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Responsibilities of a Travel Nurse: Duties and Requirements

You might have already heard the buzz about the exciting and adventurous job of travel nursing. Some of you may even be considering a career in the field, whereas some might only know a little bit about what a travel nurse is. If you want to find out the duties and responsibilities of a travel nurse, then you’ve come to the right place.

A travel nurse’s job is pretty much the same as that of a regular staff nurse. The most significant difference is that a single hospital employs staff nurses at a single place and travel nursing agencies recruit them. They fill in staff shortages anywhere in the country, sometimes even outside of it.

Another prominent aspect of travel nursing, which makes it lucrative for many, is the higher pay and benefits. Experienced travel nurses can make up to twice the annual salary of regular staff nurses at the same level.

Whether you’re a fresh graduate nurse looking to kick off your career, or a seasoned nurse looking for a change of gear. You first need to understand the requirements, duties, and responsibilities of a travel nurse.

Who Employs Travel Nurses?

Travel nurses are required to work at hospitals, health care facilities, or on individual assignments.

However, they are employed by a Travel Nurse Recruitment Agency . These agencies provide hospitals with a skilled workforce in times of staff shortages.

They also provide qualified help to remote and rural areas where adequate healthcare professionals are scarce or nonexistent.

Travel nurses can also act as independent contractors if they have sufficient marketing skills. This means they can reach out to employers and offer their services on their own, cutting off the agency from the middle.

In many cases, hospitals offer permanent positions to travel nurses at the end of their assignments. You may use this option if the offer is attractive enough, or you want to settle down.

Educational Requirements

A travel nurse’s educational requirements are the same as that of a regular registered nurse. It means you need to have a nursing diploma, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree.

While most travel nurse agencies hire R.N.s with a diploma or associated degree such as ADN or ASN, some require you to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. After one of these, you need to pass an initial licensure exam called NCLEX-RN and voila! You’re eligible to be a travel nurse.

Experience Requirements

After completing your education and passing your licensure exams, you need to get a couple of years of experience as a healthcare facility nurse. 

However, this requirement is not set in stone.

The recent surge in demand for travel nurses has reduced the experience requirement drastically. It is now at a point where an R.N. with just 4-6 months under their belt has enough experienced required for the job.

How Long Are The Assignments of Travel Nurse?

Travel nursing job assignments usually last 13 weeks. They can be shorter than that in certain circumstances. However, in cases of continued work shortages or emergencies, these assignments may get longer.

By the end of your assignment, you will get the option to either continue working on the same assignment or move to a new location. 

If the agency selects you for travel outside the country, then your assignments may be longer. Travel nurse jobs outside of the U.S. may last 1 to 2 years.

Therefore, You do not need to work during your assignment period continuously – time-off and holidays are available.

Make sure to discuss your days-off with your recruiter beforehand so your assignments can be scheduled accordingly without any objection to your allocated health facility.

Who Picks Your Assignments?

One of the perks of being a travel nurse is that you get to pick your assignments. Your recruiter will give you options to choose from, and in many cases, you have adequate freedom to select what you prefer from the choices available.

A good recruiter will never force you on an assignment or go behind your back to put you in an assignment. If your recruiter shows these red flags, it’s high time to look for another agency.

Lucky for you, there are plenty to choose from. Travel nursing jobs are at an all-time high, and there are many recruiting agencies offering good employee benefits.

Traveling and Lodging

While on a travel nurse assignment, the money you spend on tickets, fares, commute, fuel, lodging, and rent are all taken care of by your agency. It means that on top of earning higher than the average nurse, you also get to save a lot on various expenditures.

independently contracted travel nurses don’t afford such luxury. In this case, you might want to settle the matter of your travel and lodging expenses with your employer.

What You’ll Be Doing as a travel nurse

Roles and Responsibilities of a Travel Nurse | originnurses.com

Since travel nurses have the same qualifications as regular staff nurses, their duties and responsibilities are quite similar. Typical responsibilities of a travel nurse include:

Travel Nurse responsibilities: Assisting local staff with workload

This is perhaps one of the most crucial responsibilities of a travel nurse. In fact, it is the most prominent reason for the existence of travel nurse agencies.

When healthcare facilities, clinics, or hospitals face staff shortages during emergencies or staff going on leaves, they call in travel nurses fill those gaps. Travel nurses assist the in-house staff by sharing their workload.

Travel Nurse responsibilities: Working at schools

Schools employ nurses to attend to students’ medical needs. Some schools hire travel nurses for when their regular nurse is unavailable or as a cost-cutting measure.

Your job as a school nurse is to attend to sick or injured students, oversee or conduct vaccinations, identify the extent of illness or injury, decide the next steps, etc.

Travel Nurse responsibilities: Administering medication

Like a regular nurse, one of your duties is to administer and oversee medication and dosage. You may also need to train family members or servants about the patient’s medication and dosage.

As a nurse, you are qualified to carry out medication and infusions in recommended dosages. You are also responsible for making sure that they are administered at correct times. And to observe and report the effect of those dosages on the patient to the supervising doctor.

Travel Nurse responsibilities: Taking samples and readings

You will have to take and report readings and samples from a patient or patients on the assignment. Readings include blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and other perimeter monitoring the patient’s health.

You may also need to take blood, saliva, stool, and urine samples from a patient and dispatch them to relevant laboratories.

Travel Nurse responsibilities: Attending to patients under intensive care

While assigned to a hospital, your duties are similar to that of a staff nurse. It includes monitoring and attending to patients in ICUs.

Vigilance and alertness are the essential qualities of a travel nurse attending to a patient under intensive care. You need to be available at all times during your hours and must have the energy to perform at your best level from the start to the end of your shift.

Travel Nurse responsibilities: Conducting vaccination drives

Conducting vaccination is also one of many responsibilities of a travel nurse. Contagious diseases or viral infections require immunization via vaccination. Some remote parts may require you to carry our vaccination drives. 

Vaccination programs may be in the form of camps where people can visit and get vaccinated. However, they may also require you to walk door to door and administer the vaccination to people at home.

Travel Nurse responsibilities: Comforting elderly and terminally ill patients

All kinds of healthcare settings acquire services of travel nurses. These include hospices, rehabilitation centers, and old-homes. Such jobs require you to be tolerant and kind.

Patients who are terminally ill, recovering from addiction, or are just old can often be challenging to deal with. So, Make sure you know the correct way to behave in such an environment.

Am I Fit For this job?

travel nurse responsibilities | originnurses.com

Before venturing out on the road as a travel nurse, you need to be sure you have what it takes to live that life. To be a successful travel nurse, you need to be able to overcome inconveniences, such as:

Leaving your home for your job

As a travel nurse, you must be comfortable leaving your home, loved ones, and friends for long periods.

Life on the road can get lonely, and you must mentally prepare for that before heading out.

Travel nurses do get off days in which they may visit their families. Make sure you plan them right to make the most out of them.

Dealing with occasional cold behavior

A travel nurse is often seen as an outsider when called in to fill staff shortages. It takes some time for locals to warm up to you. Your personality plays a huge part in making your stay pleasant or miserable for yourself and your colleagues.

Getting unwanted duties

Don’t be surprised if they select difficult or unwanted jobs for you during your assignment. You have to realize that you are the outsider and low in the pecking order. You may have to put up with discriminatory behavior to an extent.

Such assignments are a part of the responsibilities of a travel nurse. You should learn to welcome challenges to succeed in this field.

Language and cultural barriers

There may be language barriers, cultural variation, differences in values and norms, etc. for you to deal with. Adaptability is the key ability of a travel nurse. It is much easier to spend your time blended in rather than sticking out.

Switching gears with every job assignment

Health care facilities frequently call upon travel nurses to fill in different positions. As a travel nurse, you should be able to switch gears and match the pace of the assigned duty.

Your job can put you in the fast-paced environment or the slow and morose environment of a hospice or old-home. 

A travel nurse should be flexible enough to work in any kind of environment if needed. It is an important skill to pick up to strengthen you in this field of work.

Frequent change of environment

When you work at a singular facility, you eventually learn the ropes and get well set with the work environment. This luxury is not available to a travel nurse. No two places are similar, and you may even face completely different working environments at each assignment.

Learning the layout

Every hospital and health facility has a different construction. Learning the layout of a hospital building can take some time. Make sure your unawareness of the hospital’s layout doesn’t hinder your duties as a nurse.

Try to procure a portable map of the complex. Ask the local staff for assistance if you’re confused or lost. An ability to memorize locations quickly is a bonus for a traveling nurse.

Working long hours

Nurses often work beyond their shift timings. Many hospitals may require a nurse to fill in extra hours in case of a high workload.

Therefore, as a travel nurse, you need to make sure you have the required stamina and energy to perform your duty beyond your regular duty hours.

Final Words

Travel nursing is an adventurous and exciting job with lots of variation and opportunities to learn. The responsibilities of A travel Nurse are slightly more demanding than that of a travel nurse. But luckily you get compensated for that spectacularly.

The life of a traveling nurse has its challenges. But with patience, flexibility, and adaptability, you can eventually overcome those minor obstacles. And start to enjoy your life as a travel nurse.

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What Does a Travel Nurse Do? Job Description, FAQs, and More

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Table of Contents

Travel nurses are known to have exciting careers. From the very first opportunity to travel, a Registered Nurse is able to choose where they go throughout the United States and are in for the ride of a lifetime! Are you curious about starting your travel nurse career? Being a part of the nursing profession gives you the opportunity to choose your career nationwide and join the many other travel nurses across the US. This may be just what you’re looking for. Do you want to learn about other cultures and regional nursing? Does it excite you to consider living outside of your comfort zone? Want to make more money? Keep reading.

How to Become a Travel Nurse

After securing your RN license through an accredited nursing program and licensure through the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination), it’s important to consider the route you would like to take to get to your goal of becoming a travel nurse. If you just completed nursing school, you will want to first get a job in the acute healthcare setting instead of a job in the outpatient environment. A hospital job within your specialty will make you more marketable versus a job at local community health center. If you are an experienced RN, you’ve likely worked alongside travel nurses at your current healthcare organization. At a minimum, you’ve probably heard of a colleague or friend who left to start as a travel nurse.

But how do you become a travel nurse? To make it simple, having someone to guide you on this journey is beneficial. It allows you to relax, take a deep breath, and know that you’re on the right path to the type of nursing career you desire. The Travel Nurse Academy from Health Carousel Travel Nursing (HCTN) has all of your answers. As a preview of all this educational resource has to offer RNs interested in learning more about the world of a travel nurse—you will learn things like how housing and pay works, where travel nurses go , and more. It provides the career guidance you need to thrive in your first travel nurse role. You will complete the course with confidence as you will have all of the support you need. Hands-on support and travel nurse specialists are ready and willing to help you be successful in this career move.

A brief step-by-step list may include:

  • Obtain a nursing degree through an accredited nursing program
  • Take the NCLEX
  • Apply for nursing license
  • Obtain BLS and ACLS certification
  • Choose a specialty of interest and get experience
  • Reach out to a travel nursing agency and complete application
  • Work with a recruiter to find a good fit for your first assignment
  • Complete all onboarding paperwork

History of Travel Nurse

Where did the idea of nurses traveling nurses come from? According to the Professional Association of Nurse Travelers, there was a need for nurses that began in the 1970s. Nurses had been traveling to Florida for the winter from northern states and while they were enjoying the sunshine, they also enjoyed the ability to find a job due to the current shortage of nurses at the time. Known as “snowbirds,” these nurses were able to escape the cold winters and replace them with the warm sun and  salty breeze. The work agreements were informal for those nurses as they would leave to journey back to their home state further north. This seemed to benefit the employer and employee.

The idea has been formalized since then. As the nursing profession has grown and developed, travel nurses and agencies have as well. What once was originally an unofficial position is now a sought after option for experienced nurses. Travel nursing agencies now exist to support the nurse in this profession by becoming a resource, wealth of knowledge, and all-encompassing employer. Agencies are able to offer health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, travel stipends, housing stipends, and housing. Other benefits also include :

  • 401(k) retirement plan with company match
  • Standard limited liability insurance
  • Voluntary Life and AD&D
  • Voluntary Short-Term & Long-Term Disability
  • Accident & Critical Illness Insurance
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Corporate discounts
  • Free CEU credits

Travel Nurse Trends

Hospitals and healthcare systems across the country—particularly in a few concentrated states—are experiencing nursing shortages. These shortages are expected to grow over the next decade. When a hospital or healthcare facility has a shortage and needs to address its staffing issue quickly, one solution they may consider is the hiring of a short-term contract RN—a travel nurse.

As the need for the travel nurses continues to grow, independent staffing agencies and travel nurse agencies scramble to keep up the pace of hiring nurses. Healthcare staffing agencies are also feeling the pressure. The demand continues to be high, due to the pandemic, and is expected to continue that way since the US is combating a nursing shortage nationwide.

Travel Nurse Expectations

A travel nurse is a temporary, contracted employee that is hired to work at a facility through a staffing agency. They are not full-time employees of the healthcare organization at which they are contracted. This can be within the travel nurse’s home state or a completely different state of the nurse’s choosing. Travel nurse assignments typically last 13 weeks, but the length can vary depending on the needs of the host facility or healthcare system. It is expected that you will take on a different assignment after the previously agreed upon 13 weeks is completed. 

The travel nurse will also expect to work within their area of expertise. Knowing your specialty usually means 2-3 years of experience within that role. Do you have a nursing specialty? If you have not worked in an ICU prior to becoming a travel nurse, you should not expect to get a position there. The same is applied to other nursing specialties such as Oncology, Telemetry, Pediatrics, etc. 

