What Are the Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing? (Plus Tips)

Updated February 3, 2023

If you're considering a career as a nurse and you enjoy traveling to different places, a career in travel nursing may be a great option for you. Becoming a travel nurse can allow you to combine your passions for traveling, exploration and nursing into a fulfilling career. If you're already working as a staff nurse and you're interested in adding challenge and variety to your job, consider learning more about transitioning to the travel nursing field.

In this article, we define travel nursing, list the pros and cons of this occupation and share some tips for entering this adventurous and interesting field.

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What is travel nursing?

Travel nursing is a nursing allocation concept health care experts developed to address a shortage in nursing staff. A travel nurse is a registered health care professional who works in temporary nursing positions in locations throughout the country for short durations, instead of working in a salaried position in a permanent location like a staff nurse. The travel nurse visits hospitals, clinics or other health care facilities to offer their services for the duration of their contract, which is usually short-term employment. Travel nurses usually have a specialty niche, such as:

  • Emergency room (ER)

  • Intensive care unit (ICU)

  • Operating room (OR)

  • Women's health, labor and delivery

  • Cardiovascular care

  • Long-term and acute care

  • Pediatrics

Although a hospital or clinic employs a staff nurse, a travel nurse seeks temporary positions or may work with a staffing agency to find contractual positions. The recruiter seeks placement for the travel nurse by considering their experience, credentials, certifications, licensure and placement preferences. Travel nurses generally work 40 hours per week, but their schedules can vary depending on where they work. The standard travel nurse contract is 13 weeks, but contracts can last between eight and 26 weeks. After a contract ends, the nurse may choose to extend the contract, take time off or seek a different placement.

Related: How To Become a Travel Nurse in 7 Steps (Salary Info and Tips)

9 pros of travel nursing

There are many advantages to becoming a travel nurse if you're an independent and adventurous person who enjoys exploring new places and seeking a variety of different experiences. Here are some benefits of becoming a travel nurse:

1. Earn a high salary and unique benefits

Travel nurses usually earn somewhat higher salaries than staff nurses. Staff nurses earn an average of $93,676 per year, while travel nurses earn an average of $133,376 per year. Travel nurses also receive tax-free benefits for lodging and travel when they're living away from their home state. Health care facilities or staffing agencies for nurses may offer other incentives to travel nurses, especially during times of high demand. Travel nurses may also receive sign-on bonuses, airfare reimbursements, health insurance coverage, furnished housing and catered meals.

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the links provided.

Read more: 9 Highest-Paying Travel Nursing Jobs To Consider Pursuing

2. Experience travel opportunities

Travel nursing offers the opportunity to work and live in a variety of locations in the United States and across the world. When traveling to a job destination, you can also visit other areas of interest along the way. Travel nurses can try to find positions in specific locations they would like to visit. Generally, travel nurses can explore open positions in a variety of places and choose the most desirable locations.

3. Explore different living environments

Besides visiting different parts of the country, travel nursing allows the unique opportunity to experience different living environments. At each location, many travel nurses opt to rent furnished homes or apartments through their staffing agency, and they usually stay for at least three months. If travel nurses prefer to secure their housing, the staffing agency often provides them with a tax-free housing stipend.

Related: FAQ: What Is a Travel Nurse Housing Stipend? (Plus Salary Info)

4. Work in different facilities

Travel nurses can work in a variety of settings, which can range from small rural hospitals to large medical centers. Conversely, staff nurses often work at the same job and facility with the same people, so travel can find more variance in their work environment. As they develop their personal preferences, travel nurses also can seek more opportunities in the types of workplaces they prefer.

5. Have flexibility between assignments

Travel nursing often allows greater flexibility than many other professions. Upon completing their contract, a travel nurse may arrange their next appointment to follow immediately, or they may decide to take a break before committing to another contract. Travel nurses can directly control their income and work-life balance by choosing when and where to work.

Related: Guide: 8-Week Nursing Travel Assignments and Rapid Response Travel Nursing

6. Live an interesting lifestyle

Traveling to different locations, living in different places for months at a time and taking time off as they want to allow travel nurses to design a unique and interesting lifestyle for themselves. They're able to sample the different cultures and lifestyles of different regions across the U.S. and meet a variety of people. Travel nurses also can work in localities close to their homes, so these professionals can settle in a particular state or area.

7. Witness unique professional experiences

Travel nurses can enjoy working in different environments over the year, which provides them with unique professional experiences. Staff nurses, unlike travel nurses, may routinely perform the same duties and tasks in the same place of employment. Travel nurses may learn new skills to perform their job duties at different locations. They also get to witness a variety of ways to perform nursing tasks at the various health care systems where they work.

