Since the 1980’s travel nursing has been used to help solve staffing shortages within hospital systems. With the onset of COVID-19, more experienced nurses than ever have chosen to quit their full-time staff positions and join the world of travel nursing. Even with high popularity amongst newer professionals, experienced nurses make excellent travel nurses due to their knowledge and adaptability.
Nurses who have spent years with the same organization are venturing out and leaving behind the comforts of their permanent position. While this can be intimidating because of concerns involving health insurance, benefits, and saving for retirement. There are many resources for all of those concerns. What nurses are discovering is that travel nursing is allowing them to expedite some of their most important goals and priorities with more financial freedom and spending more time doing the things that they love.
The reasons nurses are making the jump to travel nursing are simple: fewer hours, extra money, more options, more freedom, and less burnout.
Less Hours, More Money
Most nurses work overtime either because they need to or want to work the extra hours. Depending on the assignment it does not always feel mentally or physically worth it. Nurses with a travel contract make more money per hour, and therefore don’t have to work overtime hours to earn more income. Money is one of the main motivators driving experienced nurses into contract work.
The current travel climate is booming and permanent positions will always be available to return to if the nurse leaves the position on good terms. If nurses are having to put in the work regardless, then why not double or triple their monthly income without overtime? Travel nursing contracts also pay weekly, increasing access to money all month.
If a nurse has an income goal in mind they can most likely find it as a travel nurse. Contracts offer 36, 48, and sometimes 60 hours a week. Overtime is usually available, but a lot of nurses can afford to work fewer overtime hours because of higher hourly rates and the tax-free stipend for meals and lodging.
Travel nursing positions can be found all over. Want to spend a couple of months exploring Denver or staying with family in New York? Contracts are commonly 8 or 13 weeks in length. If the nurse only wants to work a few hours away from home, that too can be an option.
Many nurses are tired from working nights and want to work day shifts without losing the pay differential. The differential no longer matters when the pay rate is double for your ideal shift. Travel nursing positions list the available shifts (days or nights) and the recruiter will always ask which shift is preferred.
With the ability to work fewer hours and make more money, nurses are finding increased financial and personal freedom. Student loans and other debt can be quickly paid off. It’s much faster to save for a down payment for a house or to afford a lavish vacation. There is suddenly more time to start a side business without working overtime hours. Extra money can be invested to build retirement savings and personal wealth. Travel nursing is making it possible for nurses to accomplish their dreams and goals earlier so that they do not have to be dependent on working at the bedside forever.
Mix it Up to Avoid Burnout
Burnout has probably affected every nurse at some point and time. With long hours, the potential daily emotional toll, hospital politics, or working too many shifts in a row, there is increased stress leading to mental, physical, and emotional burnout.
Travel nursing provides options to change environments, have new experiences, and financial freedom to enjoy more of life. They decide how many weeks they want to take off between contracts. Taking a few weeks off during the year for vacations, spending time with the kids, or just because you feel like it without money weighing on your conscience allows for self-care and avoids burnout.
Becoming a travel nurse can be done as quickly as the paperwork is submitted to the recruiter. Often, assignments carry “as soon as possible” start dates or picking a start date two to three weeks out. All that’s needed to get started is a resume, health documents (like vaccine records), and deciding which travel agency to work with.. A recruiter will reach out quickly once a contact form is filled out or the nurse shows interest in a job posting on a social media platform.
Recruiters serve as a primary resource when selecting an assignment and signing a contract. They are available for any issues the nurse may experience during the contract. Oftentimes they can be knowledgeable on where to stay in certain cities, what activities are available to enjoy during days off, and most importantly, help work any requests the nurse may have into their travel nursing contract.
Important Questions to Consider During the Interview
After snagging an interview, here are a few questions to consider asking prior to accepting the contract:
- What is the nurse to patient ratio on the unit?
- What is the holiday requirement?
- What is the weekend requirement?
- Is there block scheduling? Self scheduling?
- What is the patient population and acuity of the unit?
- Should floating be expected?
- Is there an option to work overtime?
- What type of charting system is used?
With the current staffing shortage, this is a great time to be an experienced travel nurse. There are needs in most specialties at facilities across the country. Hospitals need experienced nurses who already have the knowledge to perform this specialized patient care. Travel nursing is a great choice for those experienced nurses who are ready to truly expand their work/life options.
Chrystene Wilburn, BSN
Currently a PICU travel nurse with a background in peds cardiac ICU. Obtained my BSN in 2016 and peds CCRN in 2019. For now I plan to keep traveling and in my spare time I enjoy reading, writing, and hanging out with my dogs.