Are you interested in becoming a travel nurse but unsure where to start? Health Carousel Travel Nursing has put together a list of travel nursing FAQs to help answer the questions you have been wondering about and review the travel nursing basics. Use this list of questions as your travel nurse guide and contact one of our travel nurse recruiters to help you start your travel nursing career today.
WHAT IS A TRAVEL NURSE?
A travel nurse is a licensed RN who works short-term assignments in different locations throughout the country. Travel nurses require the same education and licensing as staff nurses. Travel nurse assignments are coordinated by travel nurse companies that match nurses with the staffing needs of various hospitals, physicians’ offices, or clinics. A travel nurse contract is typically 13 weeks but may range anywhere from 4-26 weeks and can be extended if the hospital still has a need and the nurse is interested in staying.
HOW DO I BECOME A TRAVEL NURSE?
Just like a staff registered nurse (RN), you must obtain a nursing degree and pass the NCLEX to become a travel nurse. Then, you must gain experience in your specialty. Most travel nursing companies prefer nurses with at least two years of clinical experience. Once you are ready, you can contact travel nurse companies to place you in travel nursing assignments in the location of your choice. Your travel nurse recruiter will ensure you have all the travel nursing basics down before starting your first travel nurse contract.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A TRAVEL NURSE?
The travel nursing lifestyle is best suited for those who easily adapt to new surroundings, are flexible with location, and are confident in their clinical skills. On the other hand, you might enjoy a full-time permanent staff position at a single healthcare facility if you enjoy being a part of and establishing a hospital culture, if you have a family who you do not want to have to relocate frequently, or if you are content with your current location.
HOW LONG DO ASSIGNMENTS LAST?
Your assignment length will vary with each travel nurse contract, but most travel nursing assignments are typically 13 weeks. However, some assignments can range from as few as 4 weeks to almost a year. There is no contract binding you to work multiple assignments, so you can take a new assignment right after your last one or take a year-long break. It’s all up to you.
CAN I BRING MY FAMILY OR PETS WITH ME ON AN ASSIGNMENT?
Bringing your family or pets along on travel nurse assignments is possible but may take extra planning. It will be most beneficial for you to take advantage of the housing stipend and book your own accommodations so you have more room for your family or pets. Some nurses choose travel nurse jobs closer to home so that their children or spouses can remain in their homes, but the nurse still gets to take advantage of travel nursing benefits. Other nurses will choose travel nurse assignments in farther locations during their children's summer breaks so that they do not miss out on schooling. Nurses that travel full-time with their families tend to homeschool, and their spouses tend to work remotely, providing them more freedom and flexibility to travel when and where they want. There are so many options with travel nursing, you are sure to find the right fit for you and your family.
WHAT DO I NEED TO START MY ASSIGNMENT?
Your travel nurse recruiter will provide you with the minimum travel nursing requirements necessary to begin your assignment. Requirements vary depending on the hospital or healthcare system and by state. Your recruiter will ensure you have met specific travel nursing requirements before you begin. They will also provide the necessary information to obtain your travel nursing licenses in each state that you work in. Utilize your nurse recruiter to answer all of your travel nursing questions.
Benefits and pay
DO I GET MEDICAL BENEFITS AND INSURANCE AS A TRAVEL NURSE?
Most travel nursing agencies offer medical insurance benefits. Although, the quality and coverage may vary from company to company. Benefits you may be eligible for include license reimbursement, 401 k programs, free continuing education, weekly pay, housing and travel incidental stipends, and bonus programs. Requirements vary depending on the travel nurse company; check to see if you are eligible for benefits between assignments, especially if you plan to take long stretches off. Contact your recruiter to discuss which benefits you are eligible for, such as a free continued education program and health insurance.
HOW MUCH DO TRAVEL NURSES EARN?
The average salary for travel nurses in 2023 was $126,384, according to Indeed, which is significantly higher than the average salary for full-time staff registered nurses at $93,042 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Travel nurse pay depends on the facility, location, specialty, and need for extra staff. For example, a nurse in California gets paid significantly more than a nurse in South Dakota. Pay rates typically increase when hospitals have emergent needs. Travel nurses receive hourly base pay and additional stipends for housing, meals, and incidentals for travel. Time and a half (overtime) or double time (holidays) should be written into the contract so rates are clarified.
WHAT NURSING SPECIALTIES PAY THE MOST?
