There’s been a nursing shortage in many areas of the U.S. for decades now, leading the concept of travel nursing which began in the late 1970s, but it became more widespread during the ‘80s as a temporary solution, with more and more healthcare facilities hiring temporary, travel nurses to help fill the gap. Another reason it took off was to meet seasonal demands in places like Arizona and Florida where many retirees head during the winter. Travel nursing has continued to grow in popularity ever sense, becoming a desirable option for many nurses seeking a different career path.
Being a travel nurse, working in a short-term, usually for a three-month or 13-week period, at a hospital, clinic or other healthcare facility in destinations around the country, can be an outstanding career choice, particularly for RNs who have a minimum of 12 months experience.
While there are many perks to become a travel nurse, these are some of the most common reasons nurses choose this career path.
The most obvious reason to become a travel nurse is to travel. For those with an adventurous spirit who want to see the country, the opportunity is especially enticing. In this role, you can choose where to take your assignments and the agency will pay for you to get there, allowing you to explore everywhere from New York to Florida, California, and even Hawaii or Alaska, from small towns to big cities. You’ll get paid to vacation and live in destinations you want to visit. While you’ll obviously have to work, you can use your time off to play tourist.
Travel nurses work hard, but they’re also compensated very well, typically earning much more than their stationary counterparts. Hourly pay rates are generous and may include additional compensation for working in underserved areas such as sign-on bonuses or extra benefits. If you work overtime and/or have a specialty, you’ll earn even more. Many travel nurse companies offer referral bonuses to RNs who refer their friends too, bringing yet another avenue for earning more. With the total package including free furnished housing or a housing stipend, it’s hard to beat the financial stability and peace of mind travel nursing brings, perhaps providing the ability to pay those student loans off or save for retirement.
When you work at various facilities, from rural hospitals to top research institution, you’ll naturally pick up new skills and techniques along the way. It’s a great opportunity for nurses to expand their resumes while enjoying exciting new experiences. It showcases your ability to adapt easily while proving that you’re up for a challenge and ready to learn, making it easier to land the most coveted jobs. You’ll be able to expand your professional network too, so that when and if you decide to settle down and take a permanent position, you’ll have more inside connections for doing so. Working at a teaching hospital brings the chance to participate in experimental treatments and provides experience working with medical residents who are still in the process for learning. Once you get your foot in the door at once of these facilities, it will open all kinds of doors at other teaching hospitals.
Travel nursing also provides the freedom to choose your own schedule. If you’re a night person, you can choose to work only swing or night shifts, for example, or perhaps decide to work three 12-hour shifts in a row so that you’ll have four days off each week. With most assignments spanning 13 weeks, in between jobs you can take off as much time as you like, taking that dream trip through Europe if you choose. Maybe you’ll decide to work three months in Hawaii or Florida during the winter, spend the spring in New York, the summer in Alaska and the fall in New England. If you find yourself falling in love with a particular destination, oftentimes you can extend your assignment and stick around longer. It’s hard to beat the flexibility and freedom that comes with being a travel nurse.
Interested in learning more about what it takes to become a travel nurse? Check out our Travel Nurse Bootcamp for more information on housing, pay, and benefits!