Blog

Travel Nurse 101: Pros, Cons, and Getting Started

By
Health Carousel Travel Nursing
June 15, 2022
Share this post

If you have ever thought about a travel nursing career,  now is a great time to get started. The nursing field is experiencing one shake-up after another. A recent nursing workforce analysis showed that  100,000 nurses left the field between 2020-2021, and the Bureau of labor statistics estimates the need for nurses to grow by about 6% over the next decade. Hospitals and healthcare agencies need nurses to care for their patients. Travel nurses fill the gap created when the number of patients needing care exceeds the hospital or clinic staffing ability.

Travel Nurse Academy is a primer course for healthcare providers looking to explore the details of working as a travel nurse. Read on to discover the pros and cons, then how to start your travel career!

What is Travel Nursing?

Travel Nurse: A nurse who accepts a temporary placement at a hospital or home care agency to fill a staffing need. The travel assignment length can vary from as short as four weeks long to 26 weeks long, depending on the contract. Nurses considering this career path should have a minimum of one year of staff nurse experience, but employers typically prefer two years of experience before considering a travel nursing assignment. 

One common misconception is that only registered nurses can travel. However, opportunities exist for all nursing degrees, including licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and nurse practitioners (APRN/NPs).

Travel nurses must be confident in their patient care and clinical skills consistent with your nursing license.  Employers that hire travel nurses expect you to arrive with the skills needed to care for their patient population. Your brief orientation at each new travel nursing assignment will focus on learning facility policies, the charting system, and the locations of resources.

Travel Nursing Agency: A company that works with hospitals and home care agencies to fill a nursing shortage need. The travel nurse agency will help with travel reimbursement, licensure, and housing; they also negotiate your travel nurse pay rate and comprehensive benefits. 

Travel Nurse Recruiter: Works for a travel nursing agency and is a  liaison between the healthcare facility and a potential travel nurse. Travel nurse recruiters will work to place you with an assignment that matches your strengths and desires. A robust travel nurse recruiter should have excellent communication skills, be organized, and have a great personality. 

WHY CHOOSE TRAVEL NURSING?

ADVENTURE

Travel nurses can travel around the country or internationally while still earning income working as a nurse. You can work close to home or travel to states you have always wanted to visit while getting paid. The lifestyle can make you feel like a gypsy nurse, frequently moving and exploring new cities and states in a way that is just not possible through casual travel. 

WORK WHEN AND WHERE YOU WANT 

You can control when you work. For example, do you perform better on dayshift working 8-hour shifts five days a week, or would you prefer to work the night shift for three 12-hour shifts? Do you want to work in a hospital setting? Are you a home care nurse? The opportunities are endless. The flexibility to choose when and where  you work is one of the many reasons nurses often decide to accept a travel nursing assignment. 

AWESOME PAY AND BENEFITS

The perks and benefits are incredible for travel nurses. Hourly pay rates are often the first thing that nurses see when researching travel nursing jobs. However, the hourly rate is just the tip of the benefits iceberg. Travel nursing agencies offer health insurance, including medical, dental, and vision coverage, as well as retirement plans. These contracts also include either a housing stipend or secured lodgings. eThe ultimate bonus is the paycheck. On average, travel nurses can make between $85,000 and $110,000 a year. The sky’s the limit!

REPUTABLE TRAVEL NURSE AGENCIES

Working for an agency that keeps its job boards updated and fresh is a plus. In addition, working with accredited travel nurse agencies on the national and local levels helps you achieve the type of employment you seek. 

RESUME BUILDER 

The career opportunities are vast, and every time you accept a travel nurse assignment, you will learn new skills, from small rural medical facilities to large teaching institutions. In addition, diverse travel assignments added to your resume will aid you in moving up the career ladder as time evolves. 

Is It Worth It To Be a Travel Nurse?

Being a travel nurse is absolutely worth it if you are flexible and thrive in new environments. If you love the patient populations you care for and are confident in your nursing skills, you can make more money while exploring new parts of the country! 

5 Pros of Travel Nursing

There are five items you should consider before accepting a travel nurse assignment. First, what are your goals and expectations for travel nursing? Typical contracts last for 8, 13, or 26 weeks. When your contract is up, it can be time to move on or extend your contract if it is a good fit. In travel nursing, a quick change of venues or assignments is one of the draws.  

Second, are you willing to float? It’s important to know if your employer will expect you to float to other units during facility nursing shortages during your contract period.

Third, do your research about the potential facility. Look at travel nurse websites to see what other nurses say about the facility. There are several online travel nurse communities that are great resources for tips, tricks, and reviews. You can ask your recruiter if other nurses had great experiences at the facility. These types of questions may determine if it’s a good fit.

Fourth, are you ready to be a team player? As a travel nurse, you are coming into the mix of staffing shortages and high stress. All the staff members may not be super friendly or happy to have you on the unit. Get to know the charge nurse and nurse manager, they can help you learn about the culture of the unit. Stay positive and keep gratitude at the forefront. You are a nurse who happens to travel and can lighten their load.  

Fifth, travel nursing is a fast-moving industry. Therefore, you must be ready to interview and accept contracts quickly to secure the assignment (especially in competitive locations). Your travel nursing company will help you stay on top of opportunities and new assignments. 

3 Cons of Travel Nursing

First, loneliness ranks at the top of the list of cons for travel nursing. The job takes you away from family, friends, and all that is familiar. If you are an introvert, relocating to an unfamiliar area can be even more difficult. Connect with coworkers for dinners out or weekend trips to local events or shopping areas. Review local areas of interest to visit on your days off. Join a local gym to meet new people and maintain healthy habits simultaneously. 

Second, Traveling logistics can be challenging. For example, if you are a home health nurse, you will need to drive your car to your new assignment. If you do not require a car, there will be flight arrangements and transportation to your new residence from the airport. In addition, the frequent moves, packing and unpacking, and arranging for new places to live can leave some feeling like they are living a gypsy nurse lifestyle.

Finally, The monetary compensation with each new assignment changes. Not every arrangement is the same. You will need to re-budget your income with each move. You can find tips and tricks to becoming a new travel nurse on travel websites. 

Are you ready to take the leap? Next, we will dive into  steps you can take today that will set you up for future success as a travel nurse.

Getting Started as a Travel Nurse

WRITE A FANTASTIC RESUME  

Your resume should include your full name, an email address, and the best phone number to contact you. The summary should consist of keywords that recruiters can focus on because they scan multiple resumes daily. These keywords should highlight your experience in each specialty. 

Provide clear and precise details on your education, certifications,  licenses, and work history, The key is to be succinct, especially if you have a lot of work history. Resumes should include: 

  • Education: Include the institution’s name and location, your degree, and your dates of attendance. 
  • Nursing License(s): Include the state(s) where you are licensed, including expiration dates. 
  • Certification(s): Include any additional certifications (BLS, ACLS, specialty, etc) with expiration dates
  • Work History: Include the agency, facility, unit, dates, and a brief description of your job. You will also want to list all the computer charting systems you have used previously. If you are a “super-user,” make sure to include this on your resume. 
  • Skill Sets: Listing your skills will set you apart from applicants. For example, are you a wound care, hospice, or a PICC line insertion certified nurse? You want your resume to show how you stand out compared with other applicants.  

GET ORGANIZED

Updating your resume is a great time to collect and organize paperwork. Travel nurse agencies will walk you through everything you need to work for them, but you can get a jump start on this by creating a digital folder with the following items:

  • Nursing Licenses: What states are you already licensed in? Do you have a compact license? Create a list with each state’s license number, original licensure date, and expiration date.
  • Other certifications: BLS, ACLS, Wound care, your specialty certification - anything in which you have extra training or certification 
  • Health Records: Commonly requested paperwork will include vaccine records and tuberculosis screening results.
  • Taxes:  You’re going to have to pay them, and it can become very confusing to remain tax compliant all on your own when working in multiple states throughout the year.  Working with a tax consultant or service would ensure you pay everything you owe. A tax consultant will also help you take advantage of available tax deductions. 

FIND A TRAVEL AGENCY

Finding a travel agency that fits your needs will lead you to success. A reputable travel nursing agency will walk you through every step of the process to ensure your travel assignment benefits you and the facility. Make sure the travel agency supplies the basics of traveling for free and has options for benefit enrollment. These basics include the following: 

  • Free housing: Typically in an extended-stay hotel or furnished apartment
  • Housing stipend: This option allows you to find your own housing
  • Health benefits: health, dental, and vision insurance
  • Retirement plan options
  • Travel reimbursement
  • 24-hour customer access and an abundance of nursing job options. 

During an interview with a potential facility, keep in mind that you are interviewing them as well for compatibility with your needs.  Here are some questions to ask during your interview:

  • How long is orientation?
  • Will you need to float?
  • What color scrubs will you need?
  • What is the charting system used?
  • What is the nurse-to-patient ratio?
  • What is the holiday and weekend rotation, if included in your contract?
  • Is there an opportunity to extend the assignment?
  • Where are the best and safest places to live?

Author Bio

Susan Kilbourn owns Kilbourn Word Slinger and is a nurse with 29 years of experience.

Health Carousel Travel Nursing

Find the Travel Job that’s Right for You

Interested in how the pay stacks up in other states not on this list? Our trusty Super Nurse sidekicks are standing by to answer any questions you have. Click below to get information on opportunities in other states!

Woman standing with suitcase looking out at the city