A travel nurse is generally a registered nurse who works with travel nursing agencies and hospitals/health care organizations to fill a nursing position when a health care facility cannot find qualified nurses in their area or when a health care facility is looking to fill a temporary nursing position such as when an existing nurse goes on paternity leave.
In some cases qualified LPNs/LVNs may also apply for work as travel nurses.
When a travel nurses chooses to accept an assignment he/she is offered they will travel to the destination they are assigned to and work on a temporary basis assisting that hospital or health care facility with any nursing needs they may have.
In many cases a travel nurse will end up working at a health care facility or hospital that is located outside of their city or state and will temporarily relocate to the state/city or country they are assigned to.
In order to assist the travel nurse with their relocation costs many health care facilities will provide the nurse with rental car reimbursement or a loaner vehicle, housing accommodations and other relocation costs.
The number of hours a travel nurse may work depends on the health care facility they work for and the agreements made between them.
Some of the most common rotations travel nurses have been known to work include 8 hour, 10 hour and 12 hour rotations where they will work either 5-8 hour shifts, 4-10 hour shifts or 3-12 hour shifts per week.
Nurses who work 36 – 40 hours or more per week are generally considered full-time workers.
In some circumstances travel nurses may either choose to or be required to work overtime depending on their work environment and situation.
Most of the assignments offered to travel nurses range anywhere from 1 month to 1 year with an average assignment lasting anywhere from 2 – 4 months.
Assignments that are chosen outside of the U.S. may last 1 – 2 years or longer.
After a nurse finishes his/her assignment at that location the hospital or health care facility they are working for may offer to hire them on a permanent basis and assist with any relocation costs associated with moving to the new location.
Because travel nurses provide their services to health care facilities that are having trouble finding qualified nurse many of those facilities will offer a variety of benefits and incentives to get a potential travel nurse interested in a position at their facility.
Some of these incentives may include receiving permanent job offerings after the completion of an assignment, being provided with relocation pay, having your housing and rental car expenses covered, being reimbursed for your license or CEU coursework, getting sign on bonuses and 401 k contributions just to name a few of the possible perks you may be able to receive as a travel nurse.
In terms of pay travel nurses can expect to earn $30 or more per hour of work while they are on an assignment.
It is important to note however that not all travel nursing agencies or health care facility are able to provide the same types of benefits and no one travel nursing agency can provide travel nurses with all of the job opportunities that are available, so it is important for those who work as travel nurses to look around and find the travel nursing agencies that can provide them with the types of destinations and benefits they are interested in receiving and work with them to find the health care facilities they would like to be assigned to.
As an industry the field of travel nursing is expected to continually grow and expand over the next decade due largely to an ever-expanding economy and a high number of nurses going into retirement.
This expansion in the travel nursing industry means more job opportunities for nurses, increased pay and better benefits for those who work as travel nurses.
Responsibilities and job description
Travel nurses are either registered nurses or LPN’s/LVN’s who are hired to provide medical care to patients at a hospital or health care facility that is located outside of their hometown.
These nurses have all of the same job functions and responsibilities as a regular nurse.
The only real difference between a travel nurse and other types of nursing jobs is that a travel nurse travels to different locations throughout the world to provide medical aid to patients in need of medical assistance while other nurses work at a local health care facility that is near their home and do not need to travel long distances in order to help patients.
Travel nurses are responsible for providing immediate medical care and emotional support to patients who are suffering from an injury or illness and will help assist patients in their recovery process to regain their health.
They educate patients about the injury or illness they received, help them with treatment plans and provide patients with answers to any questions they may have.
Travel nurses will also record their patient’s progress, deliver and administer medicine, take part in patient rehabilitation exercises programs and collaborate with doctors and RN’s to optimize patient care.
Because travel nurses work in various hospitals and health care facilities throughout the world most agencies and health care organizations look for nurses who have at least one year of experience working in a clinical care setting before hiring them, however most travel nurses agencies tend to prefer nurses two have 2 – 3 years of nursing experience.
Since travel nurses have to be ready to work as soon as they arrive it is important that they are well-trained and have a good understanding of their nursing practice before they begin traveling.
Some travel nurses also work as volunteer travel nurses where they take assignments located in area’s where large numbers of people are in need of immediate medical attention such as 3rd world countries that have been involved in a war or are suffering from famine and diseases.
These nurses provide their expertise and assistance in an effort to help stabilize and hopefully improve the lives of those who are less fortunate and in need of lots of medical care.
Training, requirements and qualifications
Travel nursing offers existing nurses an amazing opportunity to travel the world while also providing them with a chance to find some fantastic hospitals and health care facilities to work with.
Those who are interested in becoming a travel nurse must first complete a 2 – 4 year nursing program and earn either their ASN (associates of science in nursing) or BSN (bachelors of science in nursing) degree.
Once a potential nurse has completed and passed all of his/her nursing program coursework they are then required to take and pass the national licensing exam for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN) in order to earn their nursing license.
