Kylee is a traveling Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse with a love for solo travel, wine, and Taylor Swift. Teaching others how to be a travel nurse to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia. Passports and Preemies was created to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared toward nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.
Can you tell me about your background in nursing?
I started at Clemson University in South Carolina where I got my undergraduate degree in biology, then completed a 15-month program at Emory University for my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I got my first staff job as a NICU nurse in Kansas City and stayed there for about 2 years.
Was there a defining moment when you decided to make the switch to travel nursing?
Yes and no. I was dating a guy that I was totally in love with. One day, completely out of the blue, he just dumped me. I was heartbroken. I decided that I needed a change of scenery, and between the breakup and generally feeling burnt out at work, I ultimately decided to take a volunteer nursing position with Project Hope working in the NICU in Skopje, North Macedonia.
What are some of the pros and cons of travel nursing?
Pros: The pay is so much better. I make twice on a travel nursing contract than I did on staff in Kansas City. Not to mention, time off. Contracts are typically around 13 weeks, during which you can take day trips and have weekend getaways. My personal preference is to work for 6 months, then take 3 months off. So, I will work 2 contracts back-to-back, and not sign again for 12 weeks. It’s an individual choice. Some nurses choose to work or travel for longer or shorter, depending on their personal needs and priorities.
Cons: Moving sucks. Having to pack up your life and move to a new city every 6 months, over and over again, is hard. There is a readjustment period of having to find the best grocery store, bank, and shopping center, that can really take a toll on a person. Aside from that, it’s also exhausting being the new person again and again. There are times when you wish you felt settled, instead of constantly being uprooted.
As both a traveler and a nurse, COVID times have been tough for you. What are some challenges you have faced?
Obviously, like most people, travel is off the table right now. Its rough on those of us who are used to moving around frequently. I’ve had trips canceled and its been a hassle, to say the least. On the other hand, I’ve taken solo road trips within the US, spent my time isolated in my car or outdoors, taken the necessary precautions, yet still received backlash on social media. If you are being conscious about your movements and how you are showcasing your travel online, I think it’s a personal choice. I feel that most people agree its all about what you’re comfortable or uncomfortable with, within reason.
COVID has been exceptionally hard on nurses and healthcare workers. Aside from having added responsibilities and taking extra safety measures at the hospital and at home, I also had a nursing contract end prematurely. It left me feeling unsure about my next steps, where I had always been fairly confident in my plan for the near future.
Curious about other ways to travel and work simultaneously? Read about long-term house sitting here!
What is “nurse burnout?”
Nurse Burnout is a phenomenon that happens when overworked and underappreciated nurses feel like they are leaving work every day with extreme fatigue. I know nurses that would get off a shift and just lay in bed not moving for the next 3 days out of total exhaustion. Nurse burnout comes from not having enough time off, and not taking care of yourself both at home and at work. Thankfully, this can be cured by finding what you love and prioritizing yourself. For me, it’s travel and meeting new people, but it could be any form of self-care. Cooking, reading, going outside, spending time alone or with friends. Whatever helps you heal from the stress of work and leaves you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the week. Nurses spend so much time caring for others; its important to also be caring for yourself during your time off.
What role does travel nursing play in your future?
I am looking to settle down into a stable home life and a staff nursing position at some point. Right now, I’m in the midst of deciding where to settle. It’s hard to strike the perfect balance between a desirable place to live, that also has a decent dating scene. Some cities I love, like Seattle, but the dating scene there isn’t exactly up to par. Travel nursing is my go-to at the moment until I find the city that really speaks to me.
What advice do you have for aspiring travel nurses?
The best advice I can give for aspiring nurses is to just go for it- the nursing, the travel, everything. Be curious and ask as many questions as possible. Don’t be afraid to take on the tough assignments and learn from the scary situations; it builds character. Once you break out of your comfort zone, you’ll realize that you’re free to do anything.