-life balance so you can spend more time getting to know your child on a deeper level. Research shows that the relationship between parents and their children “lays the foundation for the child’s personality, life choices, and overall behavior,” and can even impact the “strength of their social, physical, mental, and emotional health,” showing the importance of quality together time.
Matt Duncan, RN, travel nurse, shared how travel nursing saved his entire career: “Nursing was a career change for me starting in 2015 and I nearly burned myself out the first year. Traveling gave me the freedom to work only three days a week and be home a lot more than I had been during my first 15 months of nursing.”
- Unique learning opportunities. Travel kids have a couple options when it comes to education on-the-go. First, med traveler parents can enroll their children in schools that are local to their current assignment. However, this disruption in education is believed by experts to have a negative impact on child development. Alternatively, the most popular education route for kids of professional med travelers is homeschooling. Fusion Medical Staffing travel nurse, Ashley Stryker, RN, has five children with two still at home in the 4-H program, a Nebraska initiative that offer a variety of resources for school classrooms, afterschool programs, clubs, home school co-ops, and other supplemental learning experiences. There are several similar options within U.S. homeschooling that parents can choose from such as online learning or a pre-planned written curriculum. Either way, homeschooling empowers parents to help their student thrive in and out of the classroom. Additionally, perhaps the most valuable lessons come from the sheer experience of traveling. These traveling children have the unique opportunity to learn about the history of the U.S. and experience new environments outside of the traditional classroom. Angela said that their children are “encouraged to research each area of the country before they [get there],” and that she and her husband let their kids choose places to visit while on each assignment.
- The power of adaptability. Since your children are on the move about every 13 weeks with you, it’s natural that they learn to adapt to new situations and environments. Primrose Schools defines adaptability for children as “learning how to react to new information and how to ‘shift gears’ between tasks easily (and without throwing a tantrum).” Traveling allows your child to practice adapting to new places, cultures, traditions, religions, and more, which will help prepare them for their future endeavors.
- Family vacays. Traveling medical professionals have the ability to choose to take time off between job assignments. That time off can be the perfect opportunity to spoil your family with a vacation getaway. Not only are family vacays a blast for both parents and kids, they also build lifelong memories, and break your family of their normal routine. Dr. Margot Sunderland, a child psychotherapist and Director of Education and Training at The Centre for Child Mental Health, wrote to the Telegraph, “An ‘enriched’ environment offers new experiences that are strong in combined social, physical, cognitive, and sensory interaction.”
Travel the country doing what you love with the people you love most. As a medical traveler and a parent, there’s no “how to” book to be successful at both. Every traveler has a different situation and no family is wrong in the way they choose to live.
Things to consider as a traveling parent
Like all major life choices, deciding whether to bring your family along on your med travel assignment or not comes with some options to weigh. For instance, what does housing look like if you need more than one bedroom? What’s the most logistical travel method with a family? What do you pack to bring on the road with kids? How do you find a reliable caregiver in a place you’ve never been? What if I don’t want to or can’t bring my family on the road with me?
- Most staffing agencies assist in housing placement for their medical travelers. The downside is many of those options are one-bedroom apartments or hotel rooms that aren’t conducive to families of three, four, five, or more. One option is to use your given housing stipend and make up the cost difference or pay a fee to the agency for bigger housing. Alternatively, families can choose a more mobile lifestyle with an RV or travel trailer. RV travel has become more popular among traveling medical professionals since RV travel allows their home, families, pets, and other cherished items to join them on the road.
Russell and Samantha White are both Fusion Medical Staffing travel CNAs with two daughters, ages 4 and 7. Living in a “giant fifth wheel,” Russell and Samantha work separate shifts so one of them is home with the girls. Their family decided to homeschool their daughters and Samantha said the kids “love homeschool because we can just pick up lessons whenever and wherever.”
Angela and her family originally ventured out in a 30-foot travel trailer before upgrading to a 40-foot fifth wheel a year later.
“We have learned so much about RV living and feel having a home on wheels is the best way to live,” said Angela. “As we tell people who live in houses—if we don’t like the view, we move. If the neighbors are too annoying, we move. That’s the beauty of having a moving house. Plus, I never have to worry about packing each time we move.”
- Travel logistics. If you decide to bring along the whole fam bam on your travel assignment, you’ll first need to figure out the best way to get there. If you’re planning to road trip it, remember that traveling with young kids may take longer because they need to get up and move more often than teens and adults. Air travel is always an option, but then you must consider the cost of airfare for your entire family and if that’s worth the expense.
- Packing. When it comes to packing for med travel assignments, less is more. Focus on the necessities and the things that matter most. With kids, make sure you pack their favorite pillow and/or blanket, extra toys, and lots of books to keep them entertained and happy. Angela’s best advice is, “You never need as much as you think you do.”
- Finding a caregiver. If you have young children who can’t take care of themselves while you’re working, you’ll need to consider finding a caregiver to make your life a little easier. If you’re lucky, you have a travel partner who’s able to care for the kiddos during your shift. Since that’s not the norm for most families, there are other options you can look into like a reputable nanny, local babysitter, or in-facility childcare.
- Flying solo. Sometimes bringing your family along isn’t the best option and there’s no rulebook that says you’re required to bring them on your travel assignment. Fusion Medical Staffing traveling CLS and MT/MLS Generalist, Bethany David, currently works seven days on in New York State and seven off with family in Kansas City, while her husband and almost-2-year-old daughter stay in Kansas City with her parents full-time. When Bethany is off, she spends all her time with their daughter to give her undivided attention and time to bond.
To celebrate parents this year, on Mother’s Day, Samantha and her family are close to home. They’re looking forward to “spending time as a family and maybe dinner and a movie.”
As for Father’s Day, that’s the day after Russell’s birthday and six days after their youngest daughter’s fifth birthday, so the family is busy by default. They’re hoping to land an assignment in Oregon so they can visit the Wildlife Safari in Roseburg, Oregon.
Ashley and her family will be spending their Mother’s Day weekend at a pig show. She said, “As long as we do it all together as a family, I’m happy!”
The biggest difference between traveling solo and traveling with kids is there’s more planning and more packing involved when kiddos come along. Prior to hitting the road, take time to think deeply about hesitations and determine if the travel life is worth it for your family.
Life as a med traveler and a parent is constant go-go-go. Whether your family joins you on travel assignments or if they keep the house cozy for your return, there is no wrong way to be a parent as a medical traveler. At the end of the day, the most important thing is your family and their happiness. Choose a lifestyle that works best for you and brings not only success to you, but also to your loved ones.