Most travel nursing agencies that are looking to hire travel nurses look for existing registered nurses who have acquired 2 – 3 years of experience working in a clinical care setting before hiring them to work as a travel nurse, however some travel nurse recruiters may also hire travel nurses who have acquired only 1 year of experience in the field.
In some cases well-trained and experienced LPN’s/LVN’s may also work as travel nurses to assist health care facilities with their nursing needs.
When it comes to specific training those who are interested in becoming travel nurses should seek to learn as much as they can before signing up to work as a travel nurse.
While there are no specific training programs for potential travel nurses those who are interested in working in this profession can benefit from taking continuing education courses to build their knowledge as an experienced nurse and earn as many certifications as they can while working at their current health care facility.
Since many of the health care organizations are suffering from a nursing shortage and hire existing nurses to fill their positions many of them do not have the time to sit down and train unexperienced nurses, so you’ll want to gain a good amount of training with your current employer before you begin travel nursing.
Most health care facilities and travel nursing companies look for nurses who are confident in their abilities and are able to work immediately with little to no on job training, so the more hands on training and experience you receive beforehand the better it will look on your resume and the more opportunities you will have for finding a good travel nursing job once you begin your career as a travel nurse.
To get a better idea of what travel nurse agencies and health care facilities look for you may want to contact and speak with several travel nursing agencies to see what sort of training, certifications and experience they are looking for when working with a travel nurse and gear your education towards those recommendations.
Travel agency requirements
Most travel nurse agencies that are interested in hiring a potential travel nurse require the nurse they are hiring to be either a licensed registered nurse or LPN/LVN who has acquired at least one year of experience working in a clinical care setting, although 2 – 3 years is generally preferred.
Because travel nurses have to be ready to work when they arrive at the hospital or health care facility they are assigned to they must have a good understanding of how things work and be able to utilize medical equipment, communicate effectively with other nurses and provide patients with proper medical care with little to no “on the job training”.
The health care facilities that travel nurses end up working for are often limited in staffing so the more training and experience you’ve acquired before hand the better your chances are of getting hired.
In order to obtain the best job opportunities it is recommended that you take as many continuing education courses as possible to expand your understanding of the nursing field and improve your overall expertise as a nurse.
If the hospital or health care facility you work for offers a variety of certification courses then try to obtain at least a few certifications so that you can expand your skill set and become more useful to any health care facility you work for in the future.
It’s also a good idea to think about applying for a bachelors program or post-graduate program as most hospitals want to hire nurses who are highly educated in their field.
While much of the advice offered here is optional it will help give you a big boost in terms of finding the best job opportunities and obtaining advancement in your nursing career.
At the very least travel nursing agencies are looking for an existing registered nurse or LPN/LVN with at least one year of clinical experience in a health care setting.
As the nursing shortage continues to expand health care organizations will be looking to travel nurse agencies to help provide them with a solution to their nursing problems.
By working as a travel nurse you’ll have the opportunity to travel the world while also providing immediate medical care to patients in need of medical assistance.
It can be an amazing career if you have the right mindset and skills to be effective in the field and those who work as travel nurses can enjoy knowing that they are making a real difference in the world.
Pay and Benefits
The amount of money a travel nurse can make in their profession on an annual basis will vary greatly depending on a number of factors such as what types of assignments they choose, the number of hours they work, the benefits and perks they receive from the health care organizations they work for and the cost of living associated with the location they live in.
In terms of hourly wages travel nurses can expect to receive $30 or more per hour of work.
Many of the nurses who work or have worked as travel nurses feel that they have been well compensated for their work from both a financial and travel perspective.
As stated earlier those who work as travel nurses can receive a number of benefits and perks which may include increased wages, travel reimbursement, license reimbursement, paid CEU courses, covered relocation expenses, 401k bonus contributions, top rate medical coverage, permanent relocation options once you complete your assignment.
Two of the most important factors in determining the income potential, benefits and perks a travel nurse may receive has to do with the travel nurse agencies they work with and the assignments they choose to take.
Since no one travel nursing agency can provide travel nurses with all of the job opportunities that are available many travel nurses choose to work with several travel nursing organizations so that they can find the best assignments, locations and perks available to them.
Aside from choosing the right travel nursing agencies to work with many of the benefits and perks available to travel nurses is determined by the health care organizations that hire the travel nurse and what they can afford to give the nurse in terms of pay and benefits.
Some health care organizations may be located in highly desirable locations, but may not be able to offer many of the benefits and/or perks provided by other health care organizations and vice versa, while other health care organizations may be able to offer both a great location with excellent benefits or none of the above.
By carefully interviewing and selecting the right travel nursing agencies to work with most travel nurses should be able to find the types of health care organizations they would most like to work with while also obtaining the types of benefits and perks they desire.
