Beating Burnout as a Travel Nurse

“I wanted something different. I wanted to escape the burnout situation in nursing. I wanted to move around with my husband and explore the country. That’s what sparked my interest in travel nursing.”

Kelsey Foor, Travel RN

Over 100,000 nurses left the workforce during the Covid-19 pandemic, citing stress, burnout, and retirement. But the end of the pandemic hasn’t meant an end to burnout. 

Recent survey results show that a quarter to half of nurses feel emotionally drained, used up, fatigued, and burned out several times a week, or even every day (NCSBN 2023). Nearly a fifth of the current nursing workforce has stated their intent to leave the profession by 2027, with a significant portion of those statements coming from nurses under 40. With an aging population and an ongoing need for healthcare services, America can’t afford to lose this much of its vital nursing workforce. 

Burnout stems from heavy workloads, repetitive tasks, and a need for more employer support. In nursing, it’s so common that it can feel like an ingrained part of the profession—but it doesn’t have to be. Fixes for burnout can be as individualized as the nurses experiencing it. 

Read on to learn more about a nurse who hit the road, found freedom, and rekindled her passion for the profession. 

Recognizing the Need for Change

“A lot of nurses got hit with burnout during Covid,” says Kelsey Foor, RN. “We experienced it together. Everyone was unhappy. No one wanted to come to work. And we were the only ones working. It was a really difficult time. I remember sitting in my car after each shift thinking, I don’t know if I want to do this anymore. That was the point I knew I was really burned out.”

Foor had been a nurse for roughly a decade when the pandemic hit. She’s moved from float nursing to ER nursing, but knew she needed a pause, and stepped back from full-time to part-time. 

On the side, Foor indulged her entrepreneurial spirit: she and her husband bought a shed and started a microgreens business growing produce for local chefs and the farmers’ markets; and she and her sister-in-law also started up a business making and selling custom lollipops. 

Both ventures were successful and restorative, yet Foor still found herself unfulfilled. She missed nursing full-time. But she knew she couldn’t go back to the way things had been, either.

“I wanted something different,” Foor says. “I wanted to escape the burnout situation in nursing. I wanted to move around with my husband and explore the country. That’s what sparked my interest in travel nursing.”

Passion Rekindled as a Travel Nurse

In October of 2021, Foor and her husband, Kyle, packed up their belongings and three huskies, hopped in a camper van, and hit the road. Uprooting their life was, Foor admits, a huge decision, but one buoyed by the idea that they could always go back to traditional nursing, where there is never a shortage of opportunities. 

They took to life on the road quickly, upgrading from their first, small camper to a 43-foot fifth-wheel Sandpiper: it has a bedroom, a dining room, a living area, a game room, and a kitchen with a full-size fridge. While it represents a significant financial investment, the forced minimalism of life on the road and travel nursing’s competitive pay have made it a net positive. 

“With travel nursing, your stipends help pay for your cost of living,” Foor says. “It really makes a difference. We’ve been saving a lot.”

Foor’s travel nursing assignments tend to be around three months in duration. That keeps the work environment fresh. It also provides a light at the end of the tunnel if things turn out to be less than splendid. 

So far, she and her husband have lived and worked in Fort Worth and Amarillo in Texas; Rochester, New York; and Altuna, Gettysburg, and Tyrone in Pennsylvania. They monitor contracts on Vivian Health to see what contracts are available, and where. The flexibility of being able to move house at the drop of a hat means they can pick and choose.

“We’re hoping for Florida next,” Foor says. “We’ve just been watching what contracts are offered, and researching areas. We want to see as much as we can.”

Strategies for Success

Up until a few years ago, travel nursing was still considered more of a niche aspect of nursing. But the Covid pandemic, as well as chronic workforce staffing shortages, have made it not only more necessary but more mainstream. That shift in public perception made Foor’s transition from traditional nursing much easier. 

“The culture around travel nursing has changed,” Foor says. “People are more receptive to travel nurses than they used to be. When I first did it, years ago, at a very small hospital, I could tell I was the outsider. Now, you go to work, and there are 30 other travel nurses working there with you.” 

The most important thing in switching from traditional to travel nursing is to stay flexible and positive, Foor says. Moving from facility to facility, you’re forever a guest in someone else’s kitchen. Travel nurses need to adjust to new schedules, routines, personalities, and cultures. But that’s also a strength: travel nurses can take what they’ve learned with them, from assignment to assignment.

“As a nurse, you’re always learning,” Foor says. “You have to come in with that open mindset. Everywhere is different.”

An outgoing attitude helps, too. With roughly three months for each assignment, one only has so long to get to know their colleagues. Foor counts herself lucky to have made a great friend in a fellow travel nurse in Amarillo, Texas. The two traveled together to Forth Worth, where they parked their campers beside each other, and are hoping to meet up somewhere else in the country at a future date. But the short duration of most contracts can be bittersweet: you may end up with friends everywhere, but not necessarily close relationships. 

“It’s also hard to uproot and leave when you have a good work environment somewhere,” Foor says. “I had a really great work crew in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I really miss them, and it was hard to leave.”

Foor is quick to point out that life on the road as a travel nurse would be much trickier if she were on her own. She credits her husband—who manages their three large children (the huskies), and the parking and maintenance of their home-on-wheels—as a crucial element. While they do have friends and family fly in and out to visit, home would be much lonelier and much more difficult without spousal support. 

Life on the road has not been without its bumps and swerves. In Amarillo, for example, Foor and her husband learned about the effects of 70 mph wind gusts on their newly christened camper. But they still have no regrets or signs of burning out yet: in fact, they hope to be on the road for another ten years. 

“Honestly, the only thing I’d do differently is I would’ve done it sooner,” Foor says.

Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog


Matt Zbrog is a writer and researcher from Southern California. Since 2018, he’s written extensively about the modern nursing workforce, conducting hundreds of interviews with nurse leaders, nurse educators, and nurse advocates to explore the issues that matter to them most. His Advocates to Know series focuses on nurse practitioners (NPs) who go above and beyond in changing policy and practice in important areas like veteran’s care, human trafficking prevention, and telehealth access. He regularly collaborates with subject matter experts from the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) to elevate issues that empower nurses everywhere.