Other expectations may include the thrill of moving to new places, seeing sights you’ve never visited, and meeting new friends.  Have you ever lived at the beach or near world famous ski slopes? How does surfing or skiing on your day off sound? The travel nurse life can make those dreams a reality. 

If you’re unsure about housing while you’re on assignment, there are generally two options: agency provided housing or a housing stipend. There are benefits to both, so the decision is yours to make. In some cases having the guess work cut out of housing already provided for you offers one less thing to consider with the next assignment. If you choose the housing stipend and are able to find housing less than the housing stipend amount, the balance is yours to keep

Travel Nurse Job Description

The travel nurse’s job is almost identical to a non-travel nurse. The nursing process will be used throughout your shift as you assess, diagnose, plan, implement, and evaluate according to your scope of practice. 

Your day starts just like any other nurse’s day would with getting report from the previous shift. You are expected to perform all duties of the registered nurse and continue to carry out provider’s orders as appropriate. Depending on hospital policies, procedures, or the type of unit the travel nurse is working in, the role may vary slightly from assignment to assignment. Travel nursing agencies will provide you additional information as needed. 

Normal duties include performing nursing assessments, assisting in exams and testing, obtaining vital signs, admitting patients, discharging patients, providing emotional support as needed, reporting any necessary data to the patient’s doctors, educating patients on their conditions, administering ordered medications, etc. As always, it is expected that patient safety be paramount and patient care always be provided.

Travel Nurse Tips

  • If you would like to become a travel nurse, finding someone who has already gone through the process can be very helpful. Another helpful tip is to reachout to Health Carousel Travel Nursing for guidance on the next steps . Having a bachelor’s degree (BSN) will make you more desirable to hire compared to a nurse with an associate’s degree. 
  • Be flexible and keep a good attitude. Expect there to be hard days and amazing days, just as it is with every nursing position. By having a willingness to learn, you have already set yourself up for success. 
  • Know who your support system is and be sure to celebrate your wins and talk through your losses. Family members, fellow nurses, and therapists are all great resources.
  • Get ahead of the game and start now by applying for a compact nursing license . The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) program exists to give the ability for nurses to work in those states who participate in the program. By having an NLC you won’t have to obtain an individual license for each state in which you work. Be sure to see if your home state participates. 
  • Make sure you have your Advanced Care Life Support (ACLS) certification and Basic Life Support (BLS) certification.
  • Be proficient in basic nursing skills. Orientation on a new nursing unit may only be a couple of shifts which is intended for learning the specific unit and hospital policies and procedures- not how to be a nurse. 

Ensure your recruiter through your travel nursing agency is a good fit for you. They will be able to help you with your travel nursing assignments and other questions concerning travel nurse jobs you may have.

What Do Travel Nurses Do Daily?

Travel nurses care for their patients and follow provider's orders. They follow the flow of the facility where they are working throughout the day. They are expected to function within their scope of practice.

How Much Money Do You Actually Make as a Travel Nurse?

Travel nurse salary varies by state and assignment. To get a clearer picture of what each states’ average wage, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a good resource. Your recruiter will be able to discuss specific wages and any additional stipends offered for each assignment. 

Is Being a Travel Nurse Worth It?

Yes! Being a travel nurse can bring fulfillment in the nursing profession that you haven’t had elsewhere. You can have an exciting life of adventure, pursuing your dreams, and experiences beyond what you are accustomed to. By not having a permanent staff role you will have the opportunity to escape current day-to-day hospital politics and drama.

What Kind of Nurse Is a Traveling Nurse?

A traveling nurse has many qualities that regular nurses have already—kindness, compassion, organization, and being an excellent multi-tasker. What may be different is their love of adventure and a desire to experience and live in other regions of the US. They are happy to pick up their current lives and transport them to different areas.

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Katherine Wylie, BSN, RN provides written health content for W Health Publications. She has worked as a RN for over 10 years in various specialties. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outside exploring with her husband and two kids in North Carolina. 

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How Does Travel Nursing Work? Requirements, Job Description, and Outlook

August 29, 2023

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Master of Science in Nursing

A smiling travel nurse stands at the foot of the stairs near a sunny hospital window.

Approximately 1.7 million travel nurses currently work in the United States, according to job website Zippia. Given that travel nurses in the 10th percentile of the salary range typically earn at least $120,000 per year, a nurse who wants to see the world may well consider pivoting to travel nursing.

Many registered nurses (RNs) are leaving the health care field altogether — to recover from burnout, to pursue an entirely different career, or to opt for early retirement. It’s a tough situation for health care providers because it takes years to educate and train nurses to replace those who leave the profession.

The RN shortage has challenged hospitals and health care facilities scrambling to do more with less. The ongoing pandemic has played a large part in creating this predicament. Additionally, an aging population, increased demand for health care services, and the nationwide nursing shortage have all placed even more strain on front-line medical workers.

Now more than ever, many understaffed facilities hire travel nurses to help with day-to-day health care demands until they can hire permanent nursing staff. This trend raises the question, "How does travel nursing work?"

Travel nurses deliver high-quality health care services to patients across the country by taking on short-term assignments at understaffed health care facilities. Travel nurse ranks among the better-paid nursing roles in the health care industry. Individuals interested in becoming a travel nurse can gain essential skills through an advanced education, such as an online Master of Science in Nursing program .

How Does Travel Nursing Work?

Travel nurses perform the same duties and play the same role in a health care facility as a local RN, but the difference is that they’re transitory, meaning they don’t live permanently in the locality in which they’re working. This is possible because geographical location has little impact on the training and skill set that’s needed from the nurse.

So, how does travel nursing work from the perspective of an understaffed health care facility that needs an immediate solution? Providers usually seek the services of a travel nurse because the hospital or health care facility has a gap in staffing. Finding a full-time local RN to fill that gap can pose a challenge for a facility. Either the pool of candidates is too small, or the facility has yet to find a candidate that’s a good fit with its current nursing staff.

Whatever the case may be, hiring a travel nurse is a temporary solution that can help the health care facility buy time while it looks for a permanent RN. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a hospital to make an offer to extend the travel nurse’s assignment given staffing demands.

A travel nurse’s employment is always on a contractual basis. The contract will usually last for three or more months, depending on the facility’s needs. During their employment, a travel nurse typically receives the following as part of their compensation package:

  • Weekly stipend for expenses
  • Lodging accommodations
  • Signing bonus

However, these contract offers vary in terms of perks and compensation. For instance, a travel nurse may be offered a generous salary, lodging accommodations, and a weekly stipend but no signing bonus.

Additionally, stipends and lodging accommodations can vary dramatically depending upon the region. For example, a New York hospital may offer a much higher stipend, along with lodging accommodations, compared with a Salt Lake City hospital because the cost of living is so much higher in New York. When selecting locations, travel nurses need to be aware of how far their money will go in the city they’re considering.

Finally, location and seasonality play a big factor in the decision-making process as well. For instance, a travel nurse may be considering a high-paying contract role in Cleveland versus a lower-paying one in San Diego. If the two contracts happen to span December through February, the travel nurse might decide to go with San Diego simply because California winters are so much more temperate than Ohio’s.

Job Role and Main Duties of a Travel Nurse

The primary difference between travel nurses and RNs is the traveling element. Beyond that, the day-to-day responsibilities are nearly identical. The typical job duties of a travel nurse include:

  • Assessing patients and logging their exact symptoms or conditions
  • Administering medications and treatments
  • Monitoring the status and vitals of patients
  • Collaborating with physicians and other health care staff
  • Explaining care plans to patients and their families
  • Teaching patients how to better care for themselves
  • Keeping detailed patient records
  • Communicating with family members about a patient’s status

Similar to RNs, travel nurses work in hospitals, health care facilities, residential care facilities, outpatient care centers, and government facilities.

What Are the Travel Nursing Requirements?

Travel nursing requirements are similar to requirements traditional RNs need to meet but with a few key distinctions. The main educational steps an aspiring travel nurse needs to complete remain consistent:

  • Complete an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program — though the latter is highly recommended for travel nurses who want to stand out to potential employers
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN exam
  • Obtain licensure in their state of practice

Once these three steps are completed, an ASN or BSN graduate is able to practice as a licensed registered nurse. However, travel nurses require two additional certifications: Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).

Travel nurses who plan to work in a specialized unit should also get the relevant certifications. For instance, a travel nurse who aims to work in an intensive care unit would benefit from getting the CCRN certification, which focuses on acute and critical care.

Another important step that travel nurses need to take is setting up what’s known as a "tax home" for the purposes of taxes and decreasing their overall tax liability. A tax home is the full-time residence where a travel nurse stays when they’re not working. Since travel nurses are away for months at a time, they generally try to secure tax homes with low rent and maintenance costs to help reduce their overall expenses.

For instance, a travel nurse would likely not set up a tax home in a luxury downtown apartment that rents for more than $2,500 per month. It makes more sense to find an affordable tax home to keep their overhead costs down. Travel nurses without a tax home can still work, but they must file under the status of an itinerant worker. This means they must pay taxes on all of their income, stipends, and reimbursements.

Finally, getting and maintaining licensure is of the utmost importance when considering travel nursing requirements. Through the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC), nurses can earn a multistate license to provide care to patients in eNLC member states. Furthermore, renewing the eNLC license is a simple process that can be done anywhere.

However, non-eNLC states require a travel nurse to obtain an additional state license. This means the travel nurse must meet all the requirements of the new state. Additionally, some states require nurses to obtain continued education units (CEUs) to be allowed to work. When it comes to selecting contracts, travel nurses need to be aware of what — if any — new licenses or CEUs they’ll need to get before they decide to sign on.

Travel Nurse Practitioner vs. Travel RN

Just as RNs can travel to different parts of the country to fill in the nursing gap, the same is true for travel nurse practitioners. Compared with RNs, nurse practitioners (NPs) have more education (an MSN degree, at minimum) and more on-the-job experience, and they usually focus on one specific area of medicine, such as family care, adult-gerontology, or neonatal care. Additionally, NPs generally earn much higher salaries than their RN counterparts.

Scope of Practice

One of the biggest differences when comparing travel nurse practitioners and travel RNs is scope of practice. RNs take their marching orders from NPs, physicians, and physician assistants; this is consistent across all states. NPs, on the other hand, have full practice authority in certain states, meaning they can practice with full autonomy.

In some states, however, NPs operate under restricted or reduced practice, meaning they aren’t allowed to do certain things, such as prescribing medications. Additionally, NPs in reduced or restricted practice states are held accountable and sometimes work under the direct supervision of a physician or team of physicians.

For a travel NP, this means taking on a new contract may significantly expand or reduce their role in the health care facility. Serving in a greatly reduced or expanded role may not appeal to them, which will play a factor in their decision-making process. Travel RNs don’t have to worry about this because their scope of practice is consistent throughout the country.

Licensing for travel NPs is also different compared with travel RNs. While the licensing process is fairly simple for travel RNs working in eNLC member states, NPs usually carry two or three licenses per state.

They include the RN license, the APRN license, and a prescribing license to order medications for patients. A travel nurse practitioner also needs to update their Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) certificate to the state they’re practicing in so they may prescribe medications.

As a result of these various requirements, travel NPs have more to keep track of to maintain licensure.

Work Environment

Travel RNs typically work in acute care in a hospital or health care facility. Travel NPs, on the other hand, have more options, including:

  • Health care facilities
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Community health centers
  • Schools and universities
  • Military bases
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Veterans clinics
  • Women’s health care clinics

A travel nurse practitioner’s specialty usually dictates the types of contracts they’re eligible for. For instance, a women’s health nurse practitioner seeking travel assignments would likely find a placement in a women’s health care clinic.

Salary and Assignment Length

Similar to travel RNs, travel nurse practitioners see varying salaries, depending on job demand, the facility hiring, the length of the contract, and other factors. Travel RNs earned an average annual salary of approximately $80,900 as of January 2022, according to PayScale. Those in the ninetieth percentile made approximately $107,000 per year.

Salary information for travel NPs isn’t as readily available. However, travel nurses in the top five highest-paying states earned $120,000 or more in 2019, according to TravelNursing.org. California was the highest-paying state, with a salary of $133,800. The takeaway is travel NPs generally earn higher salaries than travel nurses.

One other area that bears comparison is assignment duration. Typical travel RN work assignments are approximately three months long. Travel NPs have the three-month contract option too; however, their assignments can also be much shorter or much longer. Travel NP assignments can range from a single day to well over a year, which is ideal for health care workers who prefer flexibility in their schedules.

What Is Per Diem Travel Nursing?

Per diem travel nursing is one of the most flexible positions in health care. Per diem travel nurses have the same role and responsibilities as a travel nurse, but they pick up their shifts on an ad hoc basis.

They can choose how much or how little they work, even if it’s just a short shift lasting only a few hours. Per diem nursing is the ideal fit for a nurse who needs the maximum amount of flexibility in their schedule and prefers not to work on weekends and holidays. Additionally, per diem travel nurses often get paid more than the standard rate.

One major drawback of per diem nursing is the lack of job security. When a hospital or health care facility is fully staffed, that usually means it no longer requires the services of per diem nurses. Another drawback is that because per diem nurses work only on a fill-in basis and usually part time, they might not develop a rapport with the full-time staff.

Is Travel Nursing Worth It?

Being a travel nurse means working in a new city with a new group of health care professionals every few months. It’s the opportunity to take in a completely new culture and sights. A travel nurse could be in the heart of New York City one month, only to relocate to sunny San Diego the next.

It’s a position that’s rich with possibilities. Plus, travel nurses rack up a vast amount of experience since they work in so many different environments and with different teams. Lastly, travel nurses command higher salaries and receive stipends, signing bonuses, and other perks that their non-traveling RN counterparts don’t.

