Being a travel nurse offers adventures and freedoms that other jobs can never give you, but the lifestyle isn’t always easy. The challenges facing travel nurses often entail demanding schedules, high-stress work environments, and the use of specialized medical equipment for different workplaces. The rewards can be personally and financially significant, but anyone considering a career as a travel nurse should have some idea of what to expect.
Expect to Travel, for Better or Worse
Travel nurses do just that; they travel to provide patient care, whether this means filling in for understaffed hospitals throughout a state or several states, providing nursing care on helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft, or visiting private patients in their homes. Stability is a common issue for many travel nurses as they often change workplaces frequently and may not remain in one area for very long. Travel can be a great experience that allows a nurse to see new places and meet new people, but it can also be very isolating to spend the majority of time away from friends and family.
The Pay Can Be Better, But Not Always
Travel nurses generally make more money in states that pay Registered Nurses below the national average. In states like California that pay RNs more, travel nurses generally make less than they would in other states. Travel nurses may work through a staffing agency or as independent contractors. In either case, there is definitely an opportunity to make more money as a travel nurse than an RN in a static position at a hospital. Travel nursing also allows nurses to avoid the usual workplace politics that arise in many hospitals.
Flexibility Is a Given and New Experiences Are Unavoidable
Some nurses enjoy building rapports with patients as they provide long-term care. Others thrive in challenging workplaces like trauma centers and emergency rooms. Travel nurses must be flexible and adaptable, ready to work in life-or-death situations in unfamiliar territory. These nurses often glean new techniques and learn from every new workplace they visit, cultivating skills that could be useful in the future and touching new technology and processes they would never experience otherwise.
Travel Nursing Means Options
Travel nursing is also flexible in that it does not have to be a permanent employment situation; a travel nurse can essentially try the lifestyle before committing to it by working independently or through an agency that coordinates temporary employment contracts. If travel nursing does not work out as expected, a travel nurse can add the time spent travel nursing to his or her resume and apply for a hospital position instead. There is never a commitment to stay, and travel nurses can generally choose how much time off they take between assignments.
Travel nursing absolutely offers unique benefits and can often lead to much higher pay than hospital nursing positions, but it demands a specific personality and commitment to a variable, inconsistent lifestyle. If you want to travel, help provide medical care to underserved populations, or simply want to add unique work experiences to your resume, travel nursing may be ideal for you. Ultimately, if the paperwork and job search facets become too much, it is still valuable work experience for anyone pursuing a nursing career.