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At HealthJob, we strive to give health care workers a voice. Stacie Tunison has been a nurse for five years and a traveler for two and a half. Below, she offers insights on traveling during the pandemic and how increased travel nurse pay has changed her life.

What did you find most intriguing about travel nursing/ why did you to choose to travel instead of remaining at one facility?

Being nomadic has always had a draw for me. My personal mantra, my whole life, has been: “Live the vacation.” If I can get paid to be somewhere beautiful, then that’s my version of winning. I did love my home hospital, but I knew I needed more experience out in the world to be a better nurse for any of my future patients. Philanthropically, I needed to be better for my patients. Selfishly, I wanted a life filled with adventure, and let’s be honest, the money is really good.

Can you compare your job during and prior to the pandemic? Have you traveled more or less since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic?

A significant change that has happened in the labor and delivery departments has been mask wearing and our visitor policy. My first hospital I worked at, was near a Native American reservation in Wyoming. Birth was celebrated by the whole family and many family members (even grandpa) would be in the room for the baby’s birth. That has all changed. For a while, some hospitals weren’t even letting fathers come in to witness the birth of their first child, which led many to move towards home birth. This led to significantly higher risk to the mother and baby. Thankfully, that has changed, and fathers are allowed at bedside, and for extraneous circumstances, a doula or birth partner is allowed as well.

I have traveled the exact same amount. However, I did take two months off this fall for a massive road trip to help prevent my impending burnout. It worked and I’m still very happy in my role.

Can you compare your pay during and prior to the pandemic?

The pay is significantly more. My first contract was $1,700 per week. My current contract is $3,100 per week and continues to get extended. The has been (and will continue to be) my pay for the whole of the winter and spring. I have a fellow coworker and travel nurse who just recently took a contract for $4400 per week. I know ICU andMed Surga are getting paid more than Labor and Delivery, like upwards of $10,000 per week, but my pay increase has been substantial and wonderful.

How has your increased pay benefited you or your family?

Since I can’t travel internationally, my personal favorite thing to do on my days off is to pay down my debts. My credit score has gone from 700 to 798. My credit cards are paid for and I’ve paid off my partner's student loans off as well, amongst other things. All in all, I’ve probably freed myself of easily $15k of debt in the past 6 months. It’s been wonderful. I love my job and I love what I do. Being a travel nurse has been such a joy and I’m sure I will continue to do it for many years to come.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Reporting by Gabriella Bock.

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