What is a Travel Nurse

What is a Travel Nurse?

Staff Writer
Apr 26, 2022

Travel nursing is a specialty that emerged when the field of nursing faced nationwide staffing shortages in the ‘80’s. Throughout history, multiple factors led to each shortage, from world wars to economic recessions. Hospitals, clinics, and other care facilities had unfilled positions, yet had patients needing care. To try and attract nurses to the open positions, employers offered higher pay, housing, and covered the cost of relocating. Currently, the demand for nurses, including travel nurses, continues to grow.

What Does a Travel Nurse Do?

Travel nurses are registered nurses who work in short-term roles at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities, helping to fill gaps in areas where there are nursing shortages. These nurses are employed by independent nursing staffing agencies instead of a single hospital.

Employment opportunities can take travel nurses to different cities, states, and countries. Some work at local hospitals that are in need of temporary nurses, but because travel nurses work in their primary specialty, duties will vary a great deal between specialties.

1. Travel Nurse Salary

Plenty of nurses opt to go into travel nursing for the many perks, like the chance to explore new places, experience diverse practice environments, and make new friends. Salary is dependent on the agency, and nurses should research each company to find the right salary and benefits that best fit their needs. Competitive pay, great benefits, and free housing are also major benefits of the job.

The pay differs between staff and travel nursing. Staff nurses in a hospital are usually paid a set salary based on education and experience, and typically receive incremental pay increases at various time frames. So how much do travel nurses make? Travel nurse pay is totally different and can be a bit of a gray area. Typical pay packages are composed of hourly pay, non-taxed housing stipends, non-taxed per diems, travel reimbursements, and more.

2. How to Become a Travel Nurse

Travel nurses need to meet specific requirements before being considered. They must obtain a registered nursing degree with a license in good standing, and have two years of nursing experience. They don’t need any additional certifications or credentials other than the ones they need for their specific specialty. Also, to work as a travel nurse, you’ll need an RN license for that state. Learn about Compact State licenses which allow you to work in many states with one license.

3. How Long are Travel Nursing Assignments?

There are short-term and long-term travel nursing contracts. Typically, contracts are between eight and 26 weeks, although most last around 13 weeks. If there’s a continued need in the hospital with your current position, they may offer to extend your initial contract. Facilities are becoming increasingly flexible with contracts due to the ongoing nursing shortage.

As long as you are working as a nurse, no matter where or in what kind of facility, you are still accumulating years of experience. Nursing is a profession that benefits from working in various environments since you pick up new skills by working with different kinds of people.

4. Travel Nursing Locations

The decision to become a travel nurse means you’ll have the opportunity to take your career and the freedom to try new things and explore the world. With so many choices of location, it can be hard to narrow it down when choosing a city. Here are the top 10 locations to work as a travel nurse in terms of salary, demand, and regional perks.

5. Where Do Traveling Nurses Stay?

Travel nurses typically have two housing options during an assignment. The most common option for travel nurses is to allow your agency to find you housing. Most agencies have an internal housing department that finds a place for a short-term lease. The second option is a housing stipend, which is a non-taxable monthly payment based on the average cost of living. With this option, the travel nurse is responsible for finding appropriate housing.

Travel nursing comes with many wonderful benefits that make it a truly unique career option for nurses. The freedom to move around and explore new places, the ability to find assignments with free housing and extra stipends, and the chance to make new friends near and far are all reasons travel nursing might appeal to you. It’s never too late to branch out in your nursing career!


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