Travel nursing is an exciting career that aligns nicely with the goals and lifestyles of many nurses. According to USA Today, demand for travel nurses has reached a 20-year high, largely due to localized nursing shortages that threaten the consistent delivery of patient care. A career in travel nursing suits nurses interested in travel opportunities, flexible scheduling, and generous compensation and benefits packages.
What Is Travel Nursing?
Travel nursing is when a nurse accepts a position at a location for a specific period of time. Each travel assignment is temporary and generally lasts eight to 26 weeks, depending upon the needs of the facility or employer.
Travel nurses fill critical patient care gaps at facilities where events such as extended staff illness or leave, staff education seminars, or significant fluctuations in patients seeking care create a shortage of staff nurses. Virtually all specialties and departments are represented, including emergency medicine, obstetrics, operating room and intensive care.
What Are the Benefits of Travel Nursing?
If you decide to pursue a career in travel nursing, you will most likely work with a staffing agency, and their benefits are often generous. While these can vary between agencies, many offer several of the following:
Free housing. When you are traveling to a new city every few months, trying to arrange and furnish lodging on your own quickly becomes a full-time endeavor. As a solution, many travel nursing agencies provide their employees with free furnished housing or a housing stipend.
Expense reimbursement. Expenses associated with your travel to and from assignments, whether that entails car rental fees, airfare or some other out-of-pocket travel costs, are usually reimbursed by the agency so long as receipts are provided.
Competitive salary. Although travel nursing is considered temporary employment, the pay is competitive when compared to that for staff nurses. According to April 2018 data from PayScale, the median annual salary for an entry-level travel nurse is $64,539, with the top 10 percent earning $93,000 or more. For comparison, entry-level registered nurses earn $56,077 annually, with the top 10 percent earning $77,000 or more, according to PayScale.
Benefits package. Medical, dental and vision coverage for yourself and dependents is available as well as retirement savings options.
Bonuses and incentive pay. Additional financial incentives, such as sign-on and completion bonuses and daily or monthly stipends for meals and other incidentals, may be available.
Licensing and continuing education. Staffing agencies frequently assist travel nurses with gaining licensure in other states and also reimburse associated fees. Many agencies provide continuing education resources or tuition reimbursement programs as well.
The personal and professional benefits of being a travel nurse include:
Opportunities to explore new places. Travel nurses are needed throughout the country and several agencies operate in all 50 states. Your placements will largely depend on your willingness and ability to travel to various regions. If you have always dreamed of visiting Hawaii, for example, travel nursing can provide the means of doing so.
Chances to gain varied experience. Although travel nurses mainly work in hospital settings, they still experience a wide range of workplace variation. Diverse groups of coworkers in multiple settings -- from large metropolitan facilities to smaller rural hospitals -- allow you to expand existing clinical skills and strengthen interpersonal communication.
Flexible scheduling. Travel nurses gain significant scheduling flexibility that is not typically available to staff nurses. Besides being able to choose assignments based on the commitment length, you also have the option to take time off between contracts.
How Do You Become a Travel Nurse?
To become a travel nurse, you will need to connect with a staffing agency that specializes in travel nursing. While each agency has its own employment qualifications, generally nurses must have at least one year of experience and maintain a current license as well as applicable nursing specialty certifications.
Travel nursing is an enticing career for those interested in exploring the country and gaining work experience in different healthcare settings. Beyond the generous benefits and flexibility, travel nurses have the opportunity to develop new and expanded skill sets, achieve personal and professional goals, and also address critical gaps in patient care.
Learn more about the LSUA online RN to BSN program.
Sources:USA Today: Demand for Travel Nurses Hits a 20-Year High
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