Related: What You Need To Know About Becoming a Travel Nurse

8. Find professional networking opportunities

Travel nurses can create and develop a large professional network because they get to work in a variety of health care settings in several places. They can meet and work with many professionals and specialists in the medical field. They can also make industry contacts in many areas across the country. Developing a professional network can help travel nurses advance their careers and form lasting relationships.

9. Obtain job placements and benefits from recruitment agencies

Travel nurse staffing and recruitment agencies are available to help nurses find suitable positions. The staffing agencies often provide resources to their clients and listings of hospital positions for travel nurses. They also often help clients secure housing and make travel arrangements. Some travel nurse agencies provide benefits packages similar to what staff nurses receive, such as:

  • Overtime pay

  • Hospital or agency bonuses

  • Health and dental insurance

  • 401(k) plans

  • Tuition reimbursement

  • Paid licensure fees

  • Sick pay

Related: Your Guide to International Travel Nursing (Duties, Salary and How To Become One)

6 cons of travel nursing

Pros and cons of travel nursing depend on an individual's preferences, but some professionals may consider the following to be drawbacks of the profession:

1. Pack and move frequently

If you're considering a career as a travel nurse, you may move frequently, often several times a year. While some contracts may receive extensions, it's common for travel nurses to change locations as much as four times per year. Some nursing professionals may be reluctant to travel and live in different places frequently because they manage logistics, changes in weather and cultural and language barriers. If you enjoy moving, meeting new people and being able to explore new places, this may appeal to you.

Related: New Grad Travel Nurse Tips (Plus Career FAQ)

2. Have increased vehicle maintenance

Travel nurses who use a personal vehicle to drive to their assignments may experience increased vehicle maintenance. They may often drive hundreds of miles between assignments. Because of this, these nursing professionals keep their cars in good condition by following standard maintenance practices. Many people enjoy driving and spending time in a car, so this might not be a drawback to some professionals.

3. Earn an inconsistent salary

Travel nurses receive varying pay for each contractual position based on various factors, such as their location, job specifications and employer. This means their wages may fluctuate, affecting their budget plan. Also, travel nurses get paid only when they're working within a contract, which usually lasts for three months. Because these nurses enjoy the flexibility of setting their schedules and often earn more money than staff nurses, they can use this to their advantage.

Related: States With the Highest Salary for a Travel Registered Nurse

4. Go through frequent job searches and interviews

When a contract expires, the travel nurse can seek an extension of their contract or find their next position. If a travel nurse intends to work steadily, this often entails pursuing the following contract a few weeks after a new contract begins. They may interview as a new employee for each contract, which can involve performing job searches and interviews several times a year. For professionals who enjoy finding new challenges and experiencing new work environments, this may be an appealing option.

Related: 41 Travel Nurse Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

5. Earn multiple state licenses

Travel nurses obtain licensure in each state in which they practice. This requires the travel nurse to plan for contractual positions to acquire a license for an upcoming position before the contract begins. Some states offer temporary licenses, which is an option for short-term nursing contracts. There's also a compact multiple-state license, which is a popular choice for many travel nurses that allows them to practice in 25 states with one license.

6. Receive varying benefits

As contract professionals, travel nurses may have varying benefits depending on their location of employment. Many travel nursing agencies create benefits packages to make it more attractive for travel nurses to work through them, but nurses who seek positions without going through an agency may lack this benefit. Consider researching your options carefully before signing a contract to ensure you can secure your preferred benefits.

Related: FAQ: Traveling RN Jobs

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Tips for becoming a travel nurse

Follow these tips to help you become a travel nurse and have a successful career:

Pursue certifications in your specialized area

Obtaining multiple certifications and specialized training can make you a more desirable candidate and improve your wage negotiation options. Here are some examples of certifications that are valuable for travel nurses:

  • Certified Nurse Operating Room (CNOR)

  • Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN)

  • Certified Nephrology Nurse (CNN)

  • Certified Post-Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN)

Read more: Nursing Certifications: What You Need To Know

Keep digital and physical documents organized

Try to keep your documents organized in digital and physical formats. It also can help to create a folder for all work-related documentation. When you work with staffing agencies, each requires copies of nursing licenses, certifications and other documents, such as photos of your driver's licenses. Consider keeping your resume current and accessible, and creating a digital and physical folder for these forms makes it easy to access them.

Related: How To Organize Your Paperwork in 7 Steps

Develop efficient packing techniques

Try to devise ways to become more efficient at packing because you relocate several times per year. This can include creating a packing checklist and updating it with each move. Researching packing tips can save you a lot of time and frustration in the future.

Build relationships with other travel nurses

Consider connecting with other travel nurses and building relationships with them. There are online communities for travel nurses where you can discuss travel nursing with other nursing professionals. These networks provide camaraderie, advice, tips and many other resources for travel nurses. Try to develop a network of fellow travel nurses to foster a support system for your career.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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