There is no definitive hourly base pay for each nursing specialty. Top paying specialties generally include nursing roles that involve critical care. Travel nurse jobs in areas like intensive care, neonatal intensive care, critical care, the operating room, or the emergency department are among the top paying specialties for travel nursing assignments.
IS HOUSING COVERED FOR MY TRAVEL NURSE JOB?
There are typically two options nurses have when it comes to housing. You can utilize company-provided housing or receive a stipend and book your own arrangements. If you choose to receive company-provided housing, you will receive free private housing, and all arrangements will be made for you. This is a great option for nurses traveling alone who are open to whichever accommodations are provided for them.
The housing stipend is tax-free and requires you to book your own accommodations. The main benefit is if the housing you find is priced below the stipend amount, you can pocket the remaining money. This option may be best for nurses who travel with their families or are savvy when finding housing accommodations. Housing stipends vary greatly based on location and each specific contract, so make sure to review your travel nurse benefits with your recruiter.
Legal and mail
WHAT SHOULD I DO ABOUT MY MAIL?
There are multiple options for managing your mail while you are away on your travel nurse job. It is best to set up as many things as possible to be automatically deducted from your banking account or paid online. These may include your mortgage, credit cards, car payments, loans, etc. For items still requiring traditional mail, you can use USPS forwarding to your new travel address. You may also consider having mail held at the post office or sending it to a family or a friend's house and having them forward pieces of mail to you as needed. You can set up an account with USPS to send you a notification and photo of the envelope of each piece of mail you receive and then decide if you need someone to forward it to you. There are also services such as Virtual post mail that helps manage your mail and packages for you. This service allows you to read your mail online or have important documents forwarded to you.
Taxes and tax home
WHAT IS A TAX HOME?
Travel nurses can only receive tax-free stipends if they can claim a permanent tax home, where they claim permanent residency and contribute to the cost of living. A tax home for travel nurses means they must be able to prove that they contribute a reasonable monetary amount set by the IRS to a home that they rent or own in a location at least 50 miles from their travel assignment. The nursing tax home is usually where the nurse holds a driver's license and car registration. It is also where they earn most of their income and maintain a home. If a nurse does not have a tax home, they must pay taxes on their hourly wage and any stipends they receive. Let your travel nursing recruiter know if you will not be claiming a travel nurse tax home since it may change some stipulations of your travel nurse contract.
WHAT TYPE OF SUPPORT WILL I RECEIVE AS A TRAVEL NURSE?
Support varies from company to company, however, Health Carousel Travel Nursing offers full circle support to educate and highlight ways in which nurses can utilize resources to further their careers and improve their quality of life. We offer exclusive benefits for both physical and mental health support to all of our travel nurses. Our recruiters are also here to support you with any of your travel nursing questions or if any issues arise during your travel nurse contract. View our travel nurse testimonials to help you decide if travel nursing and HCTN are right for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
WHERE CAN I FIND TRAVEL NURSING JOBS?
Finding travel nurse jobs is easy using Health Carousel Travel Nursing's extensive database, where you can view travel nurse positions by specialty and location. You can also sign up for our On Demand app and set your preferences for jobs and receive recommendations based on your information. On Demand allows you to set up job alerts so that you never miss an opportunity.
WHAT ARE THE PERKS OF TRAVEL NURSING?
Travel nursing allows you the flexibility to work where and when you want to work while exploring new cities, gaining experience in new hospitals, and meeting new people. Nurses enjoy higher salaries and benefits packages when compared to a permanent staff position. Travel nursing companies offer free private housing, free continuing education, stipends for food and incidentals while traveling, and help with obtaining travel nursing licenses. Nurses can change their location with each travel nurse contract and use the opportunity to explore different places throughout the country. Travel nurses also enjoy as much downtime as they want after they meet the minimum travel nursing requirements for their current contract. Nurses can spend time exploring each area before moving on to their next assignment.
We hope these frequently asked questions served as a travel nurse guide and covered most of the travel nursing basics you have been wondering about. Reach out to one of our Health Carousel Travel Nursing recruiters if you have any specific questions about starting your travel nursing career.
Lauren Rivera is a nationally certified neonatal intensive care nurse with over 15 years of experience. She serves as a nurse expert offering support and educational classes for women from preconception through childhood. Lauren is also a freelance health and wellness writer with works published on several nursing sites. She develops and curates content for various healthcare companies, and writes continuing education modules for other healthcare professionals.
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