If you are a clinician, chances are good that you have heard the two magical words “travel nurse”. Temporary nurses are increasingly being utilized everywhere in healthcare, especially during the pandemic as facilities are overwhelmed with patients.
You may very well work with travelers, and if you’re a nurse yourself, you might receive emails daily from recruiters trying to entice you to join the travel nursing jungle. Social media is loaded with travel nursing ads, too.
Travel nursing has gone from something only a few ventured into for the wanderlust lifestyle to an intriguing opportunity for veteran staff nurses…and they can make an insane amount of money in a short amount of time doing it.
So, what is a Travel Nurse?
A travel nurse is just as simple as it sounds: a nurse who travels to various facilities instead of accepting a staff position at one facility. Travel nurses help ensure facilities can meet all of their staffing ratios during seasonal spikes, leaves of absence, and/or maternity leave absences. In many cases, facilities are unable to find enough staff nurses in their local areas, so they are forced to pay more for travelers from outside the facility. The busiest time of year for the travel nursing industry traditionally is flu season.
Travel nurses typically accept assignments for 13 weeks at a time, on average. During these assignments, they help support the nation’s hospitals and provide excellent patient care while enjoying all the incredible adventures available at their new work locations. Changing facilities, units, and co-workers multiple times a year also equips many traveling healthcare professionals with broad skill sets and a wide range of clinical expertise.
Why are Travel Nurses Important?
Travel nurses are an important part of the care team at a hospital. Their main function to a health system is bridging the gap between workforce supply and demand for healthcare facilities to ensure adequate patient care. As we all know, there is a national nursing shortage. This only increases the need for travel nurses throughout the country. In fact, the number of travel nurses increases each year as more staff nurses seek to experiment with the lifestyle.
Travel nurses help hospitals in the following ways:
- Ensure adequate staffing ratios to promote positive patient outcomes
- Provide excellent patient care for patients during times of increased demand
- Allow hospitals to more accurately manage their workforce during the course of the year
- Provide relief to overburdened staff nurses
- Ensure that patients receive the clinical attention they need to promote patient satisfaction
What are the Requirements of a Travel Nurse?
A travel nurse is required to have an active Registered Nurse license. Most facilities will only accept a bachelor’s of science in nursing for a travel assignment. If you are an LPN or vocational nurse, there are accelerated programs you can participate in to obtain your bachelor’s of science in nursing degree.
Once you have obtained an active RN license, you must complete a minimum of one year of experience on your unit as a staff nurse, but most facilities want to see that you have two years of nursing experience before taking a travel assignment. You have to be able to hit the ground running in that same unit in a new facility.
In addition, for specialty floors and units, there may be certifications that are also required. For example, ACLS, BLS, or a PALS certification may be required. You can always further your certifications, if necessary.
Travel Nurse’s Salary and Benefits
Travel nurses, notably, make more money than staff nurses due to their ability to “up and move” and their flexibility in their schedules. They are filling a need for a hospital, so they are paid for their quick decision-making and willingness to travel. The agency you decide to work for will determine the exact pay rate and benefits. Oftentimes, travel nurses can make 2-4k a week, and are offered benefits from their agency. Benefits often include health insurance, housing stipends, referral bonuses, etc. Travel nurses give up stability and consistency in order to meet the needs of healthcare facilities around the country and therefore, are compensated for it.
Travel Nursing in a Pandemic
There is an atypically high demand for travel nurses right now because of the continuing pandemic. It comes as no surprise that healthcare facilities need more help than ever, especially in specialty units like ICU, telemetry, and the ER. Travel pay packages are skyrocketing. There are traveling nurses making upwards of $6,000 a week right now, with contracts available all over America. There is demand, and if you are a nurse who is looking to travel, it may be a perfect time for you to try it out!
Start Travel Nursing Now
We strongly encourage everyone to give travel nursing a try. If you have a registered nursing license, the options for traveling are endless after you obtain a year or two of experience on the floor. Becoming a travel nurse is easy if you know where to look for guidance; the most difficult part is choosing to travel somewhere new for thirteen weeks.
If you have a flexible home life and you are looking for a new adventure, travel nursing could be just the right fit for you. Have fun, work hard, and travel the world all while being paid well to do so. To make it easier to find available travel assignments, you can find and compare pay packages across the country on Wanderly. It’s just like Kayak.com, but for nurses looking for travel assignments.
Wanderly is a modern marketplace for travel nurses to view and compare fully-detailed pay packages, obtain assignment information, anonymously chat with travel nurse recruiters, and upload and store documentation. It’s available on desktop and on mobile for easy assignment review and submission. National Spokeswoman and nursing leader, Kelley Johnson, MSN, FNP-C, is also a member of the Wanderly leadership team.