Thinking of becoming a travel nurse, but unsure about the best destination for you? Or maybe you’re already a travel nurse, but do not know where your next location should be, or you want to switch travel nurse companies. Below we will discuss factors to consider when choosing your next travel nursing destination. Then, we will get into our list of the top 10 travel nurse destinations (plus a few more!) and how to choose the destination that's right for you.
DECIDING ON THE BEST DESTINATION
Before diving into the top 10 travel nurse destinations, there are some important factors to consider before choosing your next travel assignment destination. First, think about what part of the United States you would like to travel to and what time of year. For instance, you might want to travel to Washington state but hate the snow. Thus, the best time of year to accept a travel nursing assignment in Washington would be late spring or summer when the snow has melted. Perhaps you have the opposite view, where you love the snow and would like to go skiing on your days off.
Next, it is critical to research and review the state nurse licensing requirements, as every state is different. Do you have a nursing license for that particular state, are they a walkthrough state, or does the state have a compact nursing license agreement? Or does the state allow nurses to apply for temporary nursing licenses? Find out the requirements for the state so you know if you need to apply for a nursing license.
Once you submit your information, inquire about the approval process and expected timeline. The approval process and time to receive your license could take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months. If there is a compact nursing license agreement for the state, make sure your licenses are up to date. Not having your licenses in order could delay your start date or get you declined from the travel nursing assignment. If you’re unsure of the process or requirements, many travel nurse companies offer licensing assistance and can walk you through the process.
In addition, research the cost of living and other potential expenses for the area you are interested in traveling to. Expenses should include housing, meals, estimated travel costs, transportation, and activities or entertainment. Once you have estimated your expenses, calculate your potential take-home pay with your travel nursing package. See if this fits into your money and saving goals. You may find that the cost of living and expenses don’t outweigh the pay package you will receive. On the other hand, maybe you've always wanted to travel to a specific location, so you’re willing to sacrifice your budget a little more.
Many travel nurses can work in different specialties, depending on their nursing background and previous experience. Thus, when looking for your next assignment location, it's also important to consider what unit you will be working on. If on your next assignment, you are looking to build more skills or work with a different patient population, it may be best to take an assignment that will broaden your horizons. For example, you have experience working on a post-surgical unit but have not worked with many medical patients. Then you may want to take an assignment that has a mix of medical and surgical patients. On the other hand, maybe you have cardiac critical care experience and want to try out cardiac step-down. If you're looking at different specialties than your usual, pay attention to the difference in pay rates for each location.
While there are several factors that can play into your perfect travel nursing destination, it’s always important to review each travel nursing assignment as a whole. As each assignment is different, you will need to weigh your options and what matters most to you.
TOP 10 TRAVEL NURSE DESTINATIONS FOR TRAVEL NURSES
Now, let's dive into the top 10 travel nurse destinations, plus a few more of our top picks!
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Northern California, specifically San Francisco, is known to have some of the highest-paying jobs for travel nurses in the country. This is why we chose this as travel nurse destination #1. The demand for travel nurses remains steady throughout the year, which also makes it an attractive area to take an assignment. San Francisco offers many activities in the city area including dining, shopping, and beautiful landmarks. You can visit the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz Island, and many other sights. If you are looking for a drive outside the city, Yosemite National Park and Napa Valley are just a few hours away. California is currently pending approval for the nursing compact licensure, so make sure to secure your state nursing license several weeks before your assignment in travel nurse destination #1.
Colorado is a compact nursing license state, which makes things easier if you already hold this license. Denver boasts an array of outdoor activities — especially for those who enjoy winter activities such as skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing. The Rocky Mountains and local cities have a lot to offer for those not traveling during the winter months as well. Denver is especially attractive for travel nursing jobs due to the short assignment lengths and pay.
Texas has a high demand for travel nurses, due to nursing shortages throughout the state. Dallas is no exception, with a particular need for intensive care and emergency room nurses, throughout its healthcare facilities. If you do not work in one of these areas, do not worry because there are plenty of other opportunities. The Dallas area offers many music and sporting events, as well as diverse restaurant options. The cost of living is relatively moderate, so your entire paycheck will not go toward living expenses.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
New York City provides a little taste of big city life. It offers higher pay to help offset the cost of living, and there are many short-term rentals available. New York City is urban living at its finest, showcasing museums, the fine arts, and high-end shopping. It offers various nightlife activities including nightclubs and Michelin-starred restaurants. However, make sure to apply for your nursing license several months in advance as it can take this long to receive.
Florida offers year-round sunshine, and the warmer climate makes for easier traveling during the winter months. So it's no wonder Florida makes one of our top travel nursing destinations. Travel nurses are attracted to Miami and surrounding areas for the vast selection of beaches, water sports, and outdoor activities. Miami has a lower cost of living than some other regions like California, but pay rates are typically lower as well. Some of the highest-paying jobs are actually located right outside of the Miami area. So if you are willing to travel a little further outside of Miami, then extending your search area may get you a higher-paying assignment.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
Salt Lake City, Utah has recently become a popular destination for travel nursing jobs. This city offers some of the highest-paying jobs for travel nurses. However, this city has a higher cost of living than other travel nursing destinations, so your salary might not go as far. Salt Lake City has a lot to offer for the outdoor enthusiast, year-round. You can visit the Great Salt Lake, hike the nearby canyons, or tour the popular gardens. Yellowstone National Park and Big Cottonwood Canyon are just a short drive away. If you accept an assignment during the winter months, Park City is a 40-minute drive away, where you can go skiing for the day. If you like more city life activities and architecture, visit Temple Square, The Tabernacle, Salt Lake Temple, or the Natural History Museum of Utah.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
Las Vegas, Nevada has always been a popular destination for travel nurses and it's not just because it's Sin City. This city offers 294 days of sunshine per year, which is good weather for outdoor activities. However, you'll need to take the heat into account before traveling during the summer months. For the entertainment lover, Las Vegas has many casinos, concerts, shows, and attractions to choose from every night of the week. You can see a wide array of entertainment events, including magic shows, Cirque du Soleil, and other theatrical and musical performances.