Is travel nursing worth it? For RNs and NPs who like a change in scenery and want to sample several different work environments across the country, the travel nurse role might well be a great fit.

Begin Your Journey to Becoming a Travel Nurse

Travel nursing is an exciting opportunity for a health care worker to see the world while offering high-quality care to patients in need. With the ongoing nursing shortage still in full swing, travel nurses will likely stay in high demand and continue to command competitive salaries.

To pursue a career as a travel RN or travel NP, investing in education is a great way to begin. Take the first step toward your career goals by discovering how Hawai‘i Pacific University’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program further develops the skills and knowledge of current RNs, allowing them to specialize in family care, psychiatric mental health, or adult-gerontology.

An MSN degree opens the door for a travel RN to become a travel NP, which can mean higher salaries, plus the advantages of a wide variety of work environments and flexible work assignments. Start your adventure as a travel RN or NP and help providers save lives.

Recommended Reading:

Burnout vs. Compassion Fatigue in Nursing

The Importance of a Nurse’s Role in Patient Safety

Trauma Nursing in Vacation Cities

American Association of Critical Care Nurses, Frequently Asked Questions About CCRN Certification

CareerStaff Unlimited, "Comparing Travel and Per Diem Nursing Jobs: Which Is Right for You?"

Health Affairs , "COVID-19’s Impact on Nursing Shortages, the Rise of Travel Nurses, and Price Gouging"

Healthcare Dive, "Nurses Burned Out, Dissatisfied With Careers Consider Leaving the Field, Survey Finds"

Indeed, "How to Become a Traveling Nurse Practitioner (6 Steps)"

Indeed, Travel Nursing Salaries in the U.S.

PayScale, Average Travel Nurse (RN) Hourly Pay

Remede Group, "Are You More Comfortable With Per Diem or Travel Nursing ?"

Travel Nursing, "The Difference Between a Travel NP and a Travel RN"

Travel Nursing, "How to Become a Travel Nurse | 5 Requirements 2021"

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

Zippia, Traveling Nurse Demographics and Statistics in the U.S.

Do More With HPU

  • Job Descriptions
  • Healthcare and Medical Job Descriptions

Travel Nurse Job Description

Travel nurses are healthcare workers who travel to patients and assist at healthcare facilities. They perform typical nursing duties and provide care in residential areas, at schools, and other organizations. Travel nurses also assist when hospitals are short-staffed.

Travel Nurse Job Description Template

We are searching for a dependable travel nurse to join the healthcare team. The travel nurse will be responsible for traveling to patients and completing a number of duties, which may include performing tests, administering medication, as well as writing up reports. You should be able to follow instructions but also use logical thinking skills.

To be successful as a travel nurse, you should be well-organized, punctual, and able to effectively communicate. Outstanding candidates should be mentally strong, resilient, and flexible enough to work in a range of environments.

Travel Nurse Responsibilities:

  • Traveling to patients’ homes, schools, and other organizations to administer medication and vaccinations, and complete blood pressure, glucose, and other tests.
  • Performing wound inspections, changing dressings, and monitoring the patients’ overall wellbeing.
  • Addressing patients’ concerns and providing healthcare and nutritional advice where possible.
  • Monitoring patients’ recovery and compiling reports for the relevant doctors and other stakeholders.
  • Completing your duties at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities.
  • Ensuring that all equipment and medical supplies are kept sterile and well-organized.
  • Arriving in a timely manner to perform your duties.
  • Keeping abreast of developments in healthcare by attending workshops as necessary.
  • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals to develop improved diets and healthcare plans.
  • Remaining professional and polite at all times.

Travel Nurse Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in nursing or an equivalent.
  • A relevant license and certification.
  • A completed apprenticeship or experience in a similar role.
  • Excellent analytical and problem-solving skills.
  • The ability to follow instructions but also to think independently.
  • Excellent report writing skills and organizational skills.
  • Empathy and a personable manner.
  • Physical fitness and mental strength.
  • A valid driver’s license or reliable transport may be required.

Related Articles:

Nurse job description, staff nurse job description, travel nurse interview questions, nurse interview questions, staff nurse interview questions, how to find travel nurses.

Nurse Money Talk

Travel Nurse: Job Description and Salary Expectations

nurse riding bus

If you love nursing but also love to travel, there is a way to marry your two passions into one travel nurse career.

A travel nurse is a registered nurse, preferably with a BSN degree (but not exclusively needed), who works for a staffing agency instead of a healthcare facility.

The agency sends nurses to all parts of the country or the world to fill short-term positions in various healthcare facilities.

What is a Travel Nurse?

A travel nurse works short-term placements in a healthcare facility filling temporary staffing gaps. It’s a career that lets you meet new people and enjoy new experiences while rewarding you financially. As a travel nurse, you can build your resume and explore the country while working as a nurse.

How Does Travel Nursing Work ?

nurse wearing bag

A travel nurse has the same responsibilities as a registered nurse working full-time. But as a temporary worker, you don’t work directly for the healthcare facility.

You work for a staffing agency or a recruiter who finds work opportunities for you. According to the available assignments, the agency will place you on short-term contracts ranging from 4 to 26 weeks.

The most common travel nursing contract duration is 13 weeks. You also have a choice to extend the contract if you want to and if the facility is happy with your performance.

It means that through a calendar year, you may work in four healthcare facilities located in different states or overseas. It’s a great way to visit new cities, expand your networking connections, and gain insight into how the other facilities work. 

The work is very flexible, and you can choose whether to accept or reject an assignment.

Some travel nurses start working temporarily for a healthcare facility and end up applying for a full-time position because they enjoy their work there so much.

How Do You Become a Travel Nurse?

blonde nurse

Generally, to become a travel nurse, you need to qualify as a nurse by completing the required degree and passing the NCLEX board exam.

In addition, you will need at least a year or 18 months of experience working in your nursing specialty.

Many agencies prefer to hire only RNs licensed with a BSN degree, but not all do that. So, that’s something to keep in mind.

Also, if you want to travel internationally, you may be required to speak the language of the country you want to practice. 

You can become a travel nurse with general nursing experience or specialize in one of the many nursing specialties like OR nursing, ICU nursing, or pediatrics.

Nurses with more specialized experience and certifications are more in demand and receive higher pay. That is not to say that you must specialize.

Finding the Right Travel Job

Many jobs are available in medical or surgical units, psychiatric departments, and other general nursing specialties.

Travel nurses do not work for healthcare facilities but for nursing agencies or recruiters. So, you will need to choose and apply to a nursing agency to find temporary assignments for you.

There are many reputable travel nursing agencies you can contact on the internet. 

Being Licensed as a Travel Nurse

Licensing is another issue that can be tricky to navigate. Travel nurses must be licensed in the state where they want to work.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing made the process easier by allowing nurses to apply for a multistate license that allows them to practice in all participating states without obtaining additional licenses.

See the article I wrote about the nurse licensure compact for more information.

How Much Do Travel Nurses Get Paid?

dollar on nurse's pocket

Travel nurses often get paid more per hour than full-time nurses. Your pay will depend on many factors, unlike the salary that a permanent staff nurse can expect. 

While staff nurses in a health care facility get paid according to their education and experience, travel nurse pay is based on other components.

Usually, a travel nurse receives an hourly rate (which can vary at each placement), non-taxed housing stipends, or free accommodation for the duration of the placement.

Some agencies also pay non-taxed per diems and reimburse travel costs between placements.

Other factors affecting your take-home pay as a travel nurse are the location, your nursing specialty, and the type of shifts you work. 

Location influences how much you get paid because some states pay nurses higher wages than others. Southern states pay less per hour than California, Texas, and New York. So, where you will be placed will influence the amount of money you take home.

If you have a specialty nursing qualification like ICU, OR, or emergency nursing, you can expect to earn more than if you work in a non-specialty area.

Many healthcare institutions need extra personnel to fill in the hard-to-fill shifts. If you want to make more money, you may have to be prepared to work the night shift or other unpopular shifts.

You also get paid per hour, so the more you work, the more money you will make.

What you Can Make?

Overall, a traveling nurse can earn over $100 000 per year.

Having said that, travel nurses also have more expenses. Traveling from place to place can be costly.

Most travel costs are covered by the employer or the agency, but you may still need to pay some costs out of your pocket. 

Finding a place to live may also be pricier. Some travel nursing agencies have accommodation available for nurses to stay for free.

However, some agencies prefer to pay a tax-free living expense allowance separately from your hourly wage. You are responsible for finding a place to stay and paying for it yourself.

Is Travel Nursing a Good Nursing Career Path?

Exposure to various ways patient care is provided in different healthcare facilities will broaden your skill set and let you grow as a professional.

There are many benefits to being a travel nurse. Travel nurses are constantly working in different settings and learning something new.

The exposure to different patient care techniques, electronic record systems, and policies will help you develop a unique perspective on patient care as a nurse.

Interacting with new people you will meet during job placements will help you develop a robust professional network of people who can vouch for your capabilities.

It can come in handy when you finally want to settle down and apply for a permanent position. Having numerous references who can recommend you to employers is always a good thing,

Key Takeaways

Travel nursing is becoming more popular. The job has many pros and cons. Many nurses like the flexibility and excitement that travel nursing offers as opposed to working as a bedside nurse.

Spending time on various short assignments may help your career by providing a way to get to know more people who can recommend you for a job.

Some nurses use their time as travel nurses to learn as much as possible before settling down with a full-time position, while others enjoy their freedom and flexibility so much that they continue to work as travel nurses for many years.

Have You Read These Yet?

  • Can a New Nurse Be a Travel Nurse?
  • Travel Nursing Interview Questions with Sample Answers
  • Tips For Travel Nurses
  • Best Pets For Travel Nurses

Frequently Asked Questions

What is travel nursing.

Travel nursing is a type of nursing job where a nurse travels to different healthcare facilities and works on temporary assignments, typically lasting from 8 to 26 weeks.

What are travel nursing benefits?

Travel nurses typically receive benefits such as housing, travel expenses, and higher pay compared to permanent nursing positions.

What do you do as a travel nurse?

As a travel nurse, you perform the same duties as a regular nurse, which may include providing patient care, administering medication, monitoring vital signs, collaborating with healthcare teams, documenting patient information, and educating patients and families. Your specific responsibilities may depend on the healthcare facility, the unit or department you work in, and your experience and certification level. The key difference is that you may be working in a new environment every few weeks as a travel nurse.

What’s the difference between a travel nurse and a regular nurse?

A travel nurse and a regular nurse have similar duties and responsibilities in terms of providing patient care, administering medication, monitoring vital signs, collaborating with healthcare teams, documenting patient information, and educating patients and families. The main difference between the two is that a travel nurse works on a temporary, assignment-based basis, moving from one healthcare facility to another, while a regular nurse is typically a permanent employee at a single healthcare facility. Travel nursing offers the opportunity to work in different locations

How many years does it take to become a travel nurse?

To become a travel nurse, one must first become a registered nurse (RN). The time it takes to become an RN can vary, but typically it takes 2 to 4 years of education and training, including obtaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Once an individual is licensed as an RN, they can start applying for travel nursing positions. Some travel nursing agencies may require additional certifications or experience in specific specialties.

Is travel nursing worth the money?

Whether travel nursing is worth the money can depend on various factors, such as an individual’s personal and financial circumstances, career goals, and preferences. In general, travel nursing can offer financial benefits, such as higher pay compared to permanent nursing positions, reimbursement for housing and travel expenses, and potentially a sign-on bonus. This can make it an attractive option for those looking to increase their income and pay off debt or those who enjoy traveling and experiencing new places.

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Home / Nursing Careers & Specialties / Travel Nurse

Travel Nurse

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What Is a Travel Nurse?

Travel nurses are RNs from various clinical backgrounds who work for independent staffing agencies. They are assigned to different care areas on a temporary basis to fill in short-term employment gaps.

Travel nursing is a specialty that took root when the field of nursing faced a nationwide shortage. Hospitals, clinics, and other care areas had unfilled positions, yet had patients needing care. To try and attract nurses to the open positions, employers offered higher pay, housing, and covered the cost of relocating.

Due to these shortages, health care facilities have vacancies that need to be filled—and travel nurses are often the ones to fill open positions. Not only do travel nurses work in health care in any state in the country, but they also work outside of the United States as international travel nurses. The adventure and excitement of new opportunities, along with higher-than-average pay, are facets of travel nursing that many RNs find attractive.

Why Are Travel Nurses Important?

Travel nurses are an important part of the health care team because they help bridge the gap between supply and demand in the field of nursing. Mandatory nurse-patient ratios have led to increased patient safety and lower patient mortality . While this is a positive finding, and more and more states are passing legislation to implement staffing ratios, there are not enough nurses to fill the openings. Travel nurses assigned those open positions help to increase patient safety and improve patient outcomes.

Additionally, nurses from different educational backgrounds, care areas, and geographic locations bring a great deal to the practice of nursing. Sharing ideas and practices not only benefits patients, but also other nurses.

How to Become a Travel Nurse

A travel nurse should have the following characteristics to excel in the role:

  • Enjoys experiencing new cities, towns, and organizations
  • Enjoys freedom. Travel nurses choose when and where they work, and choose their duration of employment
  • Enjoys flexibility. Travel nurses create their schedules, benefits packages, and income based on which agency they choose to work
  • Thrives on challenges. Moving to different states or overseas and being “the new nurse” repeatedly is challenging. Learning new organizational systems and workflows is particularly challenging
  • Loves learning new things. Each assignment takes travel nurses to new health care facilities, some with higher levels of technology or different standards of practice. Each experience helps nurses build upon their knowledge base

Additionally, travel nurses should have supportive families and friends. It's difficult to either pack up and move an entire family or leave your family and friends behind. The flip side to this is that new relationships are formed in each new location.

