If Anthony Swain had his way, this travel telemetry nurse would jump in the time machine from Back to the Future, travel back to when he was a brand new, 22-year-old nurse, and give his younger self some much-needed advice.
“At the start of my travel nursing career and early 20s, I was missing one key piece to the puzzle,” Swain told Vivian Health in a question-and-answer session. “It was my lack of financial literacy.”
Like the younger version of Swain, many early-career registered nurses (RNs) share a sense that nursing is a good career choice, with salaries above the national median wage, especially for travel nursing positions. But they may share Swain’s early confusion about how to channel their career into a vehicle of personal freedom and financial security.
“I wasn’t brought up in an affluent household, and finances were not a regular topic of discussion,” Swain told us. “In high school and college, personal finance was never taught either.”
From Just Getting By to Financial Freedom with Travel Nursing
Swain started his nursing career living paycheck-to-paycheck and felt there had to be a better way to reduce his debts, build up some assets and live a financially smarter life. Moreover, as Swain describes his early career as a staff nurse, “I was getting burnt out,” he said.
Enter travel nursing, where pay rates are typically higher than staff nurse positions, averaging $2,448 per week nationwide in July 2023. Swain moved into travel nursing in 2016, several years before it took off in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he feels it set him on a better pathway that improved his financial circumstances.
For one thing, travel nursing is all about freedom, according to Swain. “It gave me freedom with my time to decide when to take contracts and for how long, and the ability to request time off to fit my lifestyle. It also offered location freedom with the ability to choose where I wanted to work, including some bucket list locations.”
The additional income provided by travel nursing also put Swain and his wife, also a travel nurse, in a position to pay down significant student loan debts and invest in index funds and some larger assets, such as an investment property.
“I believe travel nursing is a huge opportunity for clinicians to take advantage of some peak earnings years to set themselves up for the long term,” Swain said. “However, healthcare travelers have many other opportunities to accomplish their financial goals. That is why I think it is so important nurses pursue their own entrepreneurial pursuits too.”
Pursuing His Entrepreneurial Spirit as a Financial Educator
Swain pursued his own interest in entrepreneurship, first focusing on learning about financial literacy so he could save and invest his extra income. Then he focused on sharing his knowledge with others, becoming a Certified Financial Educator to help guide fellow travel nurses. He shares financial planning tips through his Instagram account, @financiallyfitnurse, and via his e-book, The Travel Nurses’ Guide to Personal Finance.
“My ultimate goal is to share the financial knowledge I’ve gained throughout my journey with my nursing and healthcare cohorts,” Swain said. “I want my peers to have a greater financial future and set themselves up to achieve financial freedom, too.”
The Unlimited Variety of Travel Nursing
Swain’s Instagram is not only a vehicle for communicating financial tips to his fellow nurses but also a gallery of the extensive travels and outdoor adventures possible in the life of a travel nurse. Often taking positions on the West Coast, Swain has had snowboard adventures in the Rocky Mountains and visited lakes in the Pacific Northwest, beaches in Hawaii and deserts in Nevada. He and his wife also did a travel nurse stint in Miami, all while fitting in trips to Europe’s famed cities.
“We both came from small rural towns,” Swain explained of his wife and himself, “so getting to live and work in these locations was a big deal for us.”
Travel nursing has also allowed Swain to work in different hospital units. While he’s recently worked as a telemetry nurse, his career has taken him to various units, including progressive care unit, med-surg, transplant and float pool nursing.
Perks of Finding Work as a Vivian VIP Elite
No matter what kind of work interests Swain at the moment, he and his wife both rely on Vivian to find their next pair of travel nurse positions, including their current posts in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Vivian is my go-to app for finding contracts in a new location,” he explained. “They make it easy to compare rates, filter your searches and contact agencies about job openings.”
Swain has also qualified for Vivian’s VIP program.
“As a VIP, I get special alerts and early submissions to the best positions, and I get rewarded for taking assignments with Vivian,” said Swain.
Vivian app (Apple / Android) users can join the VIP program by completing at least 90% of their profiles and setting their job preferences. Swain explained that once you’re in the program, you can earn cash rewards when you get placed in a job through Vivian. This step allows you to level up into the VIP Elite program.
“Vivian’s VIP Elite program is a great perk,” Swain explained. “Basically, once you become a VIP, you’re eligible to receive a reward for taking an assignment with Vivian.”
Vivian VIP Elites can receive up to $1,650 in financial rewards when they get hired through the platform, with a $50 bonus for the first job and larger rewards for each successive job, up to $1,000 for the fourth job.
Swain noted that they get double the perks because he and his wife both use the program when looking for their travel nurse positions together.
Skip the Time Machine and Learn from Swain’s Experience
Swain has some advice for today’s young and early-career nurses so they won’t end up wishing for a time machine like he did.
“Leverage travel nursing early in your career to better your financial position; travel, create invaluable experiences and pursue other interests, including entrepreneurship,” he advised.
And some last words of advice: “Don’t forget to enjoy the process along the way. It goes quick, and you’ll want to have great memories to look back at.”
Compare travel nursing salaries in cities and states across the nation to find contracts that make the most financial sense and begin your own travel nursing adventure today.