Travel Nursing… What’s That?

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Travel nursing. When people ask me what I do and I say, “I’m a travel nurse!”  I essentially just get a bunch of blank stares.  Travel nursing?  Huh?  Are you like… a REAL nurse?  Are you qualified to be here? Why are you a travel nurse?

Believe it or not, travel nurses are typically at the top of their game.  We’re in high demand across the United States and even across the UK, BVI’s, Guam, and more!  We’re trained to be able to walk into a hospital, not knowing a soul, any policies or where anything is, and jump right in to help out!  If a hospital is looking for travel nurses it means that they are in dire need of help!  Typically due to nurses quitting, retiring, going on maternity leave, or just an increase in the number of patients on the floor.


What is a Travel Nurse?

So what exactly is travel nursing?  A travel nurse is a contracted nurse.  There has to be a NEED from the hospital – the hospital has to need help. And there has to be a WANT from the nurse – the nurse wants to go to X city.  Typically a travel nurse is contracted for 13 weeks – one week for hospital orientation and 12 weeks to help out on the floor.  Although contracts can range from as short as three weeks to as long as 26 weeks.

To be a travel nurse you have to work as a “staff nurse” for one to two years out of school. The reason for this is so that you can hone in on your skills and learn how to take care of patients. While you will always have questions, the reason hospitals hire travel nurses is so that you can get to the floor and jump right in.  The idea is that you don’t need a long orientation as a new nurse would.  For that reason being a “staff nurse” as long as possible will ultimately help you, in the long run, learn skills and have the confidence to care for patients by yourself.

The nurse is contracted by the hospital through a third party – the travel nurse company.  There’s always a middle man between the nurse and the hospital.  There are loads of travel nurse companies across the US and each offer different packages.  If you’re interested in becoming a travel nurse, you might find this article helpful.


What are the Benefits of Travel Nursing?

So why would you choose to become a travel nurse?  To leave your friends and family, and the comfort of your “home” hospital. Where you know everyone, and everyone knows you.  A place where you’ve gained seniority and you’re no longer considered the low man on the totem pole.



The first and the most lucrative reason people pursue travel nursing is because of the pay. Travel nurses typically make DOUBLE what a “staff nurse” makes.  And while it’s not all about money, the salary doesn’t hurt.  Suddenly working a full workweek in three days doesn’t seem so daunting.  And driving to the hospital for your weekend nightshift that happens to fall on Christmas?  Bearable.



The second benefit to travel nursing is the flexibility!  Every 13 weeks, when your contract ends, you have the choice to continue working or to take a break!  And guess what, the break can be as long as you desire!  Take it from me; I took 20 weeks off between assignments so that I could pursue my dream of long-term solo travel. And I didn’t have trouble finding an assignment when I was ready to come back.



And the most obvious reason for choosing to become a travel nurse?  TRAVEL!  Chase the summer from coast to coast.  Or enjoy the winter wonderland in a dreamy winter destination such as Alaska or Colorado!  Head to California for festival season, Arizona for spring training, and New Hampshire to watch the leaves change colors in the fall!  The United States is your oyster, do what you please with it!


What are the Cons of Travel Nursing?

For every pro, there is at least one con.  You just have to decide if the pros outweigh the cons or vice versa.  While you’re making double the money travel nursing… it’s at your own expense.  Expect to work double the weekends, almost every Friday and Monday, and every holiday (unless you ask for them off during your interview).


Not Knowing Anyone, and Nobody Knowing You

Expect to arrive at your destination and feel lonely for a while.  After all, you probably don’t know anyone, and nurses can be a tough crowd.  They know you aren’t going to be around long term.  More often than not, they don’t care to get to know you.  You have to be okay with that.

Not only will you not know anyone, but if an emergency happens during your shift it’s oftentimes more stressful than if an emergency were to happen at your home base.  If you need help, who do you call out to?  You don’t know anyone’s names.  Nobody trusts you yet and you don’t trust them.  You probably don’t even know where all of the emergency supplies are located.


Health Insurance

The toughest thing to deal with when you become a travel nurse is the health insurance.  If you choose to take insurance through your company, there’s typically a lag time.  Sometimes your insurance comes through day one of your contract, which means that it ends the day your contract ends.  Sometimes your insurance comes in 30 days later, which means it ends 30 days after your contract ends. If you choose to take a few weeks off between assignments, you won’t be covered which can make travel nursing feel stressful!

I choose to get insurance myself, not through my company.  While I pay more and have less coverage, at least I know I am always insured no matter how much time I choose to take off between contracts.



Finding housing as a travel nurse can be stressful.  Because you’re only looking for a place to stay for three months, rent is typically double what it would normally cost.  And getting scammed?  Common amongst travel nurses.  While you can let your company find housing for you, you typically end up spending more money than if you were to find housing on your own.

I always find my own housing utilizing Airbnb, Furnished Finder, or the Travel Nurse Housing – The Gypsy Nurse Facebook group. I used Zillow once and was scammed, I won’t ever use them again.


Why Choose to be a Travel Nurse?

So why choose this crazy life of travel nursing?  That’s just it… the spontaneity, the impulsiveness, the craziness!  It’s not for the money.  It’s not because I like feeling uncomfortable when I go to the unit and nurses freeze me out.  It’s to grow as a nurse by learning different practices and different ways of doing things.  It’s to grow as a person by being pushed out of my comfort zone.  It’s so I can see the world, experience different states, and meet new people.  And of course, it’s to chase summertime.


Still interested in learning more about travel nursing?  These articles might be helpful…

Nursing Has Allowed Me to

Travel Nurse Agencies Ranked by Travel Nurses

Why Travel Nursing?  Taking the Leap from Staff Nurse to Travel Nurse

How to Become a Travel Nurse

The 4 Requirements to Be a Travel Nurse

Common Travel Nurse Questions Answered by a Recruