Travel Nurse

Travel nurses work with agencies that broker nursing jobs in short-term increments, giving them one of the most flexible healthcare career paths. Assignments vary in length, but most travel nurses accept contracts in 8 to 26 week increments. To become a travel nurse, you must earn at least an Associate of Science in Nursing degree, and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Most agencies expect nurses to have at least a year of clinical experience, preferably in a hospital setting. Additional certification credentials are useful, as many of these positions are within specialties that require additional training.

The nationwide nursing shortage makes this a viable career path for full- or part-time nurses anywhere. This could be appealing to those who prefer working in brief bursts instead of full-time employment, or to adventurous nurses who enjoy traveling. The opportunity to work in a variety of specialties and clinical settings is an ideal way to develop a well-rounded nursing skill set and explore new work environments.

Meet a Travel Nurse

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What Does a Travel Nurse Do?

Agencies and contracts differ, but travel nursing positions are commonly offered in thirteen 40-hour work weeks. Hiring entities begin each contract with an orientation period lasting several days. Once deployed on your assignment, your work schedule is designed to give you time to periodically return to your residence. For example, you may be asked to work four 10-hour shifts, leaving three days available for travel or local exploration.

Travel nursing agencies routinely offer compensation and benefits packages that are unrivaled in other industries.

Because the nature of the work is transient, travel nursing pays quite well. Many traveling RNs find that shorter assignments pay more than longer, more secure contracts. Some contracts are renewable; others pay a bonus at the end of the period. As a rule, benefits packages are thorough, and often include medical, dental and vision coverage. Some agencies also offer 401(k) savings plans and free continuing education options.

Salaries for these positions usually include lodging costs, which makes short-term work in a new area a feasible option. For many traveling RNs, this perk is one of the most appealing benefits of their job. Agencies provide a handful of housing options, generally from properties that they own or have a partnership with. Alternatively, some agencies pay a cash stipend that can be used to secure housing of your choice.

Potential Work Settings

  • Teaching hospitals
  • Research hospitals
  • Community hospitals
  • Community health centers
  • Emergency rooms
  • Urgent care facilities
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Nursing homes

Skills

Open-Minded

All healthcare facilities have established the systems, organizational methods, communication styles and workflows that work best for them. To find success as a traveling nurse, it’s important to be receptive to new ideas. For example, administrative practices can vary widely between institutions. The ability to go with the flow will make your assignment pass smoothly, and you could also pick up useful tricks of the trade.

Compassionate

Compassion is the cornerstone of nursing, and patients in all specialties need to know that their discomfort and illness is acknowledged. Distraught family members also benefit from the gentle reassurance that you’re doing everything you can to help the patient.

Interpersonal Skills

Wherever you are, you’ll spend most of each day in contact with patients, families and colleagues. Because you’ll be employed on a short-term basis for each assignment, you’ll have new supervisors on a regular basis. Successful travel nurses are able to communicate effectively during every encounter, working alongside a variety of personalities.

Adaptability

The nature of travel nursing requires that you adjust to a new facility, co-workers, supervisors and patients at each job. Outside of the workplace, you must also accustom yourself to new living arrangements and a new area to call home. The ability to quickly adapt to new surroundings is essential for your success and long-term happiness in this field.

Physical and Emotional Health

Frequent relocation, along with a smooth transition into each new assignment, requires considerable mental and physical energy. In order to meet your work obligations with as little disruption as possible, you must have the stamina to manage these transitions. Good health, backed by healthy lifestyle choices and a stable emotional outlook, is a must for travel nurses.

Travel Nurse Information and Job Outlook

How much do travel nurses make?

$46,390+$59,370+$72,350+$85,320+
Travel Nurse: Average Salary by State This map presents average annual salary for the occupation Travel Nurse in each state in the U.S. Average Annual Salary in HI: $96,990 HI Average Annual Salary in AK: $87,510 AK Average Annual Salary in FL: $64,890 FL Average Annual Salary in NH: $70,040 NH Average Annual Salary in MI: $69,120 MI Average Annual Salary in VT: $69,560 VT Average Annual Salary in ME: $65,890 ME Average Annual Salary in RI: $76,650 RI Average Annual Salary in NY: $83,450 NY Average Annual Salary in PA: $69,820 PA Average Annual Salary in NJ: $82,010 NJ Average Annual Salary in DE: $73,180 DE Average Annual Salary in MD: $75,250 MD Average Annual Salary in VA: $67,990 VA Average Annual Salary in WV: $60,380 WV Average Annual Salary in OH: $65,500 OH Average Annual Salary in IN: $62,450 IN Average Annual Salary in IL: $72,090 IL Average Annual Salary in CT: $80,200 CT Average Annual Salary in WI: $69,200 WI Average Annual Salary in NC: $62,560 NC Average Annual Salary in MA: $89,330 MA Average Annual Salary in TN: $60,050 TN Average Annual Salary in AR: $58,810 AR Average Annual Salary in MO: $63,300 MO Average Annual Salary in GA: $66,750 GA Average Annual Salary in SC: $63,630 SC Average Annual Salary in KY: $61,530 KY Average Annual Salary in AL: $57,890 AL Average Annual Salary in LA: $63,560 LA Average Annual Salary in MS: $57,700 MS Average Annual Salary in IA: $57,930 IA Average Annual Salary in MN: $77,540 MN Average Annual Salary in OK: $61,640 OK Average Annual Salary in TX: $72,070 TX Average Annual Salary in NM: $69,840 NM Average Annual Salary in KS: $59,940 KS Average Annual Salary in NE: $62,210 NE Average Annual Salary in SD: $57,010 SD Average Annual Salary in ND: $63,140 ND Average Annual Salary in WY: $64,900 WY Average Annual Salary in MT: $66,280 MT Average Annual Salary in CO: $72,570 CO Average Annual Salary in ID: $64,520 ID Average Annual Salary in UT: $63,050 UT Average Annual Salary in AZ: $75,110 AZ Average Annual Salary in NV: $84,980 NV Average Annual Salary in OR: $88,770 OR Average Annual Salary in WA: $79,810 WA Average Annual Salary in CA: $102,700 CA

  • Median Hourly Wage: $35.36
  • Salary: $73,550

Source: Data taken from The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed: July 2018.

Employment of RNs

Industries With the Highest Levels of Employment for RNs (Including Travel Nurses)

Industry Employment Percent of Industry Employment Annual Mean Wage
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 1,685,820 30.64 $75,820
Offices of Physicians 196,040 7.69 $66,890
Home Health Care Services 179,310 12.84 $70,230
Nursing Care Facilities 155,450 9.59 $65,710
Outpatient Care Centers 132,070 15.00 $75,680
Source: BLS, 2017

Industries With the Highest Concentration of Employment for RNs (Including Travel Nurses)

Industry Employment Percent of Industry Employment Annual Mean Wage
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 1,685,820 30.64 $75,820
Specialty (Except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals) 62,310 23.98 $77,290
Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals 39,100 16.33 $71,290
Outpatient Care Centers 132,070 15.00 $75,680
Home Health Care Services 179,310 12.84 $70,230
Source: BLS, 2017

Travel Nurse Resources

Nursing Programs

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