This is going to be more of a fun article today. I want to talk to about being a self-employed traveling nurse practitioner! This is a nurse practitioner that travels around the country, doing as they please, while still making a healthy living seeing patients remotely from wherever they are! Come on, how fun does that sound?! The best part is that it’s TOTALLY possible for any nurse practitioner that wanted to do it.
I have been toying around with this idea for many years as I consider myself more of a free spirit. I love traveling, meeting new people, seeing new places, and having unique experiences. Life is short and I want to live it to the fullest. Being a nurse practitioner can afford this opportunity to someone who wants it.
I have been giving this idea even more serious thought recently as telemedicine has gained traction and I am personally doing more and more of it through my men’s health practice. I am to a point where I could stop seeing patients in person entirely and go completely remote with what I have set up. You can too with a little hard work!
Regardless, I want to discuss the logistics of how you could set this up. There are multiple aspects to consider if you wanted to “hit the road” so to speak:
- How are you going to make money?
- Where are you going to live?
- Are you going to stay domestic, international, or both?
- What type of schedule would you give yourself?
- How long could you realistically live this way for?
- How long would it take to set up the structure necessary to accomplish this?
First and foremost, you must make money to survive unless you are financially independent and have multiple pass income streams. The good news is that as a nurse practitioner you can make money via telemedicine very easily! Everyone reading this can either start their own telemedicine business or work for a company that does telemedicine.
If you want to travel and work remotely as a nurse practitioner, then you have 2 clinical options: see patients via telemedicine or work locums and be assigned various short-term assignments all over the country.
Let’s talk about the locums gig first. This might sound appealing, but the problem is that you have very little say in where you are going to go! Chances are, they are not going to be the best places. You will be assigned to work at various rural Indian reservations, random cities, etc… You cannot go where you WANT to go unless there is an assignment available there. So, I am going to scrap this as a way to bring in income because it is to restricting.
The real way to generate income is by seeing patients via telemedicine from wherever you want! You could do this either as an employed nurse practitioner or a nurse practitioner entrepreneur. Either option works, but you will have more freedom being your own boss! You could literally make your schedule whatever you wanted and see patients whenever was best for you. That way you could hang out on the beach and watch the sunrise in the morning or go on a hike in the afternoons. You decide!
With my men’s health practice, I could continue to see my established patient base pretty much indefinitely while I traveled around the country. I have 2 physical locations, so patients could continue to go to those offices and reorder supplies, receive injections, and get vital signs taken while I see them remotely from my RV parked on the beach. Remember, the one time in-person visit requirement for the prescription of a controlled substance via telemedicine was lifted due to COVID, so I could still see new patients for testosterone replacement while those restrictions are lifted (as of 2/21), but that will not last forever. A great work around is that you can have the new patient come to your office and they can go into a room where you have a computer set up for telemedicine while you see them remotely. Yes, you can do this! So even if the restrictions are put back into place, it would still work! Regardless, the most optimal way to make money as a traveling NP is to have your own telemedicine-based practice!
Alright, so we got the income generation aspect out of the way, now you must decide where you are going to live as you travel. If you stay domestic, then I would opt for having a bad ass motor home/RV. You could set up your telemedicine workspace, bring your significant other, maybe your young children and/or pets, and bring your most important personal belongings with you. I think having a motor home for this trip would be ideal. Driving around in a car and staying in hotels or short-term rentals could get VERY expensive VERY fast… Plus, you would not have a “home” if you did this long term.
A motor home could be very expensive as well. Renting one seems reasonable only if you were to do this short term (<1-2 months), but anything longer than that would not make sense financially. For this reason, I would rather just purchase one. Another big reason I would rather purchase the motor home is because it would be a business expense. Remember, you are traveling and seeing patients via telemed, so this motor home could turn into a tax deduction machine! This is something I would obviously consult with my accountant on, but I could see it being advantageous.
In terms of a motor home, I would purchase an old Airstream. You know, those shiny aluminum cigar shaped RVs you see on the interstate? Those things are built like tanks, especially if you can find a model that was built in the 70s. Look up “remodeled Airstreams” for fun! You could seriously make one of those very nice with a little work. Hell, there are people that live in these full-time and I could see why!
Traveling around the country in a motor home while seeing patients via telemedicine would be the best option for those wanting to stay domestic, but what if you wanted to travel internationally? To my knowledge, there is nothing restricting a provider who is licensed in a state seeing patients in that state while being out of the country. Telemedicine is telemedicine. The issue with going international is that it could get REALLY expensive though, so you would need to choose your locations wisely.
Going to expensive countries would be problematic, therefore I think it would be wise for the international traveling nurse practitioner to choose countries where the U.S. dollar goes A LONG way. These would be countries in Central/South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. You can live like a KING in countries like Nicaragua, Ecuador, or Malaysia for $1,500 a month. Basically, all you would need is reliable internet and phone, which most countries have anymore! I am going to Costa Rica for a long needed vacation today and plan on seeing my established men’s health patients via telemedicine while I am down there. I will keep everyone posted on how well that goes!
Now that we have covered the 2 most important logistical issues for the traveling NP, income and housing, how long could you realistically do this for though? I think that comes down to the individual nurse practitioner. In my opinion, you could do this indefinitely as long as telemedicine does not go anywhere, which it is not because it is the future of practice. So, the next question is, how long would you WANT to do this for? Traveling can be exhausting, especially long term. Personally, I think this would be really fun to do 3-6 months out of the year. This way you are back in your primary residence the rest of the year to take care of it and see family and friends. You also could rent out your house on Airbnb to cover for the mortgage and expenses while you’re gone, just FYI!
How long would it take to set up a life like this? The biggest hurdle for most nurse practitioners would be setting up the structure necessary to generate the income you would need to live off. You could get lucky and land an amazing telemedicine job, but chances are you would want to set up your own practice. It has taken be about 3 years of consistent work to reach the point where I could live a life like this, but that was not my goal when I started. If you made it your goal, I bet you could get this going in less than a year! You would need to set up a telemedicine practice with this goal in mind. You would need to be licensed in at least 6-8 states, so you had the patient volume to provide you the income required to support a traveling lifestyle. Very doable!
Imagine being able to travel around the country in a motor home and only having to work a few days a week for just 4-5 hours each day. You would just see your patients while you were at a campground and then you could spend the rest of your time driving and sightseeing. If you wanted to go international, you could live in a cheap beach house in Nicaragua and see patients just a few days a week and spend the rest of the time relaxing on the beach and enjoying local cuisine and culture. Either way, it would be an awesome way to live for the more free-spirited nurse practitioner! Many of you think this is just a dream, but, you have the power and ability to make this a reality if you truly wanted it to be! As for me, now I just have to convince the misses to tag along for the ride. That will be the biggest hurdle out of everything described above, hah!