What Are the Educational Requirements for Travel Nurses?

Those interested in the specialty of travel nursing should first pursue a nursing degree through a two or four-year university. Obtaining an associate's degree ( ADN ) or bachelor's degree ( BSN ) in nursing is required. A BSN is not required to be a travel nurse, but some health care facilities only hire BSN-prepared nurses. The staffing agency in which the nurse is employed should match the nurse appropriately based on educational requirements.

After completion of an accredited nursing program, successful completion of the NCLEX-RN is required for licensure.

Most travel nurse agencies require a minimum of one year of hands-on experience in the chosen specialty of nursing. Additionally, some agencies will only hire BSN-prepared RNs. International travel nurses should speak the language of the country they are to practice in, as communication is an important part of effective healthcare delivery. Nurses are encouraged to research agencies when considering travel nursing.

Are Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?

No additional exams are required for travel nursing. Based on the specialty, certification(s) may be required. Examples include:

  • Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) may be required
  • Stroke care certification
  • Telemetry certification
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
  • Critical care nursing (adults, pediatric, neonatal)
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) may be required
  • Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) certification
  • Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP)
  • Trauma Nurse Core Course (TNCC) certification

Additional specific requirements may be necessary for international travel nurses. These include:

  • Acquiring a passport and work visa (usually handled by the agency)
  • Additional immunizations
  • Learning a new language
  • Learning about diseases unique to the area

Travel Nurse FAQs

How can a travel nurse receive a tax-free housing stipend.

Housing is one of the most significant concerns for a travel nurse. There are a few options available, and it depends on the travel nurse agency/company regarding how accommodations are set up. Some companies provide housing (i.e., apartment, duplex, etc.). Some companies offer a housing stipend, or a fixed amount of money each month to apply towards housing.

First, nurses need to be aware of where their “tax home” is, as stipends are tax-free if working away from the tax home. Having a tax home is necessary to receive tax-free housing. A "tax home" is defined as the general vicinity of an individual's primary place of work (regardless of where the primary residence is). Generally, the IRS considers someone traveling away from home (i.e., their "tax home") if it exceeds one workday.

Different travel nurse agencies offer different stipends - it’s important to research what the living expenses are in a specific area to ensure housing is adequately covered. The General Services Administration (GSA) lists the maximum daily amount for lodging, meals, and incidentals with regards to travel expenses . The key word is MAXIMUM. It's not required that a company pay employees the listed stipend. In fact, some travel nurse agencies offer higher hourly wages instead of housing stipends. Additionally, the GSA rates are based on short-term travel - usually less than a month. Travel nurse contracts can last three months or more.

Are Nursing Licenses Valid When Traveling and Working in Other States?

Those interested in travel nursing may have questions about licensing; specifically, how are licenses recognized if practicing in another state.

Depending on the state, new licensure is not necessary. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) developed the Nurse Licensure Compact which is an agreement between specific states to recognize nursing licenses without having to apply separately for licensure in another state. In other words, a nurse living in a "compact state" (one which is part of this agreement) can practice in another compact state without having to obtain additional licenses. There are now uniform licensure requirements that must be met when seeking a multistate license under the compact agreement. States that participate in the compact agreement can be found on the NCSBN website .

If not part of the compact agreement, some states allow nurses to obtain temporary licenses by endorsement. These are valid for specific lengths of time, so nurses must visit each state’s Board of Nursing website to determine specific temporary license requirements. If extending the assignment past the temporary license time frame, nurses must apply for a permanent license. Permanent licenses are also required for states that don't grant licensure by endorsement and don't participate in the NLC.

What Does a Domestic or International Travel Nurse Do?

Travel nurses have a broad range of responsibilities and duties, and specific tasks depend on the specialty in which the nurse is trained. General nursing responsibilities and duties include:

  • Using the nursing process of assessing, diagnosing, planning, implementing, and evaluating to care for patients in a variety of healthcare settings
  • Administering medications, and fluids, assisting with activities of daily living and patient mobility
  • Reviewing and interpreting diagnostic tests such as lab work and imaging
  • Provide monitoring and oversight in all aspects of patient care
  • Collaborating with physicians in developing a plan of care
  • Assessing the psychosocial needs of patients and families
  • Recognizing and intervening in clinically unstable patients
  • Providing resources for patients and referring as necessary
  • Educating patients and families in all areas of healthcare maintenance and prevention
  • Working in assignments anywhere from eight to thirteen weeks (on average) in the U.S., one to two years if outside the U.S.
  • Learning various patient care systems/documentation
  • Providing immediate medical care and aid for large populations during times of war or disaster

Domestic and international travel nurses also have different characteristics specific to their roles.

Domestic Travel Nurses

  • Work within the U.S.
  • Typically work assignments that range from eight to thirteen weeks
  • Can respond to areas of the U.S that experience natural disasters or disease outbreaks

International Travel Nurses

International travel nurses should have excellent communication skills, should be open to new experiences and challenges, and should have a strong desire to learn. These nurses are responsible for performing a wide array of duties. As stated previously, the tasks an international nurse will have to perform depend entirely upon their medical specialty. Some of the more general or everyday tasks that international travel nurses will perform include administering medication, wound care, and providing emergency medical services and care. Since there are often nursing shortages in many of the regions that international nurses travel to, another general role of these nurses is to educate family members and caretakers about the appropriate patient and medical care. In summary, international travel nurses:

  • Work outside the U.S.
  • Typically work assignments that range from one to two years
  • Respond to areas that experience natural disasters or disease outbreaks, such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa
  • Provide medical care and aid to underserved, rural , and remote populations
  • Usually, must wait for document processing before traveling

Travel Nurse Working Conditions

As with any career, there are positive and negative aspects to working as a travel nurse. Nurses can suffer from stress as they may carry a heavy patient load and have many critical decisions to make. Additionally, travel nurses may suffer from feelings of isolation since they tend to relocate often. Having a strong sense of independence and a support system available, even remotely, can help.

Additionally, nurses may work in high-risk areas that may expose them to workplace violence, blood-borne pathogens, and chemicals. Travel nurses must always familiarize themselves with and adhere to safety standards set by the organization.

International travel nurses can face different challenges. Travel nurses must be familiar with the country's laws, and geographic-specific diseases, and always keep their overall safety as a priority.

Despite these considerations, travel nursing can be immensely rewarding. Many organizations and staff nurses appreciate the help travel nurses offer. Travel nurses help relieve staff nurses from burnout, as can happen when working short-staffed.

International travel nurses are also highly appreciated. They provide medical care and assistance to many patients in remote settings who otherwise would have no access to healthcare. They help with relief efforts in war zones or after disaster events, which can be both rewarding and enriching.

Travel Nurse Salary and Employment

According to the American Nurses Association, as of 2015 fourteen states had mandatory nurse-patient ratios . Nurses are pushing for federal legislation supporting safe staffing and because of this, if more states pass safe-staffing laws, nurses will be in even more demand. Travel nurses will help mend the current and projected nursing shortage. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 16% overall growth for nurses until 2024, which is much faster-than-average growth for all occupations.

RELATED :  RN License Transfer and NLC Guide

Travel nursing has many incentives for nurses regarding pay and benefits including:

  • Travel reimbursement
  • Free housing
  • Medical, dental, and vision coverage
  • Retirement plans
  • Assistance in obtaining passports/work visas
  • Choice of location
  • Selection of hours/shifts worked
  • Competitive pay
  • Higher-than-average pay for RNs

According to Indeed, the average yearly salary for a travel nurse is $75,109. However, since pay is competitive in travel nursing, some companies are offering salaries of around $100,00 annually for domestic travel nurses.

International travel nurses tend to have lower salaries than domestic, except for assignments in some middle eastern countries. This is because, for the most part, nurses tend to make less outside of the U.S.

Salary is dependent on the agency, and nurses should research each company to find the right salary and benefits that best fit their needs.

Helpful Organizations, Societies, & Agencies

  • International Council of Nurses
  • Professional Association of Nurse Travelers
  • National Association of Travel Healthcare Organizations
  • American Travel Health Nurses Association

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  • 10 Pros and Cons of Becoming a Travel Nurse
  • 5 Specializations For Nurses Who Enjoy Travel
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Everything you need to know about Travel Nurses

A travel nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who takes jobs in high-demand locations. These nurses can go from working the floor in a hospital ward to serving in a clinic or healthcare facility.

Nurses are always there when you need them, and that need became even more pressing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some heroic nurses even came out of retirement to reenter the workforce and help save lives. 

The Travel urse, which was once a relatively unknown career path, became one of the most in-demand positions in the United States. 

Travel Nurses respond to the call for help, wherever it may come from. Rather than set down roots, they pick up at a moment’s notice to provide care and compassion wherever it’s needed the most.

They are self-sacrificing individuals who put their own lives on pause for long periods to care for patients in need.

Healthcare needs more nurses willing to travel as the shifting demands of the American population change. From an expanding Baby Boomer population to ongoing rises in COVID cases, the travel nurse has never been a more relevant and important career in medicine. 

Are Travel Nurses The Same As Registered Nurses?

A Travel Nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who takes jobs in high-demand locations. For example, these nurses can go from working the floor in a hospital ward to serving in a clinic or healthcare facility. 

They are skillfully agile, unwaveringly dedicated, and tirelessly committed to providing the best care to anyone, anywhere, whenever needed. 

After the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, nationwide staffing shortages created a strong demand for qualified Travel Nurses. There was no time to wait for students to earn their licenses, so hospitals and other healthcare facilities had to hire nurses willing to relocate to help patients. 

What Is The Difference Between A Travel Nurse And A Registered Nurse (Rn)?

A Travel Nurse is also a registered nurse, but they have at least two years of experience. They apply for a license in their state or hold a compact license that grants them practicing privileges to operate in other compact states.

Under the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), compact states allow nurses to practice between them without applying for separate licensure. Non-compact states require a nurse to apply for a state license before offering any healthcare services. 

A Travel Nurse, unlike an RN, takes short-term work positions wherever they are needed. While an RN tends to work in a set work environment and field, Travel Nurses’ careers tend to be more flexible. 

They may offer services in a hospital for a few months, then transition to a community health clinic. Their work integrates multiple medical disciplines, which requires a diverse skillset and continued commitment to learning about their patients and their needs. 

What Qualifications Does A Travel Nurse Need?

For someone to start working as a Travel Nurse, they need to:

Hold an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or bachelor’s in nursing (BSN)

Pass the NCLEX-RN exam

Have a valid nursing license in their state 

Have at least two years of work experience as an RN

Travel Nurse requirements may slightly vary from agency to agency, but all must have a valid license and be an operating RN.

Most employers require at least two years of experience, but as the need for Travel Nurses increases, some are willing to hire nurses with one year of experience. 

What Work Does A Travel Nurse Do Day To Day?

The daily responsibilities of a Travel Nurse will vary depending on where they are currently working. Generally, they fulfill all the regular duties of a registered nurse. The duties include: 

Assessing, observing, and communicating with patients

Measuring and monitoring patients’ vitals, including blood sugar levels

Prepping patients for examinations and medical treatments 

Administering oral and IV medications

Updating and maintaining accurate patient health records

Creating and adhering to patient care plans with their health team

Drawing blood and collecting bodily fluids for lab work 

Supervising LPNs, CNAs, or nursing students

Answering questions, providing support, and continually collaborating with patients and their family members/caregivers

Whether they’re working the floor in the hospital or situated at a health clinic, a Travel Nurse will perform standard nursing duties each day. They start each job with orientation. This introduces them to the facility’s procedures and provides an overview of the work they will complete during their contract. 

The nurse manager will introduce the Travel Nurse to any systems they need to use and provide an overview of the patients they’ll be treating.

Most Travel Nurses work the same daily schedule as a permanent nurse, which is 3 to 4 days “on” a 12-hour shift, followed by 3 or 4 days off. But being a Travel Nurse, you have a more significant opportunity to choose a work schedule that you enjoy. 

Where Do Travel Nurses Work?

A traveling nurse often works in a hospital that has a staffing shortage. However, some Travel Nurses take positions in underserved communities, working in health clinics, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities.

Ultimately, their work can take them anywhere there are patients in need. A Travel Nurse can find work wherever there is a shortage of qualified nurses. 

What Is It Like To Be A Travel Nurse? 

Travel Nurses can stay in one location for a few months or several years. Some will only work in a healthcare facility for a few weeks. It all depends on the jobs they decide to take or what opportunities their Travel Nurse agency provides them.

Being a Travel Nurse can be a rewarding experience. It takes the selflessness of nursing to the next level, and it allows you to meet and support a large number of patients across the United States. 

At times, it can be stressful, especially when you are working in an environment that does not have enough staff on hand. Travel Nurses often pick up a tremendous amount of work, and they may serve during crises, such as in an area with an outbreak of COVID-19.

The risk of nurse burnout can be higher for a Travel Nurse, who may work in hospitals or healthcare clinics that have limited resources and a high patient volume. 

Compassion fatigue, depression, and anxiety are all common, so it’s important to be always in touch with your mental health if this career path interests you. 

A Travel Nurse does get to experience new parts of the country regularly, but this may also come at a downside. If you continually have to leave friends, family, and possibly pets behind, you may be prone to feeling lonely or struggling with depression in your new location. 

While it has the potential to be incredibly rewarding knowing you’re making a real difference, travel nursing does have its downsides, too. 

Being mindful of the risks to your mental health and everyday struggles it presents are important — don’t overlook the effects of being a Travel Nurse solely for the higher pay. 

How Much Do Travel Nurses Make?