As the economy continues to grow and health care organizations/hospitals continue to lose essential staffing due to a high retirement rate of qualified nurses the travel nursing industry will become an increasingly important asset to organizations that are suffering from the nursing shortage, and those who work as travel nurses will see more job opportunities becoming available to them over the next decade as a result, which will most likely result in better pay and increased benefits/perks.
some of the perks and incentives travel nurses can look forward to receiving include:
- Tax-free travel reimbursement
- 401k contributions
- A rental or loaner car
- High end health insurance
- Sign-on/completion bonuses
- Increased pay/wages
- Guaranteed pay
- License reimbursement or reimbursement for continuing education courses
- Paid luxury housing
- Relocation pay
- Opportunity to choose your assignments
- Permanent job offerings after completion of an assignment
travel nurses are in very high demand throughout the world today.
Health care facilities and hospitals frequently suffer from nursing shortages either due to a lack of qualified nurses in their area or a need to fill a temporary nursing position such as when a nurse is out on paternity leave, and because of this those who work as travel nurses will always find opportunities and job availability within their field.
Travel nurses travel throughout the country on short-term assignments lasting anywhere from a few weeks to 1 year, and use their nursing experience and training to provide hospitals and health care centers with additional medical support.
In some cases travel nurses may also travel over-seas on extended assignments, which can last for 1 year or more.
As a whole the field of nursing is expected to reach upwards of 800,000 jobs by the year 2020, which means better pay, additional incentives, more job opportunities and more opportunities for career advancement for those who work as travel nurses.
To entice travel nurses to choose particular assignments travel nursing agencies and health care facilities offer travel nurses incentives for choosing their assignments.
Travel nurses can expect to receive various compensations such as ,on taxable travel reimbursement, free transportation i.e. a rental car or loaner vehicle, free housing accommodations and amenities, sign on bonuses, salary incentives, bonus contributions towards 401k plans and a variety of other incentives.
It is important for those who work as travel nurses to understand that not all travel nurse agencies and/or health care facilities can offer the same incentives, and no one travel nursing agency can provide a travel nurse with all of the job opportunities that are available, so it is a good idea for travel nurses to work with several travel nursing agencies to find the best job opportunities available with the best incentives.
Lastly, while travel nursing is a great career choice for some it’s not for everyone.
Long trips away from home, family and friends, and the need to constantly expose one’s self to new environments and people may cause some nurses to think twice about becoming a travel nurse.
On the other hand the opportunity to travel the world and gain ton’s of memorable experiences may be too good to pass up.
In the end travel nursing is a great opportunity for those who have the right mindset and as the field continues to expand more opportunities will open up in regards to pay and various incentives travel nurses can expect from their employers.
Is travel nursing right for you?
While the idea of traveling to amazing locations and receiving excellent benefits may sound amazing to some there are also some possible cons to working as a travel nurse.
In many cases whether or not you have trouble adjusting to the lifestyle of travel nursing depends on your personality so you may or may not be affected by these circumstances, but it is important for potential travel nurses to understand some of the sacrifices and changes they may have to make in order to work in the profession.
Are you able to leave your family and friends for extended periods of time?
Those who work in the travel nursing industry often end up working on assignments that can last anywhere from a few weeks to 1 year or more, and may require you to relocate to a location that is far away from home, so it’s important to figure out whether or not you will be comfortable leaving your friends and family behind for extended periods of time.
Do you feel you’ve acquired enough training & experience to work quickly and independently?
As a travel nurse you should feel comfortable with your training & experience as many health care facilities expect you to be able to work immediately and may not have the time to train you if you aren’t already experienced.
Most travel nursing agencies that employ travel nurses look for nurses who have at least 2 – 3 years of experience in a clinical setting before hiring them as a travel nurse, however there are some agencies that will hire a nurse after just 1 year of clinical experience.
Are you a team oriented person and able to make friends quickly?
Travel nurses have to be comfortable with adjusting to new nurses, doctors and health care professionals whenever they begin a new assignment.
They also must be able to quickly make new friends and communicate effectively within their work environment in order to ensure that each patient gets the proper care they need.
Each hospital and health care facility has their own employees, rules and customs so being able to comfortably adjust to new settings on a continues basis is extremely important in the travel nursing profession.
Can you quickly adjust to a new cultural setting, climate and environment?
When traveling to a new state or country you may be faced with cultures that are unfamiliar to you.
Your ability to fit in with the locals, understand their customs and communicate well will have a strong impact on your effectiveness and overall happiness while on an assignment.
You must also be able to adjust to new and unfamiliar climates and weather which may be very different from where you live, so it is a good idea to decide whether or not you would be comfortable working in a location where the climate very different from yours.
Are you comfortable traveling on-board a plane or ship for an extended amount of time?
In order to travel to many of the locations that travel nurses are assigned to most nurses will have to fly on a plane or ride in a ship from time to time in order to get to their destination.
If you have a fear of planes or heights flying to your destination may not feel like an option to you so it’s important to decide whether or not you will be comfortable traveling via plane or ship to the locations you are assigned to.
If you have a strong desire to travel while helping others as a nurse and you don’t mind the sacrifices and lifestyle changes you’ll have to commit to then travel nursing can be a great way to see the world and help others in the process.