#nurselife 101: A Travel Nurse and What They Face

Okay, I know what a nurse is. But what is a travel nurse?

Nurses are the backbone of our medical system. Chances are, if you’ve ever been to the doctor or hospital, you have come into contact with a calming and helpful nurse who made your visit easier or more successful. A travel nurse is a nurse who is employed by an independent staffing agency, and these positions are used to bridge the gap between supply and demand in the nursing industry. They are assigned to certain areas, hospitals or clinics on a temporary contract to fulfill a short term need. According to the BLS, there will be a shortage of 1.1 million nurses by 2020, so the position and its potential benefits are looking better than ever.

Why do this if you could work in your current town, what are the benefits of being a travel nurse?

Travel nursing solidified as a specialty profession as hospitals and clinics needed to fulfill shortages in the field of nursing. Care facilities were seeing an influx of patients which required more nurses, and facilities began to struggle to keep the needed number of nurses on staff. So, to attract nurses to the short term positions, employers offer higher pay, housing, and cover relocation costs to travel nurses. Currently, there are 340 travel nurse staffing agencies in the country, and most large hospitals like to work with agencies to hire their nurses.

Travel nurses have a higher level of flexibility and freedom, as they can choose to work for certain periods and spend time doing other things otherwise. A typical contract is between 8 and 26 weeks, and the nurse often has a lot of agency on deciding when to extend her contract. Travel nurses often also thrive on challenges and new environments, as the position lends itself to a great deal of travel and exploration of new cities, coworkers, and nursing techniques.

There is also a financial benefit to becoming a travel nurse. Because there is a shortage of nurses, hospitals and healthcare facilities are willing to pay higher salaries to recruit new nurses. Furthermore, they are usually given non-taxable stipends and coverage of travel costs, bringing their overall income higher than those of typical nurses. For housing, travel nurses are often given the choice between agency housing and a housing stipend. Staffing agencies usually rent apartments near the hospitals where their nurses will be working, but if a nurse does not want to live in that area, they can choose to take a non-taxable monthly payment which is calculated in consideration of that city’s cost of living. Many travel nurses go with this option and opt to find a roommate or cheaper apartment and pocket the extra money to make their income even higher.

Sounds almost too great, what are the different challenges Travel Nurses overcome?

According to Host Healthcare, the main challenge facing travel nurses is obtaining that first assignment, as the field has become very lucrative and competitive due to its benefits. First, you must find the right agency for you. This will likely require a lot of research and conversation with other traveling nurses who have experience. It is also common for travel nurses to have worked with more than one agency, so it’s important not to be shy in asking others for advice. When it comes to tackling that first assignment and a nurse may have an ideal location in mind, it is important to be flexible in taking that first assignment or contract so you can start building your resume as a travel nurse and your reputation within the agency that you’re working with. Another thing to consider is the licensing process, as it can vary by state. If you are assigned to a state that has different requirements than where you are currently working, you must go through the licensing process in your new host state before you can begin working. However, your agency should be there for you every step of the way through this, as they should be quite familiar with the requirements and the process for travel nurses in each state.

There are also personal aspects to be considered. As the keyword here is “travel,” that means that you’ll have to become very comfortable moving around a lot and potentially not being in one place for too long. This means time away with your family, which travel nurses do learn to manage. It also means that you’re likely to have a wide range of friends, but hey, who doesn’t want to make more friends? You will also likely have to learn to adapt to the working styles of others quickly, as you will be put into a new environment and expected to adapt quickly to get the best results for your patients. This should be seen as a benefit, though, as it will just make you a more rounded and better caregiver.

The big takeaway is nurses of all paths are doing a lot to help communities.

There are many considerations to be taken into account when thinking about becoming a travel nurse. It’s a great way to see the world, expand your techniques, and probably pick up some financial benefits along the way. If you think you’re up for it, finding an agency that is a good fit is a great first step!

Additional Sources

7 Challenges New Travel Nurses Face: Travel Nurse. (2018, September 13). Retrieved from https://www.hosthealthcare.com/blog/7-challenges-new-travel-nurses-face/ Beaker, F. (2019, June 10).

What is a Travel Nurse? Retrieved from https://www.travelnursing.org/what-is-travel-nursing/ Haddad, L. M. (2019, November 12). Nursing Shortage. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493175/ Writers, R. N. S. (2019, October 15).

What is Travel Nursing? – How to Become a Travel Nurse & Salary. Retrieved from https://www.registerednursing.org/specialty/travel-nurse/

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