Everything You Need to Know About Travel Nursing
Nursing is one of the most rewarding career fields out there. Although it requires long hours and dedication, nurses are an essential asset to every medical facility worldwide.
With a constant demand for nurses, hospitals and medical facilities across the globe are looking for more and more dedicated individuals to help them care for their patients.
What Is a Travel Nurse?
Travel nurses are registered nurses, or RNs, who work for independent agencies rather than a single hospital or medical facility. Travel nurses typically receive temporary assignments to help various medical facilities facing an employment shortage.
Travel nursing assignments are contracts between the nurse and the hospital or healthcare provider. This contract essentially guarantees the nurse a set number of hours, pay, and other benefits.
Travel nursing assignments are contracts between the nurse and the hospital or healthcare provider. This contract essentially guarantees the Travel nurses have the advantage of controlling a majority of their schedules while traveling around and exploring new areas. With the need for nurses continuing to grow every day, hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities are facing drastic shortages. Travel nursing allows these healthcare facilities to fill the gaps while giving RNs an incredible opportunity to combine travel benefits with their medical profession.
Travel nurses have the opportunity to travel around the United States or accept international assignments. Whether staying domestic or going abroad, both forms of travel nursing offer various benefits for nurses.
Domestic travel nurses only accept assignments within the United States. Domestic assignments generally last from eight to 13 weeks, depending on the need of the medical facility.
Domestic travel nurses are most often needed to respond to various crises such as disease outbreaks and natural disaster relief. Since domestic assignments tend to be shorter, travel nurses have a greater opportunity to work at multiple hospitals or healthcare facilities throughout the year.
International assignments give RNs an exciting opportunity to travel outside of the U.S. and help patients around the world. Nurses considering international assignments must have exceptional communication skills and be willing to accept new challenges.
Most international travel nursing assignments last between one and two years. Similar to domestic assignments, travel nurses can respond to various crises around the world by providing aid to different countries.
One of the most important things to keep in mind before applying for an international assignment is the location. Travel nurses going abroad can work in rural or remote areas. Nurses must be willing and able to adapt to various conditions and cultures.
The process of applying for an international travel assignment can be significantly longer than that of domestic travel. Travel nurses must complete the proper documentation and wait for it to process before traveling to another country for an assignment.
What Do Travel Nurses Do?
Travel nurses can take on various responsibilities during their contracted assignments. Their specific duties can vary depending on their education, level of experience, and specialty.
However, most travel nurses should be ready to take on various responsibilities for every assignment, whether domestic or international. Said responsibilities include:
- Assessing and diagnosing patient care.
- Diagnostic and lab test interpretations.
- Imaging interpretations.
- Work alongside physicians and other medical professionals to provide care for patients in different conditions.
- Provide resources for patients in care.
- Monitor and oversee patient care.
- Learn care systems and documentation for patients
- Be ready to provide immediate or emergency medical care when needed
- Generally, the responsibilities of a travel nurse are similar to that of an RN employed full-time by a hospital or clinic. However, travel nurses have the additional responsibility of working in unfamiliar locations with new team members while caring for patients of different cultures.
How to Become a Travel Nurse
To become a travel nurse, you must be an RN with an active license and in good standing. Most agencies prefer to hire RNs with at least two years of experience.
Before applying to be a travel nurse, it is essential to decide whether you want to stay domestic or go abroad. As previously discussed, both types of assignments offer various benefits and things to consider.
To be successful as a travel nurse, you must thrive on change, enjoy new experiences, be flexible, and love to learn new things. Travel nursing gives individuals the opportunity to choose where and when they work while immersing themselves in new cultures.
RNs interested in entering the world of travel nursing must start by finding a recruiter. Recruiters help aspiring travel nurses find assignments that fit their skill set and career goals. Additionally, a travel nursing recruiter will manage your travel, find you jobs, and foster compliance.
Travel Nurse Pay and Benefits
One of the key differences between a travel nurse and a staffed RN is the payment method. Staff nurses receive a salary with potential raises over time. Travel nurses, on the other hand, receive compensation that depends on various factors:
- Hourly pay
- Non-taxed housing stipend
- Travel reimbursements
- Per diems
Travel nurses receive payment in two primary forms: hourly pay and non-taxed stipends. The stipends help cover expenses for food, housing, and other travel-related costs. The hourly pay on top of the non-taxed stipend makes travel nursing an attractive career path.
Although the annual pay for a travel nurse relies on various factors, the average yearly salary is around $75,100. Since the demand for nurses continues to grow exponentially, many staffing agencies are offering salaries of $100,000 per year to encourage more nurses to travel.
Generally, domestic assignments will pay more than international assignments as nurses in the U.S. tend to make more than those in other countries. Since salaries depend on the agency, nurses should consider multiple companies to determine which offers the best pay and assignment locations.
Factors That Contribute to Travel Nursing Pay
Aside from the staffing agency, several different factors determine travel nursing pay:
- Location: Financial compensation for nurses varies across different areas. For example, southern states tend to pay less as the overall cost of living is significantly less than other regions of the U.S.
