Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Using Public Transit on Travel Nurse Assignments

By Aaron Moore, RN, MSN, travel nursing expert

Q:  I am about to start my first travel nurse assignment in a big city.  Do you have any recommendations as to whether I should drive to work or risk public transportation?

A:  I have to admit that I am a little biased on this topic:  I love public transportation, not only because I’m a little “green”―yes, I even divide my recycling―but taking public transportation can have some real benefits.  On the other hand, the destination for your travel nurse assignment, the distance between your housing and your workplace, and your own preferences can make a big difference. So I’ve included some pros and cons to consider and a recommendation from my past experiences.

Pros to public transportation

1. Lots of choices, no parking fees. First, there are so many public transportation modes: bus, train, subway, trolley!  But as someone from the Midwest who had never gone anywhere unless buckled into a car or truck, none of these options appealed to me at first.  After I started in travel nursing, however, I discovered that in many big cities they make you pay to park at work, so I thought I should give it a try. 

2. Relaxing as a passenger. I soon came to realize that it’s so awesome to be able to read, listen to music, study, or even sleep during your commute. Once you’re on your bus or subway, you can sit back and relax.  I grew to really enjoy my commute, and then when I did have to drive, I hated dealing with the traffic going to and from work (where you also risk getting in a fender bender or dealing with road rage). 

3. Saving your car and the environment. Taking public transportation can save the wear and tear your car gets driving back and forth to work, especially if you don’t live that far away and its stop-and-go traffic the whole way.  It can also help save vital resources, and with the price of gas these days, it might help you save money, too.

Cons to public transportation

1. Scheduling issues. Obviously when you ride public transportation, you are not in complete control of your schedule, but at the mercy of the transportation system and its set times for bus stops, etc.  This doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, though. As long as you know the train or subway schedule, you should be able to adjust. If you have a smartphone, you might even find an app you can download that can help. 

2. Don’t forget to be alert for safety. Just as driving has its risks, so does riding a subway or bus with some potentially shady people. Make sure you are careful out there. If something seems strange or out of place, trust your gut and pay attention.  Mind your own business, but be ever mindful of your surroundings. If you’re commuting, it’s likely that so are thousands of other people so there is strength in the masses. 

3. Beware of pick pockets and such by keeping your purse or wallet hidden or in a bag; don’t flaunt your iPod/iPad, but buy some cheap headphones and keep your mp3 player inside your bag or jacket.  Carry a cheap looking backpack or bag. I wouldn’t recommend that Coach purse or Patagonia bag on the bus; the Wal-Mart knock off is much less appealing to someone looking to grab and run. 

My recommendation: Overall I do love public transportation, whether it is a bus, subway, or light rail.  But even if you are planning on using public transit on your travel nursing assignment, don’t use it the first day.  Drive for awhile and figure out your job, then figure out the best commuting method.  When you do decide to “go green” and relax on your way to work, visit your area’s transportation system website; most of them are outfitted with interactive maps and can pretty much figure your route out for you based off two addresses.  Also, give the trip a dry run when you’re not working; this will allow you to know the real time it takes to get from Point A to Point B. 

So, while you’re living the dream of travel nursing, don’t forget to give public transportation a try―it could save you a few bucks and a headache or two.  Just be careful and plan ahead.  

Related blog posts:
What Type of Vehicle Would You Recommend for a Travel Nurse?
How Do I Impress the Manager in My First Travel Nurse Interview?

Do You Have a Question About Travel Nursing?

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