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Detailed Guide To Working Travel Nurse Jobs

Detailed Guide To Working Travel Nurse Jobs

By Editorial Team | Updated On June 28, 2024

Nursing is an interesting career path. It has a wide range of different specialties on offer for aspirants to choose from. Typically, most of the roles in the medical profession are performed at a fixed workplace. Yes, occasionally you may have to commute to a patient’s house now and then. This usually occurs when a patient is critically ill or cannot travel for whatever reason.

However, one such job title in the nursing profession typically has a fixed workplace. Their duties may be performed in different cities or even countries for that matter. These individuals must constantly be on the go. This role also allows them to experience and learn a lot of new things, even beyond the medical realm.

They are travel nurses and their professional and personal lives are quite different from those of other nurses. This does not mean it is any less exciting or eventful. Nor does it suggest fewer learning opportunities or a lesser scope for advancement. The career path is currently trending in the medical field. Let’s delve deeper to understand why.

What Is A Travel Nurse?

The term is, to a great extent, self-explanatory. A travel nurse is a medical professional who accepts and performs work temporarily in a healthcare facility in a different location from where they are settled. This can be in a different city, state, or even country. They fall into the category of registered nurses and often fill in short-term gaps in employment. Such individuals are assigned work based on staffing issues in different hospitals and clinics.

Benefits Of Being A Travel Nurse

Travel nursing has many positives that come with it. Those who land this role have access to a variety of unique experiences. The job offers many opportunities for growth, both on the professional front and otherwise.

1. Visiting New Places

It is an inevitable part of the job that individuals will help to travel to many exciting places. This allows them to experience new cultures and events. One’s personality can develop a lot from such opportunities. Sometimes, even being in new locations within the country can be an enlightening experience.

They can go sightseeing and check out cool tourist spots in their new location on their days off. They try local foods and learn local traditions and customs. In some cases, you may need to learn a bit of the local language too, or even familiarize yourself with the accent. All of these can be fun.

Ordinary nurses, on the other hand, are mostly employed in a fixed workplace. They have limited travel opportunities. Most of their work is typically performed in one geographical region. This can lead to life becoming a bit monotonous at times, causing boredom. They do not get to visit as many new places apart from during vacations.

Many individuals dream of touring other cities, states, or countries but can’t due to work commitments. As a travel nurse, you get to visit places due to work commitments. So embrace the adventure and hop aboard on this thrilling. The best part is that it won’t cause a hindrance to your career either. What can be better?

2. Familiarization With Different Work Practices

Even if you are employed in the same profession, the way certain tasks are performed may vary. This does not mean that what you were taught before is wrong. It simply means there are many different ways of doing things. This allows you to expand your range of hard and soft skills.

Regular nurses are typically much more rigid in the way they perform their work. They do not get to learn as much about alternate ways to execute tasks. This limits their growth opportunities and intellectual horizons. This gives them a smaller range of abilities, which can hinder them.

Not just medically, but in other general ways, an organization's functions can differ by location. Hence, having a flexible approach to work is vital. One must always be willing to adapt. It allows you to break out of your comfort zone. It teaches you new things that help you grow professionally and personally.

3. Breaks Between Assignements

Once their assignments at a certain location are complete, they have the choice of looking for a new contract or taking a breather and relaxing for a while. This is a privilege not all individuals get. Not just in the medical industry, but in any field, for that matter. Taking a break may be necessary now and then to recuperate physically and mentally from all the traveling.

Ordinary nurses usually do not have many options for breaks apart from their paid leaves. Once they are with an employer, they must work continuously and honor the contract. They can’t just take as much time off between assignments as they please. This is because they are contracted with one employer long-term rather than multiple shorter-term contracts.

4. Wider Professional Network

Travel nurses tend to make contacts and personal connections with people from various locations. This allows them to attract opportunities in a wide range of different places. This can be a huge advantage in the modern job market, which continues to grow more and more competitive. It also gives travel nurses more potential opportunities to find work on their own if they need to.

Regular nurses who work in one facility long-term will likely have fewer contacts compared to someone working in multiple different settings throughout the year. This can greatly reduce their chances of attaining referrals. It is also well-known in the recruiting division that referrals tend to have better odds of being hired than normal applicants.