Las Vegas also has many healthcare facilities to search for nursing jobs. With plenty of travel nursing jobs, there are even more opportunities to work with different patient populations! You will be able to build your nursing skill set, expand your professional network, and make new friends.
Arizona has recently become a hot spot for travel nurses due to the high demand and pay packages. Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the United States, so there are plenty of travel nursing assignments out there. Phoenix has year-round sun, so almost perfect weather for the outdoor person -- but pay attention to the temperatures and daily heat indexes! On your off days, you can relax at a local resort or go play golf on the many courses this city has to offer. If you're looking for a weekend getaway, places like Sedona and Camelback Mountain are just a short distance.
Boston, Massachusetts is known for its large metropolitan area, which offers many healthcare facilities to choose from for travel nursing assignments. Most of Boston's healthcare facilities are leaders in the healthcare and research industry. So if you're looking to expand your professional network, build your nursing skills, or work in a world-class healthcare facility, then Boston is a good place for you.
Boston has a lot to offer for people who enjoy the urban living lifestyle. You can attend sporting events at Fenway Park or check out the museums this city has to offer. There are plenty of parks to walk around and historical sites to visit as well.
MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA
If you're looking for a more southern charm-like destination, then Myrtle Beach, South Carolina may be right for you! Myrtle Beach has a beautiful beach to visit and local attractions, which include waterparks, live music, dining theaters, and more. In addition, there are water activity tours, such as fishing, kayaking, or riding jet skis. In Myrtle Beach, the cost of living is a little lower compared to other parts of the country. This means your travel nursing pay will go a little further than expected, which means more for savings or fun activities.
A Few Other Top Contenders
Even though we've completed our top 10 list of travel nurse destinations, we would like to add a few other top contenders that almost made our list.
If you're looking for beautiful sandy beaches, tons of outdoor activities, and an island-life vibe, then consider Honolulu, Hawaii. Honolulu has a lot to offer, ranging from Waikiki Beach to Pearl Harbour Museum. Many of the nearby islands have tons of tourist attractions and adventure activities to do as well.
However, if you're traveling to Hawaii, your travel stipend might not go as far as expected, especially if you live in the continental United States. Housing and the cost of meals are relatively expensive in Hawaii, so consider this when estimating costs. Alternatively, maybe you really want the experience of being in Hawaii and are willing to cut into your budget or splurge. If you plan to take a travel nursing assignment in Hawaii, apply for your nursing license early. The application processing time takes about 45 to 60 days.
The Pacific Northwest has some of the best natural and beautiful landscapes to explore. Located in this region is Portland, Oregon. Portland has many high-pay travel nursing jobs year-round. So it's no wonder travel nurses continue to take assignments in this city. This area boasts a cool, wet climate, so there are plenty of lush forests and gardens to visit in the springtime. During the winter, you can ski on nearby Mount Hood. Or during the summer and spring, you can take a day trip to the Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls or the Oregon Coast.
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
St. Louis, Missouri offers high-pay packages for travel nurses and is home to two magnet-recognized hospitals. If you're a sports fan, then St. Louis may be the place for you, since they are home to the St. Louis Cardinals and the Gateway Grizzlies. If you're not a sports fan, St. Louis has many other local attractions including the Gateway Arch, Six Flags, Union Station, and Forest Park.
Atlanta, Georgia has a variety of activities for travel nurses to do on their off days. Some popular downtown attractions include the Georgia Aquarium, Truist Park, Fox Theater, and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. North Georgia has beautiful green mountains and rivers, which provide many outdoor activities. Atlanta has a lot of restaurants and food choices for the travel nurse foodie as well. Food options range from southern cooking of collard greens and cornbread to Michelin-star restaurants.
Travel nursing can open the door for you to see and explore the world. When it comes to selecting your next travel nursing destination, consider what is most important to you. Decide whether salary and overtime hours outweigh the destination. On the other hand, determine if the destination and social activities are a bigger priority. Whatever your next assignment may be, make the best choice for your unique needs and desires.
If you're interested to search for nursing jobs from our top 10 travel nurse destination list, click to view our job board here. With Health Carousel's new On Demand app, you can search for travel nursing jobs easier than ever before. Search, compare, and apply for travel jobs easily. Once you're ready to apply, you can even upload important documents. HCTN offers many travel nursing benefits and you can learn more about your health and how to maximize your benefits through our full circle of support page.
Amanda Marten NP-C, MSN has been a certified nurse practitioner for over three years. With eight years of nursing experience, she has worked in a variety of specialties including urgent care, travel nursing, post-surgical, and intensive care.
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