Travel nursing is one of the many intriguing career options available for registered nurses. It’s also a career option with many amazing aspects to consider. Some of them are obvious, but some of them are hidden. In this article, we’ll take a look at the six best things about travel nursing so you can determine if it might be the right career option for you.
Requirements and Challenges of Travel Nursing
Of course, travel nursing has its share of challenges and requirements. Therefore, it’s a good idea to review these before you consider the benefits. For starters, travel nursing jobs require a minimum of 1 year of experience within the last three years in the specialty you’re applying for. In most cases, you’ll actually need a minimum of 2 years’ experience.
Specialties in Demand
Moreover, employers typically seek travel nurses for the most in-demand and specialized nursing fields. For example, high-demand specialties include but are not limited to ICU, OR, ER, L&D, Telemetry and MedSurg. Therefore, you may have more difficulty staying continuously employed as a travel nurse if you specialize, for example, in Psych, Mother Baby or PostPartum. At a minimum, you’ll need to exhibit greater flexibility in terms of location and pay if your specialty is in less demand.
Variable Working Conditions
Finally, travel nurses are faced with a mixed bag when it comes to working conditions. Ultimately, travel nursing jobs exist at some of the most prestigious institutions in the country as well as some of the most challenged institutions in the country. Therefore, you may have hospitals orient you seamlessly along with their newly hired permanent staff, or you may have hospitals provide an abridged orientation that makes it difficult to acclimate to your unit. Similarly, you may work at hospitals that utilize travel nurses to maintain optimal staffing levels, or you may work at hospitals that are significantly understaffed for any number of reasons.
In any case, you’ll most likely encounter both challenging assignments and assignments that you love as a travel nurse. With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the 6 best things about travel nursing.
Amazing Travel Opportunities
The fact that you get to travel is probably the most obvious advantage of travel nursing. Travel nurses complete short-term assignments at healthcare facilities all around the country. You can even take assignments in many foreign countries!
The typical assignment in the United States lasts 13 weeks. This gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture. You’ll have ample time to explore all that any given location has to offer.
Often, healthcare facilities will offer contract extensions. If you’re having a great time in a particular location, then there may be an opportunity to stick around for an additional 13 weeks. Of course, you’re always free to leave at the completion of your contract should you decide it’s time to explore.
Travel Nurses Build a Network
As you move around from assignment to assignment, you’re going to meet tons of new people. You’ll meet both permanent staff as well as fellow travelers at the hospitals you work. You’ll also meet many recruiters as you navigate the industry to find the jobs you want.
All of this makes travel nursing an amazing way to expand your professional network. The importance of a strong professional network should not be underestimated. From career advancement to professional support, your professional network can have a profound impact on your overall career. Travel nursing offers one of the best opportunities to quickly build a broad network.
Travel nursing also offers a huge opportunity for career development. As a travel nurse, you’ll work at many different healthcare facilities. You may work at small rural facilities as well as large urban trauma centers. As a result, you’ll be exposed to a much broader set of circumstances than you would if you worked at any one facility for the same period of time.
You’ll be trained on different charting systems. You’ll gain experience with different types of equipment. It’s also possible that you will be exposed to different patient populations. All of this will broaden your skill set.
In addition, you’ll gain new insight into certain aspects of facility administration. You’ll go through an orientation at each new facility you work. You may work at Magnet hospitals, teaching hospitals or trauma hospitals. Each new experience will allow you to observe and learn about different administrative approaches. You’ll gain a unique perspective that will help you provide valued contributions throughout the course of your career.
Travel Nursing Pay
Higher pay is one of the most commonly touted benefits of travel nursing. The industry routinely advertises annual salaries that are higher than average for registered nurses. The industry also advertises that travel nurses get an additional boost in “net pay” due to the tax-free reimbursements included in travel nursing pay packages.
While it’s definitely true that you can earn more as a travel nurse, there are several caveats to consider. For example, if you currently work in a state with higher-than-average pay for registered nurses, like California, then you may earn less as a travel nurse than you would in a stationary role in your home state.
Additionally, travel nurses incur expenses that permanent employees do not. For example, travel nurses must maintain a “tax-home” in order to qualify for the tax-free reimbursements that agencies pay. Part of maintaining a tax-home is paying “duplicate expenses”. This sometimes means travel nurses must pay for rent or a mortgage at their tax-home and at their temporary home while on assignment.
Despite these caveats, many travel nurses find that the pay is better. That said, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the ins-and-outs of travel nursing salaries so you can accurately evaluate your unique circumstances.
Flexibility is another amazing benefit of travel nursing. Again, most travel nursing assignments last for 13 weeks. During that time, both the agency and the hospital expect travel nurses to work every assigned shift, with the exception of the occasional sick day, of course. That said, it is possible to arrange for time off during your contract.
However, travel nursing’s flexibility is realized in the time between contracts. Travel nurses are under no obligation to continually work. Therefore, it’s possible to schedule extended periods of time off between contracts.
Travel nurses take advantage of this flexibility for many different purposes. Some travel nurses use it to take extended vacations abroad. Others use it to return home to visit friends and family. Some use it to focus on entrepreneurial interests. Many travel nurses use the flexibility to focus on school work while advancing their nursing education.
Give Locations and Employers a Test Run
If you’re looking to move to a new location, but just aren’t sure where, then travel nursing can help you decide. You can use travel nursing to visit new locations for extended periods. This can help you determine whether or not you want to live there long-term.
Of course, you’ll also be able to test out potential employers. You’ll be able to determine whether or not the team and culture are a good fit before committing to a permanent position. As a result, travel nursing can help you find the perfect job in the perfect location.
As you can see, travel nursing has many great benefits. Whether you’re looking for adventure, trying to find a new place to live, looking to develop in your career, or just looking to make a little extra money, travel nursing might be the right career option for you!
About the Author
Kyle Schmidt is a Cofounder of BluePipes, a professional network providing nurses, physicians and allied health professionals with powerful career management tools. Visit them at bluepipes.com to discover more.