5. Different Professional Settings

As a travel nurse, your employment opportunities depend on shortages of labor in your role. This can happen in healthcare facilities, which are located pretty much anywhere. Hence, you must be prepared to work in all sorts of workplaces. Most experienced individuals in this role will have worked with many different types of organizations.

These facilities could vary greatly in terms of size and resources. You could be employed at one stage in a small rural facility during one phase to a big hospital in a metropolitan city during the other. The way each type of workplace operates and the amount of authority you possess vary greatly. This makes travel nurses more versatile.

The average nurse works in the same workplace throughout their contract. Occasionally, they may need to visit the homes of patients who are unable to make it to the facility. However, they do not have to change workplaces as frequently. Hence, they are not as versatile and may struggle to adjust in certain scenarios.

Disadvantages Of Being A Travel Nurse

While travel nursing is a unique and interesting job, it comes with its negatives too. There are two sides to every coin, and this role is no different. The position is quite popular and trending in the medical industry. However, this is not always for the right reasons.

1. Packing And Moving Burdens

As a travel nurse, you are frequently on the go. This can be unsettling to some people. Not to mention other duties that come with it like packing, travel arrangements, finding accommodation, etc. A lot of people also worry about other factors that apply after they have successfully relocated. This includes getting acclimatized to different weather conditions, and cultural barriers, building new relationships from scratch, etc.

This makes being a regular nurse seem more appealing. Their workplace generally remains the same throughout their contract. This gives them more stability and frees them from inconveniences associated with regular relocation. It allows them to build relationships that last longer, rather than having to build many short-term friendships.

2. Fluctuating Income

Different employers will probably mean variances in salary. However, what happens when employers are spread out across different parts of the country or even the world? Well, the likelihood of variance in earnings only goes up. This is because of differences in economies and other relevant aspects.

Not having a stable income with scope for periodic increments can feel a bit risky and stressful. It becomes harder to budget and plan financially for the long run. It gets even more complex when one has a family and children to plan for. This is a major drawback, as most working individuals crave financial security and do not like monetary turbulence.

Other types of nurses do not have to worry about this as they have fixed salaries with periodic growth. This allows them to better handle their finances and plan for the future. It is also less stressful and offers more secure employment. This is why most people opt for them instead of pursuing travel nursing.

3. Job-Hunting Headaches

Being unemployed can be a huge pain. The process of searching for a job can be tough and even frustrating at times. Most people dread it, which is understandable. Imagine having to go through it multiple times in a year! That’s exactly the case with those working as travel nurses. This is due to most contracts for the role being short-term. Once a contract expires and a new one is not offered, they have to begin looking for and interviewing for jobs again.

This is another common reason why many individuals prefer to work normal roles in nursing. Longer contracts save them the burden of frequently having to search for employment. It makes these positions more popular in the job market. This is mainly due to the better job security that they offer.

4. Unlikely To Be Promoted

Staying in one organization for a longer period increases the likelihood of getting promoted. Promotion leads to more learning and opportunities and a rise in status. This is harder to achieve with travel nursing roles, as contracts are typically short-term. There is also no guarantee that both parties will be in favor of an extension. This makes it harder for them to climb up to leadership roles.

Having a long-term nursing contract, on the other hand, gives you better chances of attaining higher positions. Individuals are also able to build more lasting professional relationships within the organization. They also have more time to build an impression on their bosses. All of these elements are crucial to helping you get that promotion.

5. Acquiring Licenses In Multiple States

Travel nurses need to obtain a license for each state they are hired in. This can be a huge inconvenience to have to repeat this process several times throughout your career. You also need to make sure you have the license in hand before your new contract commences. If you fail to obtain it on time, it can feel like a wasted experience.

On the flip side, regular nurses tend to have fewer such headaches. This saves them a lot of time and money, too. A registered nursing license is valid for two years in most of the American states, with a few exceptions. Renewal is typically easier than obtaining a new license. This makes being a regular nurse less burdensome.

There are a few alternatives available to travel nurses. Many states offer temporary licensure, which is a good option. Individuals may also apply for a compact multiple-state license. It allows holders to practice in 25 different states with one license. This is a popular choice within the travel nursing community.

How To Become A Travel Nurse?

