If you’re a registered nurse looking for a job change, travel nursing may just be the answer. With opportunities to travel across the country and develop new skills, working as a travel nurse is an exciting prospect for many RNs. Before you make the switch, though, check out our guide below to learn more about travel nursing, its benefits, and whether a career as a travel nurse is right for you.
Travel nursing refers to short-term or long-term temporary nursing assignments at healthcare facilities, as opposed to permanent staff jobs. Travel nurses have the same education, experience, and licensing as staff nurses—the only difference is they fulfill their nursing duties during temporary assignments that can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Additionally, nurses who travel often work with a travel nursing recruiter or travel nursing agency to find job opportunities across the country.
The healthcare industry has seen wavering job satisfaction among permanent staff nurses since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. As a result, many RNs either left the industry or began seeking new opportunities with better pay and better experiences.
Not only has this nursing shortage led to healthcare facilities throughout the U.S. being understaffed, but it has also negatively impacted the growing demand for nursing specialties, such as ICU, ER, and OR. With healthcare providers in big cities and rural areas alike needing to fill gaps in their nursing staff, travel nursing has emerged as a beneficial solution for both the facilities and the nurses.
With travel nursing jobs, facilities can address staff needs during high-demand times of the year, and nurses are able to find the best job opportunities suited to their career, financial, or location goals.
If you like exploring new places and experiencing different cultures, then you’ll love travel nursing. Being able to live in new cities, states, and regions is one of the top reasons to become a travel nurse. During your time off, you can take advantage of being in a new location by going sightseeing, visiting historical landmarks, checking out outdoor recreation spots, and more. Plus, travel can be beneficial for mental health, which makes it even more worthwhile for nurses who need a change of pace with their careers.
Burnout is widespread among RNs, with 81% of nurses reporting feelings of burnout. If you’re tired of staying in one place and keeping to the same routine, travel nursing might be the ideal career change. A travel nurse job gives you regular changes of scenery and schedule, both of which can help combat burnout. Also, working with new people on a regular basis can help you learn new skills or improve upon your existing ones, which can help you feel more engaged with your profession.
As a traveling nurse, you can expand all aspects of your nursing skills. From people skills gained by spending time in new places around new people to more technical skills gained by working alongside healthcare experts across the country, travel nursing presents endless learning opportunities. Whether you choose a nursing assignment with a clinic in a big city or with a hospital in a small city, travel assignments can give you exposure to emerging patient care methods and different EHR or EMR systems.
Another perk of becoming a travel nurse is that it’s a great resume-builder. Compared to permanent staff nurses, travel nurses can experience everything from large research facilities to rural critical access hospitals over the course of their travel healthcare careers. Additionally, since travel nursing contracts can be as short as 8 weeks up to as long as 26 weeks, this invaluable experience can be gained quickly, as you can change assignments and move to new locations multiple times within a year.
Because of the ongoing nursing shortage, travel nurses are in high demand. There are always at-need facilities to be found across the country, with assignments of varying lengths to fit your travel job preferences. This means travel nursing can provide both flexibility and security for nurses looking for a career change. Also, with the help of travel nurse recruiters, finding assignments is even easier.
Typically, the salary for a travel nurse is much higher than that of a permanent staff nurse. According to Indeed, travel nurses receive an average base pay of $2,167 per week. Some facilities may offer higher pay rates for certain nursing specialties, experiences, or different contract lengths. You can also get great benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, housing assistance, and additional financial compensation in the form of sign-on or referral bonuses when you work as a travel nurse.
Though your career is largely in your hands, working with a travel nursing agency can provide you with more advocacy than you might get in a permanent staff position. The recruiters and support teams behind travel agencies work hard to help their RNs find the best professional opportunities for career goals, lifestyle preferences, family needs, financial growth, continued education, and more.
Making a career change is no small decision. Before deciding whether becoming a travel nurse is right for you, consider the following questions:
People get into nursing for a variety of reasons—from helping people and making an impact on the community to expanding skillsets and experiencing different places. What’s most important for your nursing career? Is it continued education and skill development? Is it getting the opportunity to work in new locations with new people? Is it finding better pay and benefits? While travel nursing can align with all of these goals, it’s a good idea to determine what aspects of a career change matter most to you.
To work as a travel nurse, you typically need at least 1-2 years of experience in your specialty. You also must have BLS certification, the proper credentials, and licensure in the state where you’ll be working. In other words, if you’ve recently graduated from a college or university and haven’t yet gained experience in your nursing specialty, you don’t qualify to work as a travel nurse. Additionally, some states and facilities only allow RNs and LPNs to accept travel assignments, meaning CNAs won’t qualify.
While traveling can provide an exciting change of pace, the travel nurse lifestyle may not suit everyone. For instance, living in temporary housing may not be ideal if you prefer to keep a more permanent home base. Or maybe you have kids or pets who require more stability and consistency, which could make the logistics of travel assignments more difficult to manage. That said, with the right planning and support, a career in travel nursing can work for people from all walks of life.
With over 25 years as a nursing staffing agency, TRS Healthcare can provide the support you need to refresh your nursing career. As an RN-founded company, we’re dedicated to helping our nurses customize their travel journeys with career goals in mind. Get in touch with a recruiter today so we can help you achieve something bigger!