There’s been a nursing shortage in many areas of the U.S. for decades now, leading the concept of travel nursing which began in the late 1970s, but it became more widespread during the ‘80s as a temporary solution, with more and more healthcare facilities hiring temporary, travel nurses to help fill the gap. Another reason it took off was to meet seasonal demands in places like Arizona and Florida where many retirees head during the winter. Travel nursing has continued to grow in popularity ever since, becoming a desirable option for many nurses seeking a different career path.
Being a travel nurse, working in a short-term, usually for a three-month or 13-week period, at a hospital, clinic or other healthcare facilities in destinations around the country, can be an outstanding career choice, particularly for RNs who have a minimum of 12 months experience.
While there are many perks to becoming a travel nurse, these are some of the most common reasons nurses choose this career path.
Getting Paid to Travel
The most obvious reason to become a travel nurse is to travel. For those with an adventurous spirit who want to see the country, the opportunity is especially enticing. In this role, you can choose where to take your assignments and the agency will pay for you to get there, allowing you to explore everywhere from New York to Florida, California, and even Hawaii or Alaska, from small towns to big cities. You’ll get paid to vacation and live in destinations you want to visit. While you’ll obviously have to work, you can use your time off to play tourist.
Earn More Money
Travel nurses work hard, but they’re also compensated very well, typically earning much more than their stationary counterparts. Hourly pay rates are generous and may include additional compensation for working in underserved areas such as sign-on bonuses or extra benefits of being a travel nurse.. If you work overtime and/or have a specialty, you’ll earn even more. Many travel nurse companies offer referral bonuses to RNs who refer their friends too, bringing yet another avenue for earning more. With the total package including free furnished housing or a housing stipend, it’s hard to beat the financial stability and peace of mind travel nursing brings, perhaps providing the ability to pay those student loans off or save for retirement.
When you work at various facilities, from rural hospitals to top research institutions, you’ll naturally pick up new skills and techniques along the way. It’s a great opportunity for nurses to expand their resumes while enjoying exciting new experiences. It showcases your ability to adapt easily while proving that you’re up for a challenge and ready to learn, making it easier to land the most coveted jobs. You’ll be able to expand your professional network too, so that when and if you decide to settle down and take a permanent position, you’ll have more inside connections for doing so. Working at a teaching hospital brings the chance to participate in experimental treatments and provides experience working with medical residents who are still in the process of learning. Once you get your foot in the door at one of these facilities, it will open all kinds of doors at other teaching hospitals.
Freedom to Choose Your Own Schedule
Travel nursing also provides the freedom to choose your own schedule. If you’re a night person, you can choose to work only swing or night shifts, for example, or perhaps decide to work three 12-hour shifts in a row so that you’ll have four days off each week. With most assignments spanning 13 weeks, in between jobs you can take off as much time as you like, taking that dream trip through Europe if you choose. Maybe you’ll decide to work three months in Hawaii or Florida during the winter, spend the spring in New York, the summer in Alaska and the fall in New England. If you find yourself falling in love with a particular destination, oftentimes you can extend your assignment and stick around longer. It’s hard to beat the flexibility and freedom that comes with being a travel nurse.
Nursing trends are defining the profession. Now is the time for nurses to find financial freedom and reduce workplace burnout.
Travel Nursing Stands Out Among Professions
One of the amazing parts of travel nursing is its inclusivity. You can be a licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, or nurse practitioner and still be able to travel. All nursing degrees and levels of nursing education are sought after.
Bedside nurses have a specific skill set, yet many do not feel compensated well enough or appreciated for their dedicated work.
Here is what travel nursing offers (that most professions do not):
The ability to live anywhere in the country (while still having healthcare and benefits).
Exploration of a city and workplace before settling down there.
Tax breaks for housing (plus the opportunity to rent your home for extra income).
The opportunity to meet new people (and live near long distance relatives and friends).
Provides you with financial security while still being able to take ample time off.
For many, travel nursing offers the infinite freedom of flexibility.
From Entrepreneurship to Education: Nursing Trends for 2022
Nearly eighty percent of nurses feel burned out in 2022, and still opportunities in nursing are expanding. The need for nurses is projected to increase until 2030.
Nurses are pursuing higher education through advanced practice degrees and non-nursing bachelor’s or master’s degrees. They’re seeking non traditional-roles in the healthcare industry. This includes:
In 2022, There is No Shortage of Opportunities for Travel Nurses
More and more nurses are turning to travel. With stagnant wages and more requests for overtime, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Nurses are leaving the bedside at a rapid rate. According to benefitnews.com, by the end of 2022, there will be a shortage of at least 1.1 million nurses.
With a 40% increase in travel nursing expected in the coming years, many of these nurses are turning to the travel industry. This is in addition to the 35% increase in travel nursing since the pandemic began in 2020. Additionally with the Baby Boomer population steadily aging, there is a bigger need for home health and hospice nurse positions.
This need for nursing staff will continue to grow as a result of the shortage of not only bedside nurses but nursing faculty as well. With fewer nursing faculty, there will be fewer nurses coming out of school to work. This in turn can put travel nurses in higher demand, especially in rural areas.
Use this information to feel empowered to negotiate for pay, time off, and hours you desire. Find your ideal travel nursing contract. Then launch the nursing career you’ve always dreamed of.
Foundational Tips for Becoming a Travel Nurse
Before becoming a travel nurse, know your specialty well. Have at least 1–2 years of experience, and become comfortable with your skills. Research which states you want to work in, and figure out how to obtain licensure there. Some states are a part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which provides licensure across multiple states.
Research travel nurse companies thoroughly. Read the reviews, connect with them online or by phone, and select travel agencies that give spectacular benefits! These benefits include 401K, healthcare benefits, and time off (some states, like Massachusetts and California, let travel nurses accrue paid sick time). Make sure you know when your benefits start–most companies offer benefits on the first day.
For housing, your travel nurse recruiter is a knowledgeable resource. Be sure to check Facebook groups, AirBnB, and Furnished Finders for temporary housing as well. You can also secure housing through your travel nurse company.
Ask a lot of questions about your specialty and position. Make sure your nurse recruiter is on board with the type of nursing, unit, and schedule you are accustomed to. Once you find a reputable travel nurse agency, it will be easy to find the nursing position you desire
Pack your bags and buckle in, because you’re about to change the course of your career. It is truly a travel nurse’s market out there.
Why did you choose to become a nurse?
I have always wanted to help people since I was a little kid. I even wanted to be a nun in elementary! Now, I love working with kids and guiding them and their families through illness to health.
Why do you love being a nurse?
I love being able to answer my family and friends’ health questions. Helping others by being a source of knowledge in my expertise is rewarding.
Katherine Taibl (prounouns: she/they) is a registered pediatric nurse and freelance nurse writer. She has adventured from coast to coast as a travel nurse. She currently resides in Boston with her partner and three cats. In her free time, she enjoys running outdoors and teaching kids how to surf as a surf instructor.
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