The pathway to having a career in the travel nurse domain can be a bit tricky compared to most nursing roles. To be a travel nurse, you have to complete all the steps associated with registered nursing and a few more.

1. Graduate High School

Individuals need to make sure they acquire a high school diploma. Only after this can they proceed forward. It helps to have a good base in subjects like science, particularly biology. Having a good command of English will help, as the language used in medical textbooks is a bit advanced and complex.

2. Relevant Associate Or Bachelor’s Degree

Aspirants have two options after finishing high school. They can pursue a two-year Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The former is shorter, while the latter is considered more valuable. It is important to consider what suits your needs before committing.

3. Pass The Licensing Exam

Once you’ve decided upon and completed your degree, the next step is to clear the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). It is conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Candidates must register for the exam and meet certain eligibility criteria beforehand.

4. Obtain State Licensure

Finally, before you begin working, you will need to acquire a license to practice in your chosen state. The process to obtain a state license for registered nurses varies from place to place. Candidates need to do their research and figure out what the procedures are. It is important to make sure you have all necessary documents well-organized with you.

5. Get Some Experience

You are unlikely to get hired as a travel nurse right after college. Most staffing agencies require you to have a certain amount of clinical experience. Only then can you work with them. The exact requirement varies by staffing agency. However, you can expect to work at least two years as a registered nurse before entering the travel nursing domain.

Travel Nurse Salary

Average Salary: $116,898 per annum. (Source: GlassDoor)

The role is unique in many ways. Not everyone can handle it. However, it does pay well, which makes it seem like a worthwhile career prospect to many. The additional benefits, like paid leaves and so on, will vary by organization. It is important to note that employment benefits tend to be greater for long-term contracts than short-term ones. This applies to pretty much any field. Hence, travel nurse jobs may not always provide too many additional benefits.

Travel Nurse Job Description

The role is unique and has many interesting duties and responsibilities. It is also important to have all the necessary travel nurse qualifications to take on this job. Let’s take a look at some details you are likely to find in job descriptions for this role.


The following are some important tasks performed by a travel nurse.

  • Educate patients about their conditions and treatments.
  • Prepare and maintain medical equipment and devices
  • Report important details to doctors and discuss treatment options
  • Understanding the emotional needs of patients and providing support
  • Evaluate patient’s health by conducting tests and exams.
  • Taking patient vitals and recording information.
  • Work with physicians to administer treatment and medications.
  • Collecting information about the health history of patients.

Travel Nurse Qualifications

Given below are some important certifications and documents needed to get this job.

  • Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in nursing.
  • State License
  • Be qualified Registered Nurses

What Are Travel Nurse Agencies?

They are also referred to as staffing agencies. Their duty is to help travel nurses working with them find employment. Staffing agencies focus more on temporary and short-term contracts for nurses working with them. These organizations possess a wide list of contacts and professional connections. They supply candidates to various types of types of healthcare facilities within the country and even abroad. Travel nurses prefer working with them as they tend to provide more job security.

Tips For A Successful Travel Nursing Career

Travel nursing is a well-known role within the medical industry. It is a challenging one, nonetheless, and not everyone can hold on to it for the long term. However, it can offer a rewarding career with enriching experiences. Here are some bits of advice you can follow to excel in this profession.

1. Do Your Research

A lot of travel nurses merely rely on recruiters and agencies. They do not bother to put in much effort on their own to figure things out. This can lead to issues later down the road. One should not blindly rely on other parties to do everything for them. Agencies and recruiters may not always have your best interests in mind. Hence, we must participate in the process too.

Make sure you find out about the healthcare facility you are joining. If possible, do some research about some of the key people in the organization. Go through their website and, if you like, their social media handles. This can give you useful information that helps you settle in once you join.

Look up information about the city you are moving to. Research good neighborhoods to find housing. Learn about the routes by road or public transport as well as important places around town. If you are moving to a new state or country, find out if there are any major differences in legal policies.

2. Avoid Packing Unnecessary Items

A lot of people like to pack as much as they can when moving. However, when you are a travel nurse, this may not be a good idea. Especially considering how often they are on the move. Hence, it is important to plan well beforehand what items are necessary and which ones can be done without.

Consider the duration of your contract when making these decisions. Imagine your daily routine on work days and off days when choosing what to take. Carrying too many things can be a problem at airports with luggage regulations in place. Shedding excess weight will save you time and make the shifting process easier.

