Travel Nursing Schedules: What You Need To Know

December 26, 2022
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Don’t Be Scared To Ask For What You Deserve

Knowing who you are and what you want is an excellent place to start your travel nursing career.  Planning for one, five, and ten years will help you keep moving forward, building upon existing success. Creating short-term and long-term goals for your career will help keep you building a solid and exciting career. The best way to take control of your career is with On Demand, our powerful web app, where you can land your ideal job faster. Travel nurses take inventory of education, experience, and certifications and often use a professional resume service. Always remember to ask for a professional reference from each manager. Building a network of fellow healthcare professionals who know you and your skill set solidifies your reputation as a travel nurse. Looking good on paper is only a tiny piece of your career puzzle. Each job builds your expertise. Your experience and reputation will help you get the new contract you want. 

Many nurses develop a plan for early, mid, or late careers to transition from a permanent position to a career in travel nursing. Knowing what you are worth is essential. Many travel nurses' incomes are higher and structured differently than traditional permanent nurses. You’re the most influential advocate for yourself, and it is crucial to understand where you fit in the current contract negotiation process. For example, suppose you are a novice nurse with under five years of clinical experience. In that case, you may still need to build expertise, certifications, and direct patient care experience before you can command the highest rates as a traveling nurse. Perhaps you are an expert-level nurse with more than ten years of experience. You have achieved certifications in your specialty and have an outstanding reputation for being a solid team player. In this case, you likely deserve to be on the top rung of travel nursing pay rates. 

Have a strong rationale prepared when asking for what you believe you deserve in compensation for a travel nursing role. For example, a great response could be: “I have been working as a med-surg and telemetry nurse for the last five years and have completed the CMC course and exam from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACCN, 2020).” 

Just like everything else in healthcare, understanding the ‘why’ allows us to use the nursing process to keep building our careers in the direction we want. Suppose you are a very experienced travel nurse with all credentials available in your specialty. In that case, you deserve a recruiter that finds you the right location, facility, shift, and carefully crafted contract. Everybody wins when you can align your requirements with the travel nurse agency and healthcare facility, including the patients who will benefit from your care. 


Remember Your Start Date is Non-Negotiable

Once you decide upon a travel nursing contract with your recruiter for a specific location, role, and organization, you will have a firm start date. Healthcare facilities have many moving parts, with patients constantly arriving and departing. Nursing managers aim to control staffing for their units as they are both responsible to the unit and the organization. Once your start date is determined, the manager plans your travel nurse schedule and those of the other unit staff. Given the dates and 12-hour shifts you have agreed to work, you are a critical piece of the puzzle. For these reasons, your travel nursing contract start date should be a firm agreement between you, your nurse manager, the healthcare facility, and the nursing agency. 

Shift changes, hours worked, and time off can usually be negotiated with the unit manager during your travel nurse contract. Aim to go into the contract with a clear plan for when and where you will work. Each healthcare facility will have different staffing guidelines and policies regarding the 12-hour shifts nurses work, shift change policies, and whether your position will require you to work “on call.” Travel nurses can be requested to work holidays and weekends, so aim to be clear on these requirements from the contract's start.  Your personal and professional integrity follows your career.

Finding the Right Assignment May Take Some Time

Some specialty areas of nursing are frequently in very high demand, such as critical care, med-surg, and emergency nursing. If these areas are your skill set, you might quickly find the travel nursing contract you want. You can view our travel nurse jobs here. Other specialty areas may have fewer travel nurse contracts and more permanent positions. Your recruiter will contact you and offer updates on your chosen location and healthcare facility. You may need to consider more than one travel nursing contract offer. Depending on the healthcare facility, they often demand the night shift and don’t allow block scheduling. Therefore, you may not get your exact shift request. However, other hospitals let you choose your shift, allow block scheduling, and even create your own schedule. So consider this when choosing your next travel assignment.

Finding a suitable travel assignment with your desired hours, shifts, block scheduling, facility, and location can take some time. Travel nursing is a big deal because you will have many options! Consider prioritizing where you want to go and when you want your travel nurse contract. With On Demand you can work and live on your own terms. For example, you can plan to be in the northwest mountains in the summer and then the southeast beaches in winter. Sometimes you will have to wait for the perfect travel nurse contract for your skill set. The skills you use as a nurse while caring for your patients are also suitable for evaluating your progress. You must use good assessment, planning, goal setting, and interventions to evaluate your progress as a travel nurse. 

Plan Your Finances For the Unexpected

Travel nursing requires you to be flexible and adaptive to constantly changing new environments. Managing your nursing career requires a strategic action plan for your chosen successes, one of the most important being your finances. Financial planning is more critical in travel nursing because of the temporary nature of your contracts. When you begin working with unknowns, it is best to plan for unforeseen changes. Many travel nurses have a stable, solid, reliable home base and savings account. This is because many travel nursing agencies provide housing stipends, health insurance, and other benefits, like a W2 employee would receive.

Think of your career in travel nursing as running a business. You will need an operating budget and cash flow and will have expenses. One of the other things you need to plan for is the unexpected with a substantial savings account, good credit access, and a fallback plan. 

Knowing What is Expected of You is the Key to Success

Travel nursing is here to stay. Nurse managers and healthcare facilities recognize this is the new norm in hospital staffing, even with shifting pandemic nursing shortages. If you’re interested in getting started into the travel nursing world, make a checklist of the basic things you will need to create your nursing career. Working as a travel nurse is a big step that requires organization. Consider creating a checklist for yourself at each stage of the process.  Remember that your role is to temporarily swoop in and solve the healthcare staffing crisis in many different hospitals. Direct clinical patient care requires you to work long shifts for extended periods. Planning before your travel nursing contract is critical to your personal and professional success. When you accept the contract and when you arrive at the healthcare facility are cornerstones of a stable foundation for your 13 weeks. Travel nurses are always looking ahead. They make a vibrant lifestyle that fuels a career built on their terms. It is a great time to be a travel nurse!

Author Bio

Brigette Quinn is a Registered Nurse with over 30 years of clinical experience. Her critical care, emergency, and perioperative nursing background built a strong foundation for teaching in undergraduate and graduate nursing education. For the past seven years, Brigette has expanded her career as a board-certified case manager and legal nurse consultant. While most of her writing experience has been in academic areas, she never stops building her skillset in honing the craft of writing for audiences. She does not provide medical, legal, or nursing advice but serves her readers as a healthcare translator.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand

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Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand

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