The average Travel Nurse makes more than a permanent RN with an average salary of $87,958 a year. During high demand, some Travel Nurses can earn as much as $8,000 per week or more.

With the average pay in mind, a traveling nurse could earn between $33,000 to over $63,000 for a 13-week job, and they may also have health benefits and a retirement plan through their agency. 

By the way, 13 weeks is the average duration of a travel nursing job, but some extend to 26 weeks and beyond. 

The exact amount of money a nurse makes varies by location, their experience level, any specializations they have, and the duration of their job. Nursing specialists, such as ICU or cardiac nurses, qualify for even higher compensation. 

Recommended Reading -  How Much Do Travel Nurses Make?

How Does Travel Nurse Pay Differ From Staff Nurse Pay?

Travel Nurses get paid more than staff nurses on average due to the need for their skills and the often highly demanding nature of their work.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook , the average salary for an RN is $76,945 per year. 

A Travel Nurse can earn that much in 6 months, quickly earning over six figures annually. However, many choose to take prolonged breaks between jobs. This allows them to have a more rewarding work-life balance without losing pay. 

Are There Different Specialties Of Travel Nurses?

Yes! Traveling nurses have a wide range of specialties, just like traditional staff nurses do. Depending on your passion, you can specialize in several medical disciplines and apply your skills to help people in need across the country.

Travel Nurse specializations include: 

Cardiac nurse

Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)

Critical care nurse

Emergency room nurse (CEN)

Family nurse practitioner

Geriatric nurse 

Neonatal nurse

NICU nurse 

Pediatric nurse 

Perioperative nurse 

These are just a few examples of the types of nurses you can find working for a Travel Nurse agency. While most jobs may not call for any advanced specializations, nurses who hold higher credentials can often find the highest paying positions. 

Can Travel Nurses Work In Their Own State?

Yes, a Travel Nurse can work in any state where they have a valid license. If you live in a compact state, you can work in your state and other compact states.

On the other hand, you can only work in non-compact states if you hold a valid state license through that state’s nurse licensing board. 

An interesting fact to note is that some Travel Nurses take Travel Nurse jobs without ever leaving their state! As a result, you can find employment in hospitals, rural healthcare facilities, and underserved communities that all need qualified nurses to lend a hand.

For many nurses with families or who do not want to relocate far, working as a traveling nurse in their state is the perfect compromise. 

Advantages And Disadvantages Of A Career As A Travel Nurse

Being a Travel Nurse can be amazing, but it may not be for everyone. You might find that working as a staff nurse is more suited to your mental health, personal life, and work needs. 

Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of travel nursing. 

Advantages Of Choosing A Career As A Travel Nurse

Experience different parts of the country

Meet people from all sorts of different backgrounds and cultures

Earn a high pay for short-term work

Create a greater work-life balance

Apply your skills and knowledge where they are needed the most 

Disadvantages Of Choosing A Career As A Travel Nurse

Work can be stressful in underfunded or understaffed facilities 

Not having a fixed salary or other benefits, like paid-time off or vacation days

Missing family and friends due to frequent relocating 

Not having a chance to form long-term relationships with coworkers 

Possibly needing to apply for multiple licenses to practice across states 

How To Become A Travel Nurse

You can become a Travel Nurse by first completing an associate’s in nursing (ADN) or bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) program. 

Some nursing programs are offered at community colleges, but you may also attend a nursing school. 

After completing your training, you can pass the NCLEX-RN exam, earn your license and start gaining experience.

With enough experience, you can apply to a reputable Travel Nurse agency and begin receiving job offers. 

Recommended Reading -  How to Become a Travel Nurse in The USA

How Long Does It Take To Become A Travel Nurse?

Most Travel Nurse agencies require a minimum of two years of experience. Earning an associate’s in nursing takes approximately two years, while earning a bachelor’s takes four years. If you decide to pursue any specializations, you could spend an additional two to four years in training. 

Between education and work experience requirements, becoming a Travel Nurse takes between 4 to 6 years. 

Recommended Reading -  How Long Is Nursing School in The USA?

Some History About Travel Nurses

The rapid increase in demand for Travel Nurses kickstarted in 2020. During the COVID-19 outbreak, hospitals were massively understaffed as patients flooded their floors and many permanent nurses fell ill.

The history of Travel Nurses dates back to the first World War, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the first travel nurse agency formed. 

Today, travel nursing is a booming career that creates opportunities for personal growth, career development, and exciting work experiences. If you are interested in becoming a Travel Nurse, starting your education is the first step toward reaching your goal.

Nurses who meet the qualifying criteria can find a Travel Nurse agency and apply. 

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HEALTHCARE CAREER GUIDES

Travel Nurse Career

What is a travel nurse.

Travel nursing is the practice of registered nurses (RNs) traveling to and from different healthcare facilities like hospitals or clinics on assignment, filling short-term nursing employment gaps on a temporary basis. Usually assignments come based on staffing issues at a hospital or clinic, and a recruiter will help gauge staffing needs to help make assignments. And where do travel nurses work? Nurses can travel within the U.S. or internationally, just depending on the need and the job.

travel nurse tasks performed

Travel nurses may get assignments to go help in disease ridden areas, or get assigned to go fill gaps that are large due to nursing shortages around the United States. Nursing involves long hours and hard work, and this is also true for travel nurses. But travel nursing gives you a unique opportunity to work while visiting cities, states, or even countries you never would have gotten to visit otherwise.

RESPONSIBILITIES

What does a travel nurse do.

Travel nurses perform the same tasks and duties as a registered nurse, for the most part. Some may learn unique specialties, practices, or skills during their travels based on the needs where they are working. For example, nurses working in mosquito heavy areas may learn specific skills for treating mosquito-borne illnesses. Others may be working in an area with a swine flu outbreak and learn how to treat those patients. Others may work in an area with a large elderly population, and will learn more skills on treating older patients. As a traveling nurse, you never know what kind of patients and medical situations you may face in your assignment.

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EDUCATION & BEST DEGREES

How do i become a travel nurse.

Traveling nurses will usually need to have at least one year of experience working as an RN. While you can become an RN without a degree, more and more nursing positions are requiring bachelor’s degrees, especially for traveling positions. WGU’s online programs allow current RNs to pursue their bachelor’s or master’s degree while working. This degree can set you apart from the competition, and help you land your dream travel nurse position. Similarly, WGU offers licensure for RNs along with a bachelor’s degree in some states.

Additionally, you will also have to reach out to travel nurse agencies like  American Traveler  or  Aya Healthcare  to begin working as a travel nurse. There are many reputable options, and it's important to research ones near you to ensure you're picking a high quality company.

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Best Degrees for a Travel Nurse

Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a baccalaureate-prepared nurse:

  • Locations:  Due to in-person clinical requirements, students must be full time residents of FL, GA, ID, IN, IA, KS, KY, NE, NV, NM, NC, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, UT to enroll in this program. The coursework in this program is offered online, but there are in-person requirements.
  • Tuition:  $6,430 per 6-month term for the first 4 terms of pre-nursing coursework and $8,755 per 6-month term for the remaining 4 terms of clinical nursing coursework.
  • Time:  This program has a set pace and an expected completion time of 4 years. Certain coursework may be accelerated to finish faster.
  • WGU offers the prelicensure program in areas where we have partnerships with healthcare employers to provide practice sites and clinical coaches to help teach you and inspire you on your path to becoming a nurse.
  • If you don't live in one of our prelicensure states or don't qualify to apply, consider getting our  Bachelor's in Health and Human Services  instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also working directly with patients who need help.

Nursing (RN-to-BSN Online) – B.S.

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added...

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added theoretical depth, employability, and respect that a bachelor's degree brings:

  • Time: 77% of graduates finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition:  $4,685 per 6-month term.
  • Courses : 23 total courses in this program.
  • Transfers: Students can transfer up to 90 credits.

With over 35,000 BSN alumni, this is one of WGU's most popular online degree programs. View our RN to BSN degree guide.  If you are an RN ready to earn your BSN, this program will help you accelerate to earn your degree.

If you don't currently have an RN and don't qualify for your nursing prelicensure program, consider getting our Bachelor's in Health and Human Services  instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry in a unique way.

Nursing – Leadership & Management (RN-to-MSN) – M.S.

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a substantial leap...

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a substantial leap toward becoming a nurse leader.

  • Time: 75% of RN-to-MSN grads finish within 42 months.
  • Tuition:  $4,685 per 6-month term during undergraduate portion and $4,795 per 6-month term during graduate portion.
  • Courses : 32 total courses in this program.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

If you're driven to lead, this online nursing degree will provide you everything needed to make that career a reality. This program is ideal for current RNs who are interested in earning both their BSn and MSN in an accelerated program.

Compare degrees

This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees.

Nursing – Leadership & Management (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S.

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for additional career opportunities.

  • Time: 68% of grads finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition: $4,795 per 6-month term.
  • Courses : 15 total courses in this program.

This program is ideal for current RNs who have a BSN and are ready for the next step in their education.

Sample careers and jobs this degree program will prepare you for:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of medical and health services managers to grow 17% by 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Nursing Leadership and Management – Post-Master's Certificate

A certificate for registered nurses with a master's degree in nursing who...

A certificate for registered nurses with a master's degree in nursing who are ready for greater responsibility in a leadership and management role.

  • Time: 12 months.
  • Tuition:  $4,795 per 6-month term. The cost to sit for the NAHQ Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) exam is included in tuition.
  • Courses : 8 total courses in this program.

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How Much Does a Travel Nurse Make?

According to the  Bureau of Labor Statistics , the average RN salary is $81,220 per year. But a travel nurse salary is likely to be more than this, due to their high demand. It’s best to look at a  travel nurse salary per state  to help you calculate exactly what you can expect your travel nurse salary to be, based on your assignment, the hospital or nursing clinic, and more. According to Ziprecruiter, the average salary of a travel nurse is $105,021 per year .

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What Is the Projected Job Growth?

From 2022 to 2032,  employment for registered nurses is expected to grow 6% . Travel nursing is expected to rise as part of that outlook as well. Travel nurses have the ability to relocate to regions in great need of nurses, allowing the projected job growth to rise for this industry.

What Skills Does a Travel Nurse Need?

All travel nurses will need to have current licensure and nursing skills in order to get a job. But travel nurses also need other skills to help them succeed. Those skills include:

  • Emotional intelligence. Travel nurses have to be able to give bad news to people, and help them cope.
  • Critical thinking. Nurses of all kinds deal with complex problems and need to find solutions.
  • Flexibility. Travel nurses especially need to be flexible to work different hours, move to new places quickly, and more.
  • Adaptability. Travel nurses are in new hospitals and clinics all the time. They must be able to adapt to their new circumstances quickly and effectively.
  • Strong communication skills. Travel nurses need to be able to communicate well to patients, and to be able to ask questions when needed.
  • Love of traveling. It may seem like a no brainer, but traveling nurses will be traveling a lot! So a love of travel and a sense of adventure is a must.

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IntelyCare for Healthcare Facilities > Resources > Nursing Job Description Samples > Travel Nurse Job Description Template

Travel Nurse Job Description Template

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Travel nurses are healthcare professionals who take on short-term assignments at facilities and residences with increased demand for staff. This allows facilities to fill open positions with flexibility. A strategically crafted travel nurse job description is essential to finding quality professionals for your facility when you need them.

It’s important to note that travel nurses are often registered nurses (RNs), but nursing professionals from other specialties can also travel to assignments. This includes licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) — keep in mind that the responsibilities and qualifications of each role differ. The template below is optimized to find qualified travel nursing RNs, but you can switch out the certification specifics depending on the needs of your organization.

Travel Nurse Description

Tips: Your travel nurse job description should start with one or two paragraphs that highlight your organization’s mission, values, and culture. The travel nurse work environment can vary from facility to facility, so be sure to highlight how your organization will provide a positive workplace culture. Most travel nurses have many locations to choose from — this is your chance to show what sets your organization apart. What makes your facility unique? Take this opportunity to prove that your facility would be a great next destination for an adventurous and dedicated travel nurse.

Next, include specifics about your open travel nurse position. What specialty will they be working in? What particular skills are you looking for? Describe the job duties in detail to give the applicant a clear idea of whether their experience aligns with the role. Since travel nursing involves moving to new places, this is a great place to highlight why your location is appealing, such as any cultural attractions, public transportation, or recreation activities.

Travel Nurse Benefits

Tips: Elaborate on your organization’s benefits and perks to keep your candidates’ attention. Your introduction piqued their interest, so provide additional reasons they might be interested in the role. When describing your benefits, exercise caution to avoid any misleading language. To be on the safe side, consider asking your human resources team to review the list before posting.

  • Flexible scheduling
  • Scrub stipend
  • Commuter benefits
  • Education reimbursement
  • On-site childcare
  • Continuing education benefits
  • Bonuses associated with the position

Travel Nurse Skills and Responsibilities

Tips: Once you’ve highlighted the benefits, the candidate will likely want to learn more about the job itself. This section of your travel nurse job description is an excellent place to outline what specific tasks a candidate will be responsible for. List the most important duties first and use active verbs and straightforward wording to clearly get your message across.

  • Adapting to new healthcare environments and protocols quickly and seeking clarification from care team as needed
  • Monitoring vital signs
  • Administering medications, dressing wounds, placing IVs, and operating medical equipment
  • Collaborating with a multidisciplinary healthcare team, such as doctors, therapists, and social workers
  • Maintaining accurate records and notifying medical team of any changes in a patient’s condition
  • Communicating effectively with patients, families, and colleagues

Compensation and Shifts

Tips: Mention the pay up front, even if it’s just a range, so you’ll have a better chance of attracting top-notch applicants. It’s better to avoid investing time in interviewing if the compensation isn’t aligned with their expectations. This section is also a good place to emphasize any travel reimbursements, hazard pay, or associated bonuses.

