Whether you’re a seasoned travel nurse or just starting to flex your skills around the nation, chances are high that San Francisco is one of your dream destinations. San Francisco has beauty, personality, and culture in spades—so much so, that travel nursing in San Francisco is frequently deemed the pinnacle of every travel nurse’s career.

But just as you wouldn’t approach a patient without preliminary research, embarking on a San Francisco travel nursing assignment requires thought and planning. 

Read on as we dive into the particulars of working as a travel nurse in San Francisco—and the best ways to make the most out of your NorCal adventure.

Understanding San Francisco’s Healthcare Environment

You might be tempted to pursue a travel nursing assignment in San Francisco because of the city’s electrifying tempo and world-class dining. But it’s also an ideal spot to advance your career—and potentially gain experience at one of the country’s most prestigious healthcare institutions, such as:

  • UCSF Medical Center – Consistently voted one of the ten best hospitals in the United States, the University of California San Francisco Medical Center is at the forefront of neurology and neurosurgery. And yet, you don’t need to be a neuro nurse to benefit from everything the center has to offer—UCSF Medical Center also ranks as the best in Northern California for geriatric care, urology, oncology, and psychiatry. As a bonus, the facility has also been recognized for its nursing excellence. 
  • California Pacific Medical Center – With four locations throughout San Francisco, the California Pacific Medical Center is known for innovative orthopedic treatments and organ transplants, alongside exceptional emergency, outpatient, and specialized care for women and children. In other words, fulfilling an assignment here may take your resume to the next level.

We should also mention Stanford. While it isn’t located in San Francisco specifically—it’s situated in Palo Alto, roughly 35 minutes away—its healthcare center also ranks as one of the top ten hospitals in the country and may be especially appealing to travel nurses who specialize in oncology, gastroenterology, neurology, or geriatrics. To phrase it differently, working here might be well worth the commute. (Alternatively, you could explore accommodations in the South Bay.) 

Advantages of Choosing San Francisco for Travel Nursing Assignments

“Travel nurse San Francisco” isn’t a popular Google search solely because of the city’s state-of-the-art medical facilities. The city is a global destination because of the wealth of activities and experiences it offers, namely:

  • Superb shopping – Union Square abounds with both well-known department stores and one-of-a-kind boutiques, while avid readers will be thrilled with the number of independent (even legendary) bookstores throughout the city. (Cross the Golden Gate Bridge to Corte Madera’s Book Passage for a real treat.) Whether you want to invest in a new wardrobe from a high-end shop or score unusual art, San Francisco boasts one of the best shopping scenes in the West.
  • Exceptional cuisine – Gary Danko. Aziza. Zuni Cafe. Boulevard. The list goes on, but you get the point: San Francisco possesses one of the most alluring (and eclectic) culinary scenes in the country and the world. And you don’t need to break the bank to dine out here, either. From food trucks to hole-in-the-wall (literally) eateries, the city brims with more than 4,000 restaurants with varying price points—and with tastes from around the globe.
  • Endless culture – San Francisco is nothing if not almost insanely cultured. From live jazz in the Fillmore to Picasso exhibits at SFMOMA—and from the opera to the ballet—San Francisco is distinguished the world over for its arts and culture scene.
  • Excellent outdoor activities – San Francisco may measure in at a mere seven miles by seven miles, but there are dozens of ways to savor time outside—particularly when the fog clears during Indian Summer in September and October. Strolling through Golden Gate Park, bicycling across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, exploring Alcatraz Island, or catching a wave or two at Ocean Beach are all incredible activities to try. 

What’s more, San Francisco is near a number of remarkable places you can travel to on your days off. Lake Tahoe, Napa Valley, Sonoma, Muir Woods, Yosemite, and Santa Cruz are all within reach—and the drives to each are spectacularly beautiful. 

Navigating Licensing and Credentialing Requirements in San Francisco

Unlike many other destinations for travel nurses, California is not a compact state—meaning, a multistate license will not suffice (but a California license will). Your best bet is to check the most recent licensing and credentialing requirements here.

Additionally, San Francisco travel nursing assignments require up-to-date:

  • Physical exams
  • Vaccine records
  • Drug screening
  • Fingerprints
  • A background check

A word to the wise: Partner with an award-winning travel nurse company like Host Healthcare to guarantee you have your paperwork in place before attempting to leave your heart in San Francisco. 

