Are you interested in a career in nursing but also want to see the world and expand your horizons? Then a career in travel nursing may be right for you. Travel nurses are specialized medical professionals who fill assignments at various hospitals and medical facilities across the country or even around the world.
These facilities often bring in travel nurses to fill staffing shortages or meet short-term staffing needs—working with recruiters and recruitment agencies to find just the right placements.
As you can probably imagine, there's a lot more that goes into working as a travel nurse than meets the eye. Before you decide whether this career path may be right for you, there are some things you should know.
The Exciting World of Travel Nursing
There are many reasons to pursue travel nursing jobs, from the job perks and educational opportunities to the ability to explore different parts of the world.
Why Choose Travel Nursing?
One of the main reasons nursing students go on to become travel nurses after they graduate is the pay; we'll get into this in more detail later in this blog post, but travel nurses tend to make higher salaries because they are generally filling a staffing gap or another specific, short-term need. As a result, this can be a great opportunity for recent nursing graduates to make some extra money and pay off any remaining student loan debt that they may be carrying.
In addition to lucrative pay, travel nurses may also enjoy free (or discounted) housing during their contracts. It is not uncommon for recruiting agencies to include housing as part of the job offer, which can save travel nurses the stress and hassle of trying to find their own living arrangements during their contract.
Working as a travel nurse also allows you to see different parts of the world while doing a job where you can truly feel like you're making a difference every day. As a travel nurse, you can pick and choose which assignments you want to take on, so you can pursue your own passions and interests. Meanwhile, you can enjoy some excellent hands-on opportunities that you can use to build your resume for future work.
Finally, when you work as a travel nurse, you can broaden your work experience while avoiding some of the unwanted hospital politics and other issues that can go along with working full-time at a single facility.
The Impact of Travel Nurses in Healthcare
Travel nurses play an undoubtedly vital role in healthcare. They are typically brought in when a facility is experiencing a staffing shortage that needs to be addressed or when some kind of public health crisis causes a sharp increase in demand for additional healthcare workers. These nurses are essential to filling these gaps while providing skilled, compassionate care.
All of this is especially relevant when you consider the current nursing shortage that has impacted not just the United States, but healthcare across the entire globe. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for registered nurses is expected to grow by 6 percent between 2022 and 2032, faster than the national average for all occupations.
Unfortunately, nurses and other healthcare professionals left their jobs in droves during the "Great Resignation" of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, there is a huge labor gap in the nursing field that travel nurses are playing a major role in filling.
What Can I Expect During the First Year as a Travel Nurse?
If you're interested in working as a travel nurse, you might be wondering what to expect. First and foremost, understand that nurses work directly for recruiting agencies—not for the hospitals or medical facilities. You'll need to find the right recruiter (or recruiters) to help you find the right opportunities that suit your interests and experience. Some travel nursing jobs, for example, may require you to have certain licenses or certifications, and the right recruiter can help match you with roles that fit your qualifications.
Once you find a travel nursing job you're interested in, you can apply for it through your agency. If you are chosen for the job, you'll receive a contract including details of the arrangement, such as pay, housing, stipends, and the length of the contract.
When you arrive at your destination to fulfill your contract, you'll generally receive a short orientation that includes a tour of the facility and a chance to meet some of your colleagues. From there, you can expect to get to work right away in your assigned role.
Travel nurse contracts can vary greatly in length, but most are filled for periods of a few months at a time.
Insight Into Travel Nursing Salaries
You might be wondering what kind of salary you can expect to make as a travel nurse. Ultimately, the salary range for a travel nurse can vary based on factors ranging from the length of the contract to the nature of the work. In general, however, the pay offered to travel nurses is competitive because many travel nurses are filling critical staffing gaps. In other words, agencies need to offer high pay to attract the right candidates.
How Does Travel Nursing Salary Differ From Regular Nursing?
So, how does the salary of a travel nurse differ from that of a "traditional" nurse? According to Indeed, the average salary for international travel nurses is $109,185 per year. However, actual salary will vary wildly based on the aforementioned factors.
In addition to higher starting salaries, there may be additional compensation benefits that come along with a travel nursing contract. Some agencies, for example, may offer bonuses, per diems, or reimbursements for things like travel and meals. These payments also tend to be tax-free, which is an additional bonus to consider for this type of work.
Some agencies also include housing as part of a travel nurse's contract, which saves these professionals more money and eliminates the stress of trying to find temporary housing. If you prefer to find your own housing as a travel nurse, many agencies are willing to provide a stipend to help offset the cost of living.
Can You Choose Your Destination as a Travel Nurse?
Another common question people have about working as a travel nurse is whether you get to choose your destination. In some ways, you can. That's because you are never obligated to take a certain role or apply for a certain contract if it's not in a part of the world you wish to live and work.
Likewise, if there is a certain country or part of the world that you would like to visit as a travel nurse, you can pass this information along to your recruiter. If the right opportunity arises, you can be among the first to be notified and considered for the position. While this doesn't guarantee you'll get to work exactly where you want, it does improve your chances. In this sense, you do have the power to be a bit choosy when it comes to the assignments and roles you take on.
The Perks and Benefits of Being a Travel Nurse
There are so many perks to working as a travel nurse, from the potential for a higher salary to the ability to sightsee and serve patients across the globe. As a travel nurse, you'll gain valuable experience that will help you diversify your skill set. This, in turn, may make it easier for you to find more permanent nursing work down the road. Many agencies will also help travel nurses when it comes to maintaining their licensure requirements and other certifications, which can be helpful in advancing your career.
Overcoming Challenges in Travel Nursing
Of course, working as a travel nurse comes with some inherent challenges. One of the biggest challenges travel nurses report is simply finding the right opportunities; this is where having the right recruiter can make all the difference. In fact, many successful travel nurses end up working with more than one recruiting agency so they can stay on top of opportunities as they arise.
Another potential challenge of working in travel nursing is having to pack up and move often. This can make it difficult to get established, regularly see family, and make long-lasting friendships. In some cases, the work of a travel nurse may get lonely, but keeping in touch with friends back home and making an effort to form new friendships at your destination can be helpful.
Some travel nurses also find managing contracts, healthcare, and retirement benefits challenging. Not all agencies offer healthcare and retirement benefits—and even the ones that do can be confusing. You will need a fair amount of financial literacy to understand and adjust to all the nuances of the salary and benefits of travel nurse jobs, which may be a turn-off for some.
Finally, as a travel nurse, you must always be thinking about your next job or contract. This can be an uneasy feeling for those who prefer the stability and predictability of a full-time, permanent position. As your travel nurse contract comes to an end (usually every few months), you'll need to be on the lookout for the next opportunity. Some can find this stressful, so it is something to consider if you're thinking about a career in travel nursing.
Is Travel Nursing Right for You?
Do you enjoy new experiences? If you don't mind a bit of moving around, you may be cut out for the life of a travel nurse. It's not uncommon for new nursing school grads to spend a few years working travel nurse jobs before they decide to "settle down."
Travel nursing is just one of many things you can do with a degree in nursing—with other potential jobs including neonatal nurse, licensed practical nurse (LPN), and registered nurse (RN). No matter what your nursing career aspirations may be, University of the Cumberlands is here to help. Our Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) could help prepare you for the NCLEX-RN and a wide range of rewarding jobs in the field—and it takes just 43 credit hours to complete.