3. Settle In Early

It is always preferable to make sure you’ve moved in and got everything in order a few days before you join. This will allow you to focus more on work. Whenever you join a new organization, there will be a gestation period when you settle in. When the new workplace is in a different location, it gets even harder. However, by making sure you get settled in and accustomed to new surroundings beforehand, you can make this transition a bit easier and more manageable.

4. Do Not Neglect Housing

Make sure your accommodations are up to adequate standards. Poor housing can make the transition harder and create inconveniences. Coordinate with your travel recruiter if you face any difficulties. Look for a place that is not too far from the workplace, has supermarkets nearby, is appropriate in size, comfortable to live in, furnished, has internet, etc.

Do not just pick any place you can find. Make sure you thoroughly assess your options. There is no point in selecting poor housing and being forced to move out before the nursing contract expires. Sometimes there may be an issue with the lease as well. All these details need to be weighed beforehand to ensure the transition is smoother.

5. Take Good Care Of Documents

In any form of travel, for whatever purpose it may be, it is important to make sure all your documents and paperwork are in order. As a travel nurse, you are always moving around, so there will inevitably be plenty of paperwork involved. Hence, it is necessary to organize important files and other documents well. The last thing you want is an important thing that is missing when you need it for travel or any other purpose.

6. Early Cancellation Penalties

Firstly, it is important for any worker to thoroughly go through what is specified and mentioned in each employment contract. Not doing so may lead to issues later down the road. Legally speaking, if a worker disagrees with something but it is mentioned in the contract, then it will be followed regardless of what one’s opinions may be about it later on.

Find out what the policy of a healthcare facility is if a travel nurse wants to cancel the contract prematurely. Knowing this before joining can keep you prepared in case things don’t turn out the way you expected them to. Be sure to discuss this with your staffing agency before committing to any contract.

7. Plan Ahead

Employment may not always be continuous for travel nurses. If your contract does not get renewed, you will be without work until you land your next contract. This is why many individuals begin the job hunt a few weeks or so before their current contract expires. This helps reduce the time they spend out of work.

You also need to obtain a state license if your new job will be in a different state. The license also needs to be acquired before the new contract commences. Without proper planning and execution, these issues can cause you several headaches and slow down the progress of your career.

8. Explore New Surroundings

It is important to make the most of the advantages that travel nursing provides. On your days off, you can check out popular places to visit in the city to have a good time. Make some exciting memories to look back on. Learn more about local culture and its heritage. You will likely discover new information and be more enlightened.

Travel nurses will usually spend a lot of time away from loved ones, which can prevent them from having a good work-life balance. They can replace the lack of time with loved ones by exploring the city. They can even share their experiences with loved ones through social media posts or tell them about it through virtual calls. Others can learn about their new adventures too.

9. Make Contacts

Developing professional connections is crucial for any field that you decide to venture into. With travel nursing, individuals get to work with more different employers and colleagues in their careers. This allows them more networking opportunities across more different locations compared to the average nurse. If used correctly, they can use this to help elevate their careers.

10. Stay In Touch With Recruiters

Recruiters can provide you with a lot of valuable details that can help you with your new job. They can also assist you with important requirements, like obtaining a state license. You can also ask them for advice on obtaining housing. Their duties also include offering you updates concerning your license or contract.

It may feel a bit awkward at first but know that your recruiter has your back. Some of them may even have worked in healthcare before and give you advice regarding certain aspects of the job. If you are lucky, you may even find recruiters who have been travel nurses themselves in the past.

11. Interact With Other Travel Nurses

It is common for travel nurses to feel lonely. It can sometimes feel like no one understands your situation. This is not rare, as it is a unique job. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, as there are many ways to connect with other similar individuals. Doing so helps build a sense of community and encourages communication.

Throughout your career, you will likely come across cases where other travel nurses have been hired alongside you. It helps to discuss work-related experiences with them, as this can teach you a lot about the profession and vice versa. Keep in contact with them, as this can help you attract new opportunities in the future.

The rise of the internet also makes it a lot easier to develop online communities for travel nurses. There are also various reputed online blogs with articles that can guide you through this exciting career. You can also use professional networking websites to connect with other fellow travel nurses and grow in this field.

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