If you’re a nurse who is interested in building your professional resume, gaining extensive experience, and living in a variety of cities around the country, there is no better way to work as a travel nurse. Travel nursing is a profession that brings both economic opportunity and professional development. You’ll get the chance to visit new cities and make new friends, take home great pay, and develop your skill set.
To make the most of your travel nursing experience it’s important to understand what you are getting into. While travel nursing can be a great opportunity, it isn’t for everyone. If you’re a nurse who is ready to begin a new chapter in your life or are currently in nursing school and exploring possible career paths, understanding precisely what a travel nurse does can help you determine whether traveling is right for you.
What is a Travel Nurse?
Travel nurses are simply nurses that work temporary assignments. Typically those assignments last around 13 weeks, but the actual length of your travel contract will depend on the specific assignment. Some assignments may last as little as 4 weeks, while others can be over 20. You’ll have the ability to choose your assignments, giving you the flexibility to choose assignments with a contract length that is right for you. Travel nurses work at hospitals and health organizations around the country, though there are licensing requirements in many states that you should be mindful of when considering potential assignments.
Travel nurses, or travelers, work alongside permanent nursing staff in their assigned facility. As a travel nurse, you’ll be an active and valued member of the team you join. Though your assignment may be temporary, travel nursing provides the opportunity to work alongside professionals in some of the best hospital facilities across the country, giving you the chance to forge lifelong bonds with the people you work with.
How Do the Job Duties of a Travel Nurse Compare to Traditional Nursing?
What does a travel nurse do that’s different from a permanent nurse? Typically there is a great deal of overlap between these two types of assignments. In most cases, travel nurses are sought out for their expertise. This means that you can expect to be fulfilling the same types of functions that you would if you were working in a permanent position within that same hospital system.
The actual day-to-day job duties of a traveling nurse depend on your assignment and specialty. For nearly any specialty, your primary task will be centered around patient care. This includes performing patient assessments, assessing symptoms during patient intake, and being the primary point of care for patients under your supervision.1
You can also expect general nursing responsibilities which include:
- Communicating with both patients, doctors, and other team members in your assigned facility.
- Working collaboratively with nurses, doctors, and other team members to provide excellent patient care.
- Deliver medicine and treatment to patients under your care.
- Have the ability to work in a fast-paced environment, making critical decisions for patient care while maintaining a calm demeanor.
- Identify specific patient needs and communicate those effectively to the patient care team.
- Ensure adherence to the patient care plan by medical staff.
- Support your personal, professional development by maintaining current knowledge of nursing practices and principles.
What is the Purpose of a Travel Nurse?
From the outside, a travel nursing career seems too good to be true. As a travel nurse, you typically get paid more than staff nurses, you get to travel frequently, meet new people, and broaden your professional horizons. But you might be wondering why travel nurses exist at all when a permanent nurse would probably be less expensive for the healthcare provider you are assigned to.
The purpose of travel nurses is to fill short-term gaps in coverage for the assigned hospital facility. There are any number of reasons that gaps in coverage might occur. A department may have a shortage of specialized nurses, may need to fill gaps caused by extended leave such as for maternity leave or an illness, or to provide surge capacity in areas that experience significant population shifts during certain times of the year.
Travel nursing has recently been cast into the spotlight during the battle against COVID-19. As New York became the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States in March and April, thousands of nurses around the country accepted travel nursing assignments in New York. While each nurse chose those assignments for unique reasons (there are a lot of different types of travel nurses), collectively those travel nurses helped augment the hospital systems to ensure that they weren’t overwhelmed by a surge of patients.2
While a typical travel nursing assignment does not carry with it the same incentives or risk, the flight of nurses to New York during the height of the outbreak illustrates the crucial role that travelers like yourself play in our modern healthcare system.
What Does it Take to Be a Traveling Nurse?
If you’re a registered nurse with at least a year of experience under your belt, you’ve already fulfilled two of the toughest requirements for becoming a traveler. To work as a travel nurse, you’ll need to meet the following requirements:
- Completed education.
- Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
- Complete any licensing requirements in the states you want to work in.
- Have at least one year of experience in your specialty.
Once you’ve completed these requirements, you’re almost ready to begin travel nursing! You’ll have to work with an agency like Host Healthcare to place you at a healthcare facility. If you aren’t sure which state or states you want to work in, take some time to understand the licensing requirements for each state. A travel nurse staffing agency is a great way to start your nursing career.
Is Travel Nursing Worth the Money?
Travel and temporary nurses are paid a higher hourly wage pay rate due to the short-term nature of the assignment, the high demand for your skills, and the flexibility that the position requires. But is that premium of travel nursing pay worth it?
In order for travel nursing to be worth the money for you, you’ll have to assess where you are in your career, what your goals are, and what your lifestyle is like. Travel nursing is a great opportunity for newly registered nurses with at least a year of experience. It gives new nurses an opportunity to strengthen their resume, work with a variety of teams, and explore the profession in ways that you simply can’t do as a permanent nurse. Alternatively, many nurses choose to work as travelers towards the latter half of their careers due to the higher pay that comes with a travel nursing job and the opportunity to travel while doing what they love.
If you have the flexibility to move frequently to take on a new traveling nurse assignment, then the professional development opportunities and higher pay certainly make travel nursing worth the money. Ultimately, you’ll have to carefully assess whether travel nursing is a good fit for your personality, lifestyle, and where you are professionally to determine whether it’s the right fit for you. If you aren’t sure whether traveling is right for you, or you simply have some questions about the process, reach out to our team at Host Healthcare. Our knowledgeable staff will be happy to provide any travel nursing information you might need to help you find out if traveling is right for you.
What Does the Average Travel Nurse Make?
One of the many perks of becoming a travel nurse is to take advantage of the higher pay or salary. Travel nurses are typically paid higher than their permanent counterparts with the same level of experience. Your pay will depend on a variety of factors, with one of the most important being where your assignment is located. Assignments in areas with a high cost of living will result in higher pay, but your housing and other expenses may be higher as well.3
Your pay as a travel nurse will depend on which travel nursing agency you choose to represent you. At Host Healthcare, our travel nurses are some of the most well-paid in the country. Keep in mind, your pay during the assignment is just one facet of your total compensation package. You’ll want to get a firm understanding of what type of housing stipend or assigned housing is available, as well as any other compensation perks that come along with the assignment, such as travel reimbursement.
Working as a traveler can be one of the most exciting and empowering experiences for both new and experienced nurses alike. Travel nursing provides unparalleled professional growth opportunities, exceptional pay, and the chance to work side-by-side with professionals in some of the best hospital systems across the country. Along the way, you’ll get the chance to meet lots of new people and explore new cities.
Travel nurses do all of the same tasks that permanent nurses do. You’ll provide top-notch, patient-centered care in hospital systems throughout the country. Specialized nurses are in particularly high demand, ensuring that you can bring your unique skill set to where it’s needed most.
If you are ready to begin an exciting new chapter in your life as a traveler, consider applying for allied travel careers. You’ll be part of a team that values your unique skills and understands the strength that comes with working as a team. Not to mention, have the opportunity to master your craft while you strengthen your resume. To learn more, please contact our team at Host Healthcare today!
- “What Is Nursing & What Do Nurses Do?: ANA Enterprise.” ANA, www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/workforce/what-is-nursing/
- Wofford, By: Portia. “This Is How 10 Travel Nurses React When Asked, ‘Why Go To The Epicenter of COVID-19?’.” Nurse.org, nurse.org/articles/travel-nurse-covid-19-coronavirus-nyc-seattle-why/
- Ericksen, Kristina. “Top 10 Benefits of Being a Traveling Nurse.” Top 10 Benefits of Being a Traveling Nurse | Rasmussen College, 6 Mar. 2018, www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/nursing/blog/10-benefits-of-being-traveling-nurse/