- Specialty: Specialty nurses tend to receive higher pay than non-specialty nurses as their specific skills and experience are in high demand.
- Shifts: Most hospitals tend to pay more for the night shift than the day shift. This is because most healthcare facilities have a higher demand for nurses at night.
Other Compensation for Travel Nurses
One of the main reasons travel nursing is such an attractive career path is that RNs can receive various other types of compensation in addition to their typical salary:
- Reimbursement for travel expenses
- Non-taxed housing stipend
- Coverage for medical, dental, and vision
- Retirement plans
- Passport and work visa assistance
- Location choice
- Hours and shifts choices
Although travel nurses will often face long hours in unfamiliar settings, the overall compensation package makes the job incredibly worthwhile.
Travel Nurse Licenses
The primary requirement for individuals aspiring to be travel nurses is a nursing degree. The minimum requirement is a two-year associate’s degree; however, some hospitals will only hire RNs with a four-year bachelor’s degree. The staffing agency or recruiter will help aspiring travel nurses find assignments that match their education and experience levels.
Additionally, most healthcare facilities require travel nurses to have at least one to two years of experience in the field. RNs looking to go abroad will have greater opportunities if they speak a second language.
RNs do not have to pass any extra exams to qualify for a travel nursing position. However, certain certifications or credentials may be necessary for nurses with certain specialties:
- Medical or Surgical Nursing: Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Stroke Care Certification, Telemetry Certification
- Intensive Care Nursing (ICU): BLS, ACLS, Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Critical Care Nursing
- Women’s Health, Labor, and Delivery Nursing: BLS, ACLS, PALS, Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) Certification
- Emergency Room Nursing: BLS, ACLS, PALS, NRP, Trauma Nurse Core Course Certification (TNCC)
Travel nurses with international assignments must meet additional requirements such as obtaining a passport, work visa, and extra immunizations. They will also need to learn about the common diseases in their specific travel area and may need to learn a new language as communication is essential in any medical facility.
Frequently Asked Questions About Travel Nursing
How Long Are the Assignments?
The length of an assignment will depend on various factors such as the location, staffing agency, and needs of the hospital. The typical assignment is about 13 weeks; however, most international assignments last for at least a year.
Nurses have the opportunity to renew a contract for a specific location if they choose. These contract renewals are known as extension assignments and can last for three weeks or longer.
Can Travel Nurses Specialize?
Travel nurses with a specialty are in high demand. Since they have additional certifications, specialty nurses generally receive higher pay than non-specialty nurses.
The most in-demand specialties for travel nurses include:
- Health policy
- Pain management
- Critical care
Is There a High Demand for Travel Nurses?
The short answer is yes! The demand for travel nurses and RNs across the world continues to multiply exponentially. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current demand for nurses is over one million.
With the continuously growing need for nurses, RN employment opportunities are estimated to grow at a rate of 15% through the year 2026 compared to other professions. The demand for nurses continues to escalate with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
The snowballing rate of employment opportunities and needs for nurses encourage healthcare facilities and staffing agencies to offer more competitive wages for RNs and travel nurses. As hospitals and clinics struggle to find enough nurses to meet this demand, the need for travel nurses skyrockets every day.
Who Can Apply to Be a Travel Nurse?
Any registered nurse with an active license and at least a year of experience can apply to be a travel nurse. They must also have licenses in every state they wish to practice in. RNs must have additional documentation to qualify for a travel nursing contract:1. Professional and driving licenses
2. Proof of vaccinations
3. Titer results
4. PPD test results
5. Basic Life Support card
6. Physician statement
Who Hires Travel Nurses?
Travel nurses can find hiring opportunities with various types of medical facilities:
- Emergency rooms
- Urgent care centers
- Rehabilitation facilities
- Hospice care facilities
- Home health care facilities
- Community health centers
- Surgical hospitals
- Occupational health centers
- Any medical facility that requires the professional medical skills of an RN
Is It True Travel Nurses Can Receive a Housing Stipend?
Yes, nurses can receive a housing stipend for domestic or international assignments. Housing accommodations will depend on the staffing agency and assignment location.
For some assignments, the staffing company will provide the housing, whether an apartment, duplex, or house. Others will give a set stipend every month for the travel nurse to use on the accommodation of their choice. Before choosing an assignment or staffing company, be sure to research their housing provisions thoroughly.
Can Travel Nurses Bring Their Families on Assignments?
Yes, nurses can bring their families or pets with them on assignments. However, most agencies will only cover the costs or provide one-bedroom apartments. This makes it difficult for nurses with large families or multiple pets to travel.
Multiple nurses can request to travel together for assignments. For example, should two RNs want to work together on an assignment, they can request the same location or medical facility. Additionally, travel nurses can share living spaces.
Sharing an assignment with a fellow RN is a great way to explore a new area with someone you are familiar with while saving money on various costs and expenses.
Is Traveling Nursing Beneficial for My Career?
Travel nursing is an excellent way for an RN to advance their career. Travel nurses can gain new skills, experiences, and opportunities that they otherwise would miss out on by working in a staff position. In addition, working as a travel nurse makes an RN incredibly competitive in the field and an excellent candidate for future jobs.