Considering a career in travel nursing? While the concept of taking your nursing skills on the road to care for patients in various states isn’t complicated, knowing exactly how travel nursing works is the first step in deciding whether it’s the right path for you. 

To that end, keep reading. This guide will walk you through all the ins and outs of travel nursing, including how it works, how to navigate each new assignment, and the pros and cons of this dynamic career. 

Understanding the Basics: What is Travel Nursing?

Travel nurses took center stage during the global pandemic when hospitals faced staffing shortages and a high need for additional care providers, but the field is a bit older than that. 

The modern travel nurse emerged in the 1970s as a response to a high patient census and a nursing shortage. When a crowded Mardi Gras season required nurses to be shuttled in from out of state, New Orleans became the training ground for the first contemporary traveling nurses.

The first travel nurse agency was founded that same year, and as the nursing shortage continued into the 1980s, traveling nursing became the ideal temporary solution for the next decade. Today, not much has changed: staffing agencies are still creating temporary contracts across the country for thousands of travel nurses. Luckily for you, the process has become a lot more organized. 

The Basics of Travel Nursing

Now that you have the history, let’s clarify some of the basics. As a travel nurse, you’ll work with a staffing agency rather than directly for a hospital or healthcare facility. And, rather than holding a permanent position, you’ll work on contract. 

On average, these contracts last for thirteen weeks, but they can also be as short as two weeks or as long as six months.

You may also be asked to extend your contract, and if positions are available, some travel nurses do choose to stay. Generally speaking, however, once your contract is up, you’ll hit the road and move on to your next assignment.

The Role of a Travel Nurse: Responsibilities and Expectations

The role of a travel nurse is similar to that of a staff nurse: you’ll collaborate with a team of healthcare workers to carry out a patient’s care plan. However, keep in mind that as a travel nurse, you may be filling a staff shortage in your unit. So, you might want to prepare for fast-paced days that challenge you to grow in your nursing career. 

Additionally, as a travel nurse, you’ll be expected to:

  • Adapt quickly to your unit – Your fellow team members may not have ample time to walk you through all the ins and outs of your new unit. So, keep your eyes and ears open during orientation and training. You’ll be expected to quickly learn the ropes and pick up on important details and information as you go. 
  • Exercise a wide range of skills – As a travel nurse, you’ll fill positions in diverse and dynamic environments. Some days will be predictable, while others will keep you on your toes until you clock out. You may be assigned to work in multiple units or integrate into different care teams where a wide range of skills is necessary. 
  • Stay flexible and resilient – The daily expectations of a travel nurse may sound challenging, but each day will also encourage growth and provide new opportunities for learning. Stay flexible and adaptable to build resilience. 

Navigating Assignments: How Travel Nursing Placements Work

To truly answer the question, how does travel nursing work, we also have to explore each step of the assignment process. From connecting with a staffing agency to securing housing, understanding how to navigate each aspect of your travel nursing assignments is important to ensuring an experience that’s rewarding and seamless. 

Connect with a Travel Nursing Agency

The right staffing agency will match you with a passionate recruiter who’ll connect you with positions in hospitals and healthcare settings that align with your career goals, personal preferences, and/or specialties. 

Once you’ve committed to an assignment, you’ll submit for and sign a contract. At this point, it’s helpful to draw up a checklist to stay on top of what needs to get done ahead of your start date, like getting a physical or taking a drug test. 

Make sure you comply with healthcare laws and regulations in the state you plan to practice in, too. Fortunately, when you partner with Host Healthcare, you won’t have to stress about anything slipping through the cracks—we’ll help you ensure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. 

Secure Housing 

Before you embark on your travel nursing assignment, it’s important to secure housing that meets your needs—consider cost, location, and amenities (especially if you’re bringing along a furry friend!). 

Another reason to partner with Host Healthcare? We’ll help you find the perfect place to call home while you’re on assignment.

Start Your Assignment 

Orientation to your new healthcare system usually lasts 1–5 days, with 1–3 days of orientation dedicated to your unit (depending on your specialty and location). 

To that end, the first two weeks of your assignment will be packed with information and fast-paced learning. Stay open-minded and flexible, and be sure to get plenty of rest. Don’t doubt yourself either—remember that by week 3 or 4, you’ll feel fully adapted and start to get into your groove. 

