This week, I completed my three days of orientation at the hospital – two nights in the PICU (my home unit) and one in the NICU (one of the two units I will be expected to float to, the other being the gen peds floor).
I work 12-hour night shifts, and with the way my schedule worked out (it was assigned to me), I got off work Wednesday morning at 8am (yes, after working three night shifts), and had to pack up and move out of my Hollywood Hills apartment by 3pm to move into my new apartment in West Hollywood.
Since I only had two weeks to prepare for moving to Los Angeles, once I knew I had the Kaiser LAMC contract, I couldn’t be as picky and choosy as I wanted for my living situation. These summer months are high season for Los Angeles, which explains why so many vacation rentals were booked through until September, and might explain why I didn’t get as many responses from my rental inquiries.
This being only my second travel assignment, I’m still experimenting and trying to figure out the best things to do to make my “nomadic” life easier. For my first assignment back in January, I wasn’t sure what to expect, had never been to the Bay Area (where I took the contract at Lucile Packard Children’s), and I also only had two weeks to finalize my living situation. So I decided to play it safe and go with my travel nurse company’s housing. My company paid approximately $1,700/month on my behalf for my apartment in Santa Clara. I learned from friends in the area that this is the going rate for a fairly decent one-bed apartment in the San Jose/Santa Clara area.
I got assigned an apartment in Santa Clara, approximately a 30-minute drive away from my job in Palo Alto. It was pretty nice – a one bed, one full bath, huge bedroom, wood fireplace, full kitchen, stacking W/D unit, A/C & heat. The complex had a pool, Jacuzzi, and workout room, as well as a lounge and “business center” for residents. My company provided the basic furniture and paid for all utilities except for Internet access.
So, out of pocket I had to pay for Internet access (including the activation fee), a monthly fee for having requested a W/D in unit (considered an “upgrade” by my travel company), and a small monthly fee for my request for a sofa sleeper vs. a regular sofa. I paid at least $225/mo for all of these things. In addition, my apt came with nothing else except for the furniture. So I brought with me, or purchased, many household items – kitchen stuff, bathroom stuff, extra bedding, a vacuum, iron/ironing board – I couldn’t fit all of these things into my little VW Jetta (I drove to Santa Clara from Portland, Oregon, about a 12-hour drive). I lost track of how much everything cost, but I know that I spent hundreds more on these household items. Definitely over $400, and I shopped mostly at IKEA, Marshall’s, and Target.
Now on to my second travel nursing assignment, I am a “seasoned” travel nurse, right? I only had two weeks to prepare for this assignment as well – as far as when my contract was official and I got word that I was definitely going to Los Angeles. Since I had been to LA prior, I was aware of what I was getting myself into (kind of). So I decided to be brave and take the living stipend offered, which was $2,200. Just a tip, travel nurses; the living stipend is supposedly “set” but can sometimes be negotiated. From my informal “research,” I have discovered that this is the general figure that travel nurses get if they choose the living stipend (some will get around $2,000, some a bit more). However, your stipend is based upon the area and cities like Los Angeles and Manhattan will get you the highest stipend.
I decided on an apartment that was only 3.5 miles away from my job (this one featured in my blog was my temporary home and was 4.8 miles away from work). I knew that living right in the Hollywood area would be spendier than say, living 10 miles away, but I was also aware that 5 miles in LA can often easily be a 30 minute drive due to traffic. I went with VRBO.com (Vacation Rental by Owner) to find my temporary 3-month home. Although VRBOs are often daily or weekly rentals, many owners on that site are willing to negotiate lower prices if you rent for one month or more. What is nice about VRBOs is that since they are used as vacation rentals, they offer fully furnished rentals with all utilities and Internet included. They come completely stocked – kitchen items, linens, etc.
A note on this – I know of some travel nurses here whose company gave them the rental stipend AND has a housing coordinator who finds them suitable independent housing in the area for them. That being said, the nurses’ complaint was that their housing coordinator did not actually come through for them, misinterpreted/misquoted the monthly rental amount, did not stay within their budget requests, and for their first week in the city they had to live in a hotel that was an hour drive from work until their housing situation was cleared up and organized. But in the end, they did get an apartment completely furnished like a VRBO. Last I heard they were still negotiating who would be paying the excess in rent since it was outside of their budget range.
Here is the negative for travel nurses taking the living stipend…if for some reason your contract gets cancelled, you could be locked into your independent rental, unlike the company-issued housing where you would not be responsible for the rental contract (the company signs the rental contract for you). I heard about a travel nurse whose contract was pulled, but he was able to pick up another contract quickly in the area… And you could find a landlady like mine, who is very flexible about our terms. She knows I will be working in the area until the end of October, but we are on month-to-month terms. Also, if you go the rental stipend way you will be responsible for the deposit, which I have learned can be as much as one-months rent, even for a short term 3-month rental…
Another thing to keep in mind about the rental stipend…obviously, you will not get any money in advance. No paychecks until after you start working. Some jobs will pay weekly, like my current contract; some will pay every two weeks. I had to pay my monthly rent up-front for my rental(s) – that is another blog post, regarding my two rentals. However, my living stipend is broken down to pay out per day and I see a portion of it on my weekly paycheck. So, although I started work on 7/30, my first paycheck will not be issued until 8/10. I learned that even with weekly pay, your first paycheck will not kick in until the “real” bi-monthly pay day, which happens on the 10th of Aug for me, instead of the 3rd of August like I thought and expected. SO, why is this info important to travelers? Because, come 8/31 when my September rent is due, I will not have accrued the full amount of my rental stipend to cover my September rent (I will have only received 3/4th of my rental stipend).
And there you have it…my initial blog post on taking corporate housing vs. the rental stipend. Would be happy to hear other nurses’ experiences on this topic! Feel free to share info on the blog comments!