Travel nurse jobs often appeal to individuals who appreciate flexibility, so make sure to include information about scheduling shifts. If your organization offers a degree of flexible scheduling, this could be a major selling point. You can also include information about nurse-to-patient ratios and any other details that would provide a better picture of the workplace environment.

  • Travel nurse pay range: $30-$70/hour
  • Overtime, incentive pay, and holiday pay available
  • Weekly or bi-weekly pay periods
  • Shift preference flexibility (day vs. night)
  • Nurse-to-patient ratio between 1:4 and 1:5 (day) and 1:6 (night)

Travel Nurse Qualifications and Skills

Tips: When you list qualifications, it’s important to remember that an applicant may not apply if their skills don’t perfectly align with those in the posting. Be sure to list only the necessary qualifications, including licensing requirements and education. If you have preferred travel nurse job requirements, make sure to list those in a separate, clearly identified section.

  • Adaptability and the ability to learn new procedures quickly
  • Excellent communication skills and a caring attitude toward patients
  • A team-oriented approach to work, with the ability to follow through on directives
  • Skillful task prioritization and delegation
  • Physical and mental stamina to perform job duties
  • Completion of a state-approved registered nursing certificate program
  • Passage of the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN)
  • Additional licensing requirements vary by state
  • 2 years experience as a registered nurse
  • American Heart Association BLS certification
  • American Heart Association ACLS certification

Call to Action

Tips: Now that you have a solid foundation for your travel nurse job description, make sure candidates know how to apply. Tell prospective candidates how you’d like them to submit their application: on your company website, as an email, or through a job board. If you require references or supporting documentation, be sure to mention that here.

Ready to embark on your next nursing adventure? Take the first step today by visiting our website, clicking “apply now,” and submitting your application.

Need Help Finding Qualified Travel Nurses?

It can be an ongoing challenge to fill high-need positions within your facility or residence. If you want someone else to write the travel nurse job description and do the hiring, we’ve got you covered. Let IntelyCare take care of your short-term staffing for you.

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Travel Nurse Job Description

Travel nurse duties & responsibilities.

To write an effective travel nurse job description, begin by listing detailed duties, responsibilities and expectations. We have included travel nurse job description templates that you can modify and use.

Sample responsibilities for this position include:

Travel Nurse Qualifications

Qualifications for a job description may include education, certification, and experience.

Licensing or Certifications for Travel Nurse

List any licenses or certifications required by the position: BLS, ACLS, CPR, PALS, CPI, NRP, IV, BLC, ENPC

Education for Travel Nurse

Typically a job would require a certain level of education.

Employers hiring for the travel nurse job most commonly would prefer for their future employee to have a relevant degree such as Bachelor's and Associate Degree in Nursing, Associates, Science, School of Nursing, Education, Graduate, Medical, Nursing Program, Management, Health Care

Skills for Travel Nurse

Desired skills for travel nurse include:

Desired experience for travel nurse includes:

Travel Nurse Examples

  • Microsoft Word (.docx) .DOCX
  • PDF Document (.pdf) .PDF
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  • Formulate the initial plan of care with the provider (physician or nurse practitioner) and collaborate with them to implement a comprehensive patient-centered plan of care to achieve expected outcomes
  • Collaborate with physicians, medical professionals and other staff to ensure quality of care
  • Provide care for the pediatric, adolescent, adult or geriatric patient
  • Utilize knowledge of the principles of growth and development appropriate to the patients' age to ensure that care provided meets the unique, physical and psychosocial needs of the patient
  • Involve appropriate parties (i.e., patients' family or guardian, outside agencies) in the assessment, treatment and continuing care of the patient as needed
  • Chang diapers and feeding babies
  • Keep parents well informed of their child's condition
  • Act as a charge nurse
  • Provide supervision to subordinate professional, paraprofessional and support staff in the performance of their patient/resident care duties
  • Assisting new mothers with physical and emotional needs immediately after the delivery of a baby
  • Strong OR experience
  • 1+ year of Labor & Delivery Experience
  • 1+ year of previous experience in an Emergency Department
  • MICU experience
  • BLS, PALS, IV Certified
  • Understanding of what the new mother is experiencing and providing the proper education and treatment, through observation, resources and consistency
  • Caring for patients with illness or disease that has led them to temporary or long-term hospitalization
  • Providing direct care of a set of patients and facilitating their recovery through social interaction and traditional therapies
  • Collaborating with a variety of interdisciplinary professionals to determine and providing the best possible care for patients
  • Identifying the medical problems
  • Act as a support system for parents and family of newborns
  • Collaborating with the Surgical team members and providing nursing care to patients undergoing various procedures and operations
  • Helping patients with recovery immediately following surgery and teach them, and their families, about at-home postoperative care
  • Interviewing and assessing patients on the day of surgery
  • Make sure that patients are receiving the best possible care
  • At least 2 years of recent ER experience
  • Adult ED Experience
  • ChemoBioTherapy Card from ONS
  • 2+ years of expereince in the specialty area
  • Minimum of 2 years of CVOR experience
  • Minimum 2 years of CVOR experience
  • Patient care and relationships
  • Assisting with endoscopies
  • Independently performing some procedures
  • Perioperative nursing care for pediatric, adolescent, adult surgical and geriatric patients
  • Providing care through the use of the nursing process and in a manner that is cost effective without compromising quality of care
  • Performing assessments, planning, and implementation of nursing intervention and evaluation
  • Demonstrating competency to circulate for simple to complex surgical procedures
  • Participating in department quality assessment, improvement activities, participates in student and new employee orientations teaching activities
  • Providing superior nursing care to a wide patient population, with a focus on cardiac care
  • Using established techniques in preparing for and assisting with surgical procedures
  • BCLS, ChemoBioTherapy Card (ONS)
  • WITT experience
  • Circulate & Scrub experience
  • Minimum 1 year of Acute Care experience
  • 2+ years of Gastrointestinal experience
  • Previous In-Room and Intake/Discharge experience
  • Utilizes current knowledge of industry recruiting and staffing strategies and best practices to coordinate, source, interview, and hire for all position levels
  • Providing and setting up necessary instruments, supplies and equipment for different types of operations, according to established routines and instructions of the Surgeon
  • Setting up operating room with instruments as specifically required for type of operation to be performed
  • Observing patient during surgical procedure to detect possible complications and/or breaks in sterile technique
  • Managing contaminated instruments and supplies during operation procedures to prevent spread of infection
  • Placing patients in recommended positions to assure access to the operative field
  • Preserving and labeling operative specimens for laboratory analysis
  • Observing progress of surgery
  • Providing superior nursing care to a wide patient population, with a focus on cardiac
  • Manage the care of patients experiencing life-threatening problems requiring complex assessment
  • 2+ years of experience in PICU
  • Previous experience in an Acute Care, Labor & Delivery, and/or Maternal Child setting
  • Able to work in level III NICU
  • Current OR experience
  • Recent experience within an Emergency Room setting
  • Recent Psych experience
  • Perform assessment/data collection in an ongoing and systematic manner, focusing on physiologic, psychological and cognitive status of patients
  • Analyze assessment data to determine appropriate nursing diagnoses
  • Identify appropriate expected outcomes individualized to the patient
  • Formulate a goal directed plan of care, which is prioritized and based on determined nursing diagnosis and patient outcomes
  • Identify patient / significant other learning needs and implement appropriate measures to meet these
  • Implement care in a knowledgeable, skillful, consistent and continuous manner
  • Perform documentation duties on unit and in patient record, which is timely, accurate and concise
  • Evaluate effectiveness of self, care given by all Healthcare team members, and contribution of systems, environment, and instrumentation in progressing patient toward outcomes
  • Travel to different out of town locations to assist with the collection of data for clinical research protocol subject visits
  • Provide oversight required to manage the cases assigned to ensure appropriate medical care is received
  • Experience CCU/ ICU
  • Experience within an ICU
  • Acute Care Ventilator experience
  • Experience within an Emergency Department
  • Experience working within a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  • 2+ years of experience in an OB/GYN / Post-Partum setting

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What Does A Travel Nurse Do

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Published: July 9, 2020

Read Time: 7 minute read

If you’re a nurse who is interested in building your professional resume, gaining extensive experience, and living in a variety of cities around the country, there is no better way to work as a travel nurse. Travel nursing is a profession that brings both economic opportunity and professional development. You’ll get the chance to visit new cities and make new friends, take home great pay, and develop your skill set.

To make the most of your travel nursing experience it’s important to understand what you are getting into. While travel nursing can be a great opportunity, it isn’t for everyone. If you’re a nurse who is ready to begin a new chapter in your life or are currently in nursing school and exploring possible career paths, understanding precisely what a travel nurse does can help you determine whether traveling is right for you.

What is a Travel Nurse?

Travel nurses are simply nurses that work temporary assignments. Typically those assignments last around 13 weeks, but the actual length of your travel contract will depend on the specific assignment. Some assignments may last as little as 4 weeks, while others can be over 20. You’ll have the ability to choose your assignments, giving you the flexibility to choose assignments with a contract length that is right for you. Travel nurses work at hospitals and health organizations around the country, though there are licensing requirements in many states that you should be mindful of when considering potential assignments.

Travel nurses, or travelers, work alongside permanent nursing staff in their assigned facility. As a travel nurse, you’ll be an active and valued member of the team you join. Though your assignment may be temporary, travel nursing provides the opportunity to work alongside professionals in some of the best hospital facilities across the country, giving you the chance to forge lifelong bonds with the people you work with.

How Do the Job Duties of a Travel Nurse Compare to Traditional Nursing?

What does a travel nurse do that’s different from a permanent nurse? Typically there is a great deal of overlap between these two types of assignments. In most cases, travel nurses are sought out for their expertise. This means that you can expect to be fulfilling the same types of functions that you would if you were working in a permanent position within that same hospital system.

The actual day-to-day job duties of a traveling nurse depend on your assignment and specialty. For nearly any specialty, your primary task will be centered around patient care. This includes performing patient assessments, assessing symptoms during patient intake, and being the primary point of care for patients under your supervision. 1

 You can also expect general nursing responsibilities which include:

  • Communicating with both patients, doctors, and other team members in your assigned facility.
  • Working collaboratively with nurses, doctors, and other team members to provide excellent patient care.
  • Deliver medicine and treatment to patients under your care.
  • Have the ability to work in a fast-paced environment, making critical decisions for patient care while maintaining a calm demeanor.
  • Identify specific patient needs and communicate those effectively to the patient care team.
  • Ensure adherence to the patient care plan by medical staff.
  • Support your personal, professional development by maintaining current knowledge of nursing practices and principles.

What is the Purpose of a Travel Nurse?

From the outside, a travel nursing career seems too good to be true. As a travel nurse , you typically get paid more than staff nurses, you get to travel frequently, meet new people, and broaden your professional horizons. But you might be wondering why travel nurses exist at all when a permanent nurse would probably be less expensive for the healthcare provider you are assigned to.

The purpose of travel nurses is to fill short-term gaps in coverage for the assigned hospital facility. There are any number of reasons that gaps in coverage might occur. A department may have a shortage of specialized nurses, may need to fill gaps caused by extended leave such as for maternity leave or an illness, or to provide surge capacity in areas that experience significant population shifts during certain times of the year. 

Travel nursing has recently been cast into the spotlight during the battle against COVID-19. As New York became the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States in March and April, thousands of nurses around the country accepted travel nursing assignments in New York . While each nurse chose those assignments for unique reasons (there are a lot of different types of travel nurses ), collectively those travel nurses helped augment the hospital systems to ensure that they weren’t overwhelmed by a surge of patients. 2  

While a typical travel nursing assignment does not carry with it the same incentives or risk, the flight of nurses to New York during the height of the outbreak illustrates the crucial role that travelers like yourself play in our modern healthcare system. 

What Does it Take to Be a Traveling Nurse?

If you’re a registered nurse with at least a year of experience under your belt, you’ve already fulfilled two of the toughest requirements for becoming a traveler. To work as a travel nurse , you’ll need to meet the following requirements:

  • Completed education.
  • Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
  • Complete any licensing requirements in the states you want to work in. 
  • Have at least one year of experience in your specialty.

Once you’ve completed these requirements , you’re almost ready to begin travel nursing! You’ll have to work with an agency like Host Healthcare to place you at a healthcare facility. If you aren’t sure which state or states you want to work in, take some time to understand the licensing requirements for each state. A travel nurse staffing agency is a great way to start your nursing career.

Is Travel Nursing Worth the Money?

Travel and temporary nurses are paid a higher hourly wage pay rate due to the short-term nature of the assignment, the high demand for your skills, and the flexibility that the position requires. But is that premium of travel nursing pay worth it? 

In order for travel nursing to be worth the money for you, you’ll have to assess where you are in your career, what your goals are, and what your lifestyle is like. Travel nursing is a great opportunity for newly registered nurses with at least a year of experience. It gives new nurses an opportunity to strengthen their resume, work with a variety of teams, and explore the profession in ways that you simply can’t do as a permanent nurse. Alternatively, many nurses choose to work as travelers towards the latter half of their careers due to the higher pay that comes with a travel nursing job and the opportunity to travel while doing what they love.

If you have the flexibility to move frequently to take on a new traveling nurse assignment, then the professional development opportunities and higher pay certainly make travel nursing worth the money. Ultimately, you’ll have to carefully assess whether travel nursing is a good fit for your personality, lifestyle, and where you are professionally to determine whether it’s the right fit for you. If you aren’t sure whether traveling is right for you, or you simply have some questions about the process, reach out to our team at Host Healthcare . Our knowledgeable staff will be happy to provide any travel nursing information you might need to help you find out if traveling is right for you.