Search for Your Next Assignment

Around weeks 6–10, expect the possibility of a contract extension. If you loved your new city or assignment, consider staying on to build your nursing skills. If wanderlust strikes again, however, or if you’re unable to extend your contract, start searching for your next assignment and repeat the process all over again.

Finally, don’t forget to take a breath and smile at all you’ve accomplished in such a short time. Being a traveler in the healthcare industry is truly admirable and rewarding. 

Salary and Compensation: How Travel Nurses Get Paid

Salary and compensation are important elements to consider if you aspire to become a travel nurse. While exploring new locales and moving frequently are some of the perks of this career path, you’ll want to stash away some cash for these travel expenses. Your cost of living will likely differ with each city, too.

So, how much do travel nurses earn?

The answer depends on your assignment, years of experience, and whether or not you have a specialty. The average annual travel nurse salary is about $105,000 per year, or $50 per hour. However, in 2023, the highest travel nurse salaries reached up to $155,000 annually. 

Keep in mind that travel nurse pay differs in that there is often a mix of taxed and non-taxed wages, but this will vary by location. Pay packages can also vary based on the staffing agency, so consider the benefits each agency offers and adjust your take-home from there.  

Housing and Logistics: Accommodations and Travel Arrangements

Let’s take a closer look at housing and logistics. This may be one of the most important considerations of your travel nurse experience—while you’re providing quality care for your patients, you too need to feel comfortable in your environment. 

So, when searching for your home away from home, ask yourself:

  • Do you want to live in a city center, or do you prefer a quiet and cozy locale?
  • How many weeks is your assignment? Is your lease flexible?
  • How far is housing from your workplace? What’s transportation like?
  • Do you want to partner with fellow travelers to cut down on costs and cultivate community?

At Host Healthcare, we walk you through every step of becoming a traveling nurse—and that includes helping you secure housing. In fact, with personalized housing help provided by our skilled team of housing specialists, you’re sure to find the perfect place to stay on your next assignment. 

Benefits and Challenges: Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing

If you’re considering becoming a travel nurse, there are plenty of positives to stoke your excitement. But keep in mind, like any career path, travel nursing may have its drawbacks, too. 

Pros of Travel Nursing

Here are a few advantages of travel nursing that you can look forward to:

  • Experience travel opportunities and explore new cities
  • Expand your skill set and broaden your knowledge in diverse healthcare settings
  • Earn a higher salary than a staff nurse
  • Network with colleagues all over the country 
  • Opt for flexibility between assignments 

Cons of Travel Nursing

When considering the ins and outs of travel nursing, keep these potential challenges in mind: 

  • Packing and moving regularly 
  • Incurring travel costs or increased vehicle maintenance costs
  • Earning varied pay based on contract and position
  • Feeling isolated, lonely, or disconnected from the community you’re used to

Ultimately, deciding whether these cons apply to you, or if the pros outweigh them, depends on your unique wants, goals, and preferences.

Become a Traveling Nurse With Host Healthcare

Travel nursing is a distinct and dynamic career. But when it comes to the ins and outs of how travel nursing works, the process can feel complicated. 

Fortunately, Host Healthcare makes it simple. With dedicated recruiters, 24/7 support, expert housing assistance, day-1 health benefits, and exclusive access to thousands of travel nursing jobs in every state, we can help make your transition to travel nursing seamless and stress-free.

Build the life and career that you deserve by applying to Host Healthcare today. 



Young, Jordan. “Travel Nursing: What The Past Offers The Future Of Staffing.” Forbes, May 16, 2023. Accessed May 28, 2024. 

“What Is a Travel Nurse? Job Description and Salary.” St. Catherine University, December 16, 2021. Accessed May 28, 2024.

Jividen, Sarah. “Travel Nurse Salary: How Much Do Travel Nurses Make?”, October 3, 2023. Accessed May 28, 2024.

Smith-Kimple, Courtney. “How Much Do Travel Nurses Make?” Nurse Journal, September 27, 2023. Accessed May 28, 2024. 

Monteiro, Ingrid. What Are the Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing? (Plus Tips). Indeed, February 3, 2023. Accessed My 28, 2024.