Top Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities in San Francisco

In addition to the medical centers listed above—UCSF Medical Center, California Pacific Medical Center, and Stanford—San Francisco is home to a number of outstanding healthcare facilities, including:,

  • Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center
  • St. Mary’s Medical Center
  • Kaiser Permanente San Francisco
  • Saint Francis Memorial Hospital
  • Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center

Dizzied by the options? A committed Host Healthcare travel nurse recruiter can help you hone in on the medical facilities that best align with your professional goals and personal aspirations—for example, healthcare organizations that are relatively near your dream neighborhood or close to the beach.

Finding Accommodations: Housing Options for Travel Nurses in San Francisco

San Francisco might be small in size but it also features roughly 50 individual neighborhoods, each with their own quirks. If you’re intent on living a short commute away from the medical facility where you’ll be stationed, use the healthcare center as your starting point for nearby, short-term accommodations. For example:

  • Inner or Outer Sunset – “The Sunset,” as it’s jointly called, is composed of two distinct neighborhoods: The Outer Sunset, which is situated closer to the coast, and the Inner Sunset, which brushes shoulders with the more bustling sections of the city. Both are ideal if you accept a travel nursing post in San Francisco at UCSF Medical Center.
  • Potrero Hill – Happen to be a trauma nurse who’s keen on working at “Zuck’s” hospital and trauma center? Check out the digs in Potrero Hill—a hilly, sun-splashed enclave (a rarity in San Francisco) that rests near the Mission’s Zuckerberg Center. Booming with charming restaurants, bars, and shops, Potrero Hill offers a genuine sense of San Francisco life. In other words, it’s off most tourists’ radars. 
  • Pacific Heights – Widely deemed one of the most exclusive (and gorgeous) neighborhoods in the city, Pacific Heights is near East San Francisco’s Kaiser Permanente. If you score an assignment here, other top neighborhood options include Japantown (the oldest Japantown in the nation, by the way) and the ever-funky but still lovely Haight-Ashbury.

Given the number of neighborhoods and healthcare facilities in San Francisco, you may want to enjoy the perks of working with a nurse recruiting agency like Host Healthcare—we offer individualized housing support to ensure all your needs are met.

Budgeting Tips for Thriving in San Francisco as a Travel Nurse

With its extraordinary waterfront views and award-winning restaurants, it’s no surprise that San Francisco is the 6th most expensive city in the United States.

But don’t let that deter you. Consider a San Francisco travel nursing post as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and an unparalleled way to get a true taste of “The City.” Plus, there are various ways to curb your spending while fulfilling your contract:

  • Use public transportation – Between BART and the Muni, San Francisco has top-notch public transportation options—all at economical prices. This will save you from having to rent or bring your car and pay the rather outrageous parking fees around the city and at your place of lodging. When you do want to escape for a weekend getaway, consider renting a car from SFO.
  • Hit up farmers’ markets – There are few better ways to save money than cooking at home—a task that goes from mundane to thrilling when your ingredients are fresh and locally sourced. Luckily, San Francisco is famous for its farmers’ markets, where you can find moderately priced fruits, veggies, coffee, honey, and more. Two in particular to check out are the Ferry Plaza’s Farmers’ Market in the heart of the Embarcadero and the Fort Mason Center’s Farmers’ Market—a Sunday extravaganza that features a brilliant array of produce.

Additionally, during your downtime, take advantage of all the inexpensive—and even free—activities San Francisco has to offer. From walking under the magnificent arches at The Palace of Fine Arts to picnicking at Dolores Park, the city is jam-packed with budget-friendly fun.

Savor San Francisco with Host Healthcare

San Francisco is renowned for a slew of reasons, and with its range of acclaimed medical facilities and the professional development they offer, it’s a prime place for travel nurses to augment their skills while experiencing a one-of-a-kind cosmopolitan city.

Luckily, the dedicated crew at Host Healthcare can turn your dream of San Francisco living into a reality. That’s because we match travel nurses like you with recruiters who are as invested in your success as you are, all while providing exceptional perks like day-1 benefits, 24/7 support, housing assistance, 401k matching, and more. 

Apply today to foster the career—and the life—that you deserve. 



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