What Does the Average Travel Nurse Make?

One of the many perks of becoming a travel nurse is to take advantage of the higher pay or salary. Travel nurses are typically paid higher than their permanent counterparts with the same level of experience. Your pay will depend on a variety of factors, with one of the most important being where your assignment is located. Assignments in areas with a high cost of living will result in higher pay, but your housing and other expenses may be higher as well. 3  

Your pay as a travel nurse will depend on which travel nursing agency you choose to represent you. At Host Healthcare, our travel nurses are some of the most well-paid in the country. Keep in mind, your pay during the assignment is just one facet of your total compensation package. You’ll want to get a firm understanding of what type of housing stipend or assigned housing is available, as well as any other compensation perks that come along with the assignment, such as travel reimbursement.

Closing Thoughts

Working as a traveler can be one of the most exciting and empowering experiences for both new and experienced nurses alike. Travel nursing provides unparalleled professional growth opportunities, exceptional pay, and the chance to work side-by-side with professionals in some of the best hospital systems across the country. Along the way, you’ll get the chance to meet lots of new people and explore new cities.

Travel nurses do all of the same tasks that permanent nurses do. You’ll provide top-notch, patient-centered care in hospital systems throughout the country. Specialized nurses are in particularly high demand, ensuring that you can bring your unique skill set to where it’s needed most.

If you are ready to begin an exciting new chapter in your life as a traveler, consider applying for allied traveling jobs careers. You’ll be part of a team that values your unique skills and understands the strength that comes with working as a team. Not to mention, have the opportunity to master your craft while you strengthen your resume. To learn more, please contact our team at Host Healthcare today!

  • “What Is Nursing & What Do Nurses Do?: ANA Enterprise.” ANA, www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/workforce/what-is-nursing/
  •  Wofford, By: Portia. “This Is How 10 Travel Nurses React When Asked, ‘Why Go To The Epicenter of COVID-19?’.” Nurse.org, nurse.org/articles/travel-nurse-covid-19-coronavirus-nyc-seattle-why/
  • Ericksen, Kristina. “Top 10 Benefits of Being a Traveling Nurse.” Top 10 Benefits of Being a Traveling Nurse | Rasmussen College, 6 Mar. 2018, www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/nursing/blog/10-benefits-of-being-traveling-nurse/

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What Is a Travel Nurse? Job Description and Salary

A nurse crosses a busy intersection.

When healthcare organizations face staffing shortages, they call on travel nurses. What is a travel nurse? As skilled professionals, travel nurses take temporary nursing positions in high-need areas. They jump into hospitals, clinics, and other facilities, giving patients across the country quality care.

The COVID-19 pandemic created a nationwide staffing crisis and, as a result, a surge in demand for travel nurses. Health leaders attribute this change to two main factors: First, as CNN reports, staff nurses, demoralized and exhausted, have been quitting and retiring at a faster rate than facilities can hire new ones. Second, many nurses are leaving their stable jobs for well-paying temporary jobs, netting $5,000 or more per week working through travel-nurse agencies, according to AP News.

Students and professionals interested in this career path can benefit from exploring the roles and responsibilities of travel nurses, reading travel nursing tips, and learning about the travel nurse salary and job outlook. 

History of the Travel Nurse

The travel nurse industry emerged in the 1970s in response to high-census healthcare contexts. 

  • High census is when the patient population in a healthcare facility becomes higher than the current staff can appropriately care for. In effect, high census means that a facility is understaffed. 
  • Low census is when the patient population in a healthcare facility becomes too low for the facility to use its entire nursing staff. In essence, low census means a facility is overstaffed for a period of time. 

In the 1970s, persistent nursing shortages in warmer southern states, such as Florida, drew nurses from northern states over the winter. These nurses followed the seasonal influx of so-called snowbirds — people who move for part of the year to get away from harsh northern winters. 

At first, these nursing work arrangements were informal. Nurses would travel to meet demand but were hired as regular permanent employees who would leave when the season ended. Because these nurses had no special contract with their hospitals and clinics, these healthcare organizations also did not provide housing or extra wages. This worked well for facilities in warmer states that could not afford to hire so many staff members year-round. 

Today, professionals fit a similar travel nurse description . Travel nurses often work for healthcare staffing agencies that specialize in placing temporary contractors across the country. Agencies take a cut of what a hospital might pay a travel nurse, and in exchange, they advocate for secure housing, competitive travel nurse salaries , and all-expense-paid transportation to new assignments for their travel nurses.  

Culture Fit: What to Expect as a Travel Nurse

What does a travel nurse do? Travel nurses routinely jump into roles at understaffed healthcare settings. Facilities expect them to perform all the duties of a traditional nurse with little to no context for care. Because of this, travel nurses must become comfortable with working in extremely fast-paced, chaotic environments.

For example, a travel nurse may take an assignment at a severely understaffed neonatal intensive care unit. The nurses on staff may not have the time or bandwidth to explain all aspects of the hospital charting system or details about specific patients; travel nurses may need to pick these details up as they go.

Travel nurses sign a contract to fill a temporary position. This can last several days, weeks, or months — or longer. When contracts end, travel nurses either extend their stay at the same location or move on to a new destination and opportunity. The length of their contracts can vary, although most placements are between eight and 26 weeks. Some travel nurses find a temporary assignment they enjoy and work to secure a full-time position, but many continue to travel and keep flexible working hours. 

Working as a travel nurse has many perks. Here are some of the benefits of travel nursing:

  • Assistance in obtaining passports/work visas (if working internationally)
  • Choice of location
  • Competitive pay
  • Free housing
  • Higher-than-average pay for RNs
  • Medical, dental, and vision coverage
  • Retirement plans
  • Selection of hours/shifts worked
  • Travel reimbursement

Travel Nursing Tips and Personal Characteristics

Travel nurses need to cultivate the skills of learning new systems quickly, taking criticism in stride, and adapting easily to change.

Some personal characteristics that serve travel nurses on the job include:

  • Ability to learn quickly. Travel nurses all have experience working in a traditional nursing context, but they need to be able to draw upon their broad knowledge bases as they adapt to new healthcare facilities. Some healthcare settings have different standards of practice and different technologies to learn. Travel nurses need to adopt new practices and technologies quickly. 
  • Resilience to persevere in challenging contexts. The combination of moving to different states, being the “new nurse” constantly, and taking care of difficult patients comes with many challenges. Travel nurses need to be able to withstand these challenges. 
  • Flexibility. Travel nurses have the freedom to create their own schedules with the agencies they work for. For example, travel nurses might work for nine intense weeks on the other side of the country and then take a month off. 
  • Comfort with working in new environments. Travel nurses need to adapt to different organizations and care teams, often when those organizations and teams lack the adequate resources to run properly. 
  • A strong support network. Travel nurses may need to leave their families and friends for long periods of time to take temporary jobs. Having a supportive person or group of people who act as an emotional sounding board can be crucial for working long-term in the chaotic assignments of a travel nurse.

Navigating Crises as a Travel Nurse: Pandemic Pressure

The demand for travel nurses has accelerated over the course of the pandemic. Rising clinician burnout continues to be a challenging issue in the healthcare field.

A recent National Academy of Medicine report suggests that between 35% and 54% of U.S. nurses and physicians have symptoms of burnout due to pandemic pressures. These burnout symptoms include:

  • High emotional exhaustion
  • High depersonalization (expressed in cynicism about the healthcare system or healthcare in general)
  • A low sense of personal accomplishment from work

Even in more normal times, the American Nurses Association’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation project found that at least 69% of U.S. nurses said they agreed or strongly agreed that they put their patients’ health and safety before their own.

Given the added stressors of the pandemic — including abnormally high patient mortality rates, the lack of personal protective equipment, political decisiveness surrounding pandemic precautions, and polarized public responses to the vaccine rollout — nurses have clearly borne the brunt of the pandemic chaos.

In the wake of so much nursing burnout, hospitals and health systems have relied on travel nurses to pick up the slack. As a result of severe staffing shortages, healthcare organizations are paying steep rates for much-needed staff.

How to Become a Travel Nurse

After determining what a travel nurse is and what a travel nurse does, current and future nurses may want to know how to become a travel nurse.

The steps involved in becoming a travel nurse include:

  • Earning an ASN or BSN degree
  • Passing the NCLEX to become a registered nurse (RN)
  • Gaining experience on the job
  • Getting licensed
  • Signing with a travel nurse staffing agency

Earn a Nursing Degree

Any nurse who has completed an associate or bachelor’s degree from an accredited nursing program is eligible to be a travel nurse. Several paths lead to meeting this education requirement:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree
  • Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree for entry-level RNs
  • LPN to BSN bridge program for licensed practical or vocational nurses or licensed paramedics
  • LPN to ASN degree for licensed practical nurses

Pass the NCLEX to Become a Registered Nurse

After graduating with an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing, the next step to becoming a travel nurse is passing the National Council Licensure Examination, also known as the NCLEX-RN exam.

Once they have passed the NCLEX exam and met the state board of nursing requirement, candidates will be eligible to become a registered nurse. From there, they need to start gaining enough experience in a nursing specialty to pursue opportunities as a travel nurse.

Gain Experience in a Specialty

Nursing professionals interested in travel nursing should look ahead and gain experience in the specialties they desire while still working full time as a regularly scheduled nurse so that they can work in specialized care environments as a travel nurse.

For example, a travel nurse with no experience working in a neonatal intensive care unit will not be competitive for NICU jobs. This is true for all specialties. 

Attain Licensure

To be a registered nurse, a professional must be licensed in the state where they work. The Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) allows RNs to hold a single nursing license valid in several states.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing keeps track of the states that have implemented the NLC. For professionals who live in a state that participates in the NLC, additional licensing may not be required to work as a travel nurse. However, travel nurses seeking to work outside of the NLC will need to get an additional license in the state(s) they seek to work in. 

Work With a Travel Nursing Agency

The last step to becoming a travel nurse involves signing with a travel nursing agency.

The benefits offered by each staffing agency will vary, along with the alliances they may have with specific hospital or healthcare networks, specific geographic areas, or even specific nursing specializations.

Travel Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the nursing profession to grow at a rate of 16% between 2014 and 2024. Due to the current nursing shortage, the job outlook for travel nursing is even greater. The BLS predicts a 19% growth for travel nurse jobs by 2022.

Skilled RNs will have opportunities to fill open positions in travel nursing. The BLS predicts a 9% increase in the employment of RNs from 2020 to 2030 due to the aging general population of the United States and a large number of older nurses retiring in the workforce. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), 55% of today’s nursing workforce is 50 years or older. That means there will likely be even greater need for travel nurses in the future as older nurses retire.

See the Country as a Skilled Travel Nurse

Traveling to provide patient services opens doors for travel nurses. They work for independent staffing companies that recruit RNs to fill positions throughout the United States and abroad. A lucrative career awaits nurses who are willing to take the leap, leave their traditional nursing jobs, and work in high-need areas across the country.

The ongoing shortage of nurses makes it challenging for hospitals and clinics to maintain their staffing needs. Travel nurses can help with persistent staffing issues, and they can also fill in temporary gaps when nurses go on leave. Travel nurses don’t always need to work in different states ; s ome serve at local understaffed hospitals.

For current and aspiring nurses with a desire for new experiences, an interest in meeting new people and visiting new areas, and a drive to develop an understanding of healthcare in other communities, becoming a travel nurse can be an exciting career move.

Learn more about opportunities for nursing pre-professionals with St. Catherine University’s accredited nursing degree program . Through comprehensive nursing instruction, St. Kate’s equips students with the technical skills to succeed on the job. 

Sources: American Traveler , “Travel Nurse Salary” AP News, “US Hospitals Hit With Nurse Staffing Crisis Amid COVID” CNN , “ Traumatized and Tired, Nurses Are Quitting Due to the Pandemic” Forbes, “What It's Like to Be a Travel Nurse During a Pandemic” Professional Association for Nurse Travelers , “History” Travel Nurse Across America, “New Grad Nursing & How to Start Travel Nursing” Travel Nurse Across America, “ Travel Nursing Basics: Agencies, Requirements & More” TravelNursing.com, “Which Travel Nursing Specialties Are in Demand?” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2020 - Registered Nurses The Wall Street Journal , “High Pay for Covid-19 Nurses Leads to Shortages at Some Hospitals” 

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A Day in the Life of a Travel Nurse

portrait of Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN

Gayle Morris

Contributing Writer

Learn about our editorial process .

Published February 10, 2023

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  • Travel nurses live a life of adventure, but the lifestyle is only for some. It can be challenging to develop real relationships quickly, often leading to loneliness.
  • It's expected that travel nurses be experienced in their field and able to perform many of the same tasks as their full-time colleagues.
  • Travel nurses can take time off to visit family or travel between assignments.

Are you curious about becoming a travel nurse? Although you love what you do, you may be ready for a challenge. Before jumping headlong into a 13-week assignment away from home, it's important to note that travel nursing is not for everyone.

It can be challenging to make real relationships as you're moving from city to city, leaving you needing a close support system.

Explore what a travel nurse does on a typical day and the pros and cons of becoming a travel nurse.

What Does a Travel Nurse Do on a Typical Day?

We spoke with two travel nurses to hear about their experiences and ask advice for our readers. Ashley Bryant is a busy travel nurse on a cardiac stepdown unit. She loves her travel assignments and the camaraderie she shares with nurses across the U.S.

Julia Waller enjoys her travel nurse career and the option to take several weeks off to go home and visit family and friends between assignments. Bryant and Waller talked with us about their typical day on assignment and the different types of "first days" they have at different hospitals.

Preparing for the Shift

Bryant says that the pandemic taught her the importance of emotionally, mentally, and physically caring for herself outside the hospital. For her, self-care has meant taking a walk or enjoying a cup of coffee before heading to work the night shift.

"I've noticed that taking a simple 30 minutes to mentally prepare before leaving my house makes a big difference in how my work day flows," she says.

Waller also finds that spending time before getting to work to care for herself can help improve how the day flows. She says that coffee and breakfast are the essentials to starting her day.

Arriving at the Unit

Both nurses told us that a typical day starts the same way as when they were full-time staff nurses. Waller has found that she likes having a home unit instead of being part of the float pool.

"I feel more organized and in control of my day when I have an idea of the patient population and the flow of the unit," she says. "I also find that having a home unit gives me more help and resources than when I float."

Bryant describes a routine that is not unlike starting the shift for any full-time staff member. She takes five minutes to learn the basic information about her patients and then meets with the nurse who cared for the patient on the last shift at the patient's bedside.

After meeting all of her patients, she takes another 20 minutes to take a deeper look at their charts, noting medication times, abnormal results, and upcoming tests.

She said that on a perfect night, the rest of the shift is spent administering medications, helping patients, and monitoring cardiac changes that may quickly evolve into an emergency.

New admissions from the emergency room or a transfer from the intensive care unit are interspersed in this busy schedule. She acknowledges that everyone plays a critical role in the unit's success.

"It is so important that I give the unit secretaries, nurse techs, environmental staff, transporters, and kitchen staff their 'flowers.' I would truly be lost without them," she says.

Ending the Shift

Ending the shift is much like the start but in reverse order. Travel nurses gather the information needed for the next shift, ensure they have charted all pertinent information, and complete the documentation.

The end-of-shift report collects the details of what happened to the patient in the last hours. It must include information for the incoming shift so patient care is seamless. This information includes medical history, medication, allergies, pain level, and pain management.

Bedside reporting is an integral part of involving the patient, family, and incoming nurse so all parties can get their questions answered and the patient can be actively involved in their care.

What's Expected of Travel Nurses

Travel nurses are expected to be experienced in nursing care and the patient population they care for. They should have mastered their skills before they begin traveling.

Your first day on a new assignment can include picking up your identification badge and getting a unit tour to a full-blown orientation day with your preceptor. Waller says that she has experienced a completely virtual first day since the pandemic's start.

She has consistently found that the new hospital usually requires travel nurses to do multiple learning modules so they are familiar with the hospital policies and procedures. Travel nurses can expect to be paired with a nurse for the first 1-3 days.

Although these preceptors are resources, travel nurses must have mastered their skills and work independently. Bryant has found that she often works 2-3 day shifts for orientation and then is released to work independently.

"The other nurses on the floor will ALWAYS be there to help you! There has never been a time when a fellow nurse was not willing to answer a question or come to my rescue on nights when it seems like everything is going haywire!" she says.

The Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing

The nationwide nursing shortage has made travel nursing an appealing career option for nurses who want to work full time or part time. Even hospitals that are fully staffed can experience seasonal shortages or the need to cover nurses on maternity leave.

But while travel nursing is an exciting adventure, it may not be for everyone. It is important to have a good grasp of the advantages and disadvantages of working as a travel nurse so you can make an informed decision about what you want to do.

  • Adventurous lifestyle
  • Control over when and where you work
  • Ability to see the country as a resident and not a tourist
  • Variety in your career experience
  • Higher pay rate and greater benefits to compensate for traveling away from home
  • Better professional nursing network when you can maintain these relationships
  • Paid to travel to new places
  • Opportunity to make new friends that can last a lifetime
  • Typically no workplace politics
  • Flexibility to take several weeks off between assignments
  • Experience of a geographical area before deciding to settle down
  • New life skills working in different situations away from the comfort of home
  • Unfamiliar environments consistently
  • Always the new nurse on the unit
  • Away from home for at least 13 consecutive weeks
  • Logistics of traveling for a long- or short-term assignment
  • Loneliness trying to develop real relationships in a short time
  • Unfamiliar territory working in float units
  • Necessity of a "tax home" to enjoy the advantages of tax-free money
  • Need for multiple nursing licenses when practicing outside of a nurse compact state
  • Canceled contracts
  • Not working your dream shift
  • Challenging to do your taxes
  • Complicated paperwork when working with several agencies
  • Inadequate healthcare benefits and typically no 401k
  • Pushback from full-time employees over high wages sometimes

What to Do When You're Not on Assignment

Travel nurses often find their assignment goes quickly. Before you know it, the contract ends and you're on your way back home or to your next assignment. Sometimes, the hospital facility will want to extend your contract.

In this case, your nurse recruiter or the nearest manager will let you know. It's up to you to decide if you want to stay or move on. Bryant notes that one of the best perks of being a travel nurse is taking off as much or as little time as you want between contracts. For instance, some travel nurses work the holidays , while others choose not to.

"I have met some travelers who take the entire holiday season off. It feels great to be able to take three weeks off to go home and visit family to really give yourself a break," she says.

This is one way that travel nurses have to care for their mental, physical, and spiritual health to prevent nurse burnout . It gives them a chance to come back to work refreshed and give the best possible care to their patients, Bryant notes.

Remember to make the most of your days off in a different city. By the time she has ended her assignment, Waller has completed a list of places to visit, the best malls to shop in, and has a list of some "must visit" restaurants and eateries.

Meet Our Contributors

Portrait of Ashley Bryant, BSN

Ashley Bryant, BSN

Ashley Bryant began her career in nursing in 2019 after earning her BSN from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Her love for everything heart related began in nursing school and was the driving force behind her decision to specialize in progressive cardiac and medical telemetry nursing. She began travel nursing in 2021 and has completed six travel contracts in Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, and California. What Bryant loves most about this season in her career is being able to combine her love for nursing with traveling and gaining experiences that only travel nursing can offer.

Portrait of Julia Waller, RN

Julia Waller, RN

Julia Waller is a registered nurse with experience working in the hospital and healthcare industry. She also has experience in diverse informatics systems and healthcare systems. She attended the clinical nurse leader program at Augusta University where she earned her MSN.

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10 Ways to Prepare for a Career in Travel Nursing

10 Ways to Prepare for a Career in Travel Nursing

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NurseJournal Staff

Updated October 10, 2023 · 4 Min Read

Reviewed by

Brandy Gleason

Contributing Reviewer

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The 7 Top States for Travel Nurses (Winter)

The 7 Top States for Travel Nurses (Winter)

Updated March 8, 2023 · 4 Min Read

The 7 Top States for Travel Nurses (Fall)

The 7 Top States for Travel Nurses (Fall)

Updated March 8, 2023 · 5 Min Read

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IMAGES

  1. Infographic: How to Get Your First Travel Job

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  2. How Does Travel Nursing Work?

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  3. All You Need to Know about Travel Nursing

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  4. Travel Nurse Licensing Guide

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  5. Traveling Nurse: Job Duties, Responsibilities and Requirements

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  6. Beginner’s Guide to Travel Nursing

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COMMENTS

  1. What Do Travel Nurses Do?

    Bedside Responsibilities Travel nurses are responsible for taking care of patients from triage to discharge. Typically responsibilities may include, Administer medications and monitor for adverse reactions Assist patients with activities of daily living (ADLs), including ambulation, feeding, dressing, and bathing Insert and manage IV catheters

  2. Travel Nurse Job Description [Updated for 2023]

    Example 1 Roles and Responsibilities:- Maintaining accurate, complete health care records and reports. Administering medications to patients and monitoring them for side effects and reactions. Prescribing assistive medical devices and related treatments. Recording patient vital signs and medical information.

  3. Travel Nurse Job Description [+2023 TEMPLATE]

    Travel Nurse responsibilities include: Traveling to patients' homes, schools and other organizations to administer medication and vaccinations and complete blood pressure, glucose and other tests Performing wound inspections, changing dressings and monitoring patients' overall wellbeing

  4. Responsibilities of a Travel Nurse: Duties and Requirements

    Experience Requirements After completing your education and passing your licensure exams, you need to get a couple of years of experience as a healthcare facility nurse. However, this requirement is not set in stone. The recent surge in demand for travel nurses has reduced the experience requirement drastically.

  5. What Does a Travel Nurse Do? Job Description, FAQs, and More

    A brief step-by-step list may include: Obtain a nursing degree through an accredited nursing program Take the NCLEX Apply for nursing license Obtain BLS and ACLS certification Choose a specialty of interest and get experience Reach out to a travel nursing agency and complete application

  6. How Does Travel Nursing Work? Requirements, Job Description, and

    Travel nurses perform the same duties and play the same role in a health care facility as a local RN, but the difference is that they're transitory, meaning they don't live permanently in the locality in which they're working.

  7. What is a Travel Nurse's Job Description

    Being a traveling nurse comes with the same type of responsibilities as a non-travel nursing job or staff nurse in any medical facility. Travel nurses are healthcare professionals who assist patients and have a wide array of duties to perform, such as administering medication and preparing nutritionally-specific meals.

  8. What Is A Travel Nurse?

    $84,000 Becoming a travel nurse can be financially and professionally rewarding and offer nurses a chance to see the country. Travel nurses fill short-term vacancies across the nation, with assignments that may last from a few days up to several months. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for travel nurses is high.

  9. Travel Nurse Job Description

    Travel Nurse Responsibilities: Traveling to patients' homes, schools, and other organizations to administer medication and vaccinations, and complete blood pressure, glucose, and other tests. Performing wound inspections, changing dressings, and monitoring the patients' overall wellbeing.

  10. What is a Travel Nurse? Everything You Need to Know

    Agencies & Recruiters Certifications CEUs A Travel Nurse's Journey Final Thoughts The world of nursing is not confined to traditional hospital settings. For those seeking excitement, flexibility, and diversity in their nursing careers, travel nursing presents a unique and rewarding opportunity.

  11. Travel Nurse: Job Description and Salary Expectations

    A travel nurse works short-term placements in a healthcare facility filling temporary staffing gaps. It's a career that lets you meet new people and enjoy new experiences while rewarding you financially. As a travel nurse, you can build your resume and explore the country while working as a nurse. Earn Up To $3000 a Week as a Travel Nurse

  12. What is Travel Nursing?

    Search Nursing Programs Select your education background and program of interest and see all the accredited nursing programs available for you. How to Become a Travel Nurse A travel nurse should have the following characteristics to excel in the role: Enjoys experiencing new cities, towns, and organizations Enjoys freedom.

  13. Everything you need to know about Travel Nurses

    Pass the NCLEX-RN exam Have a valid nursing license in their state Have at least two years of work experience as an RN Travel Nurse requirements may slightly vary from agency to agency, but all must have a valid license and be an operating RN.

  14. How to Become a Travel Nurse

    What Are the Requirements for Travel Nursing? The baseline steps to becoming a travel nurse are the same as those for other nursing career paths. Travel nurses must be registered nurses (RNs), which means completing a nurse training program, passing the NCLEX-RN exam, and applying for licensure.

  15. How to Become a Travel Nurse

    Travel nurses perform the same tasks and duties as a registered nurse, for the most part. Some may learn unique specialties, practices, or skills during their travels based on the needs where they are working. For example, nurses working in mosquito heavy areas may learn specific skills for treating mosquito-borne illnesses. Others may be ...

  16. Travel Nurse

    License Requirements The most basic requirement to become a travel nurse is a current and unencumbered RN license. Nurses who have completed an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing are eligible. Some travel nurse agencies may prefer to hire BSN-prepared registered nurses, but a BSN degree is not a formal job requirement.

  17. Travel Nurse Job Description Template

    This section of your travel nurse job description is an excellent place to outline what specific tasks a candidate will be responsible for. List the most important duties first and use active verbs and straightforward wording to clearly get your message across. Template: Adapting to new healthcare environments and protocols quickly and seeking ...

  18. Travel Nurse Job Description

    Responsibilities for travel nurse. Perform assessment/data collection in an ongoing and systematic manner, focusing on physiologic, psychological and cognitive status of patients. Analyze assessment data to determine appropriate nursing diagnoses. Identify appropriate expected outcomes individualized to the patient.

  19. What Is A Travel Nurse? [+ How To Become One]

    Travel nurses can perform all the same duties as a permanent RN. The only difference between them is that travel nurses are brought in to fill staffing gaps on a temporary basis. So, like other registered nurses, travel nurses do everything from administering medication to monitoring conditions to educating patients.

  20. What Does A Travel Nurse Do?

    Travel nursing is a great opportunity for newly registered nurses with at least a year of experience. It gives new nurses an opportunity to strengthen their resume, work with a variety of teams, and explore the profession in ways that you simply can't do as a permanent nurse. Alternatively, many nurses choose to work as travelers towards the ...

  21. What Is a Travel Nurse?

    Travel nurses routinely jump into roles at understaffed healthcare settings. Facilities expect them to perform all the duties of a traditional nurse with little to no context for care. Because of this, travel nurses must become comfortable with working in extremely fast-paced, chaotic environments.

  22. 10 Ways to Prepare for a Career in Travel Nursing

    7. Gain Specialty Experience in Needed Areas. As preparation for a travel nurse career, consider gaining nursing specialty experience in areas that travel nurses are most needed, or even a couple of different areas. The more versatile your skills are, the more options for assignments and locations you will have. 8.

  23. A Day In The Life Of A Travel Nurse

    by Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN Published February 10, 2023 Are you interested in what a travel nurse does on a typical day? Dive into what to expect and the pros and cons of being a travel nurse. Credit: FatCamera / Getty Images Travel nurses live a life of adventure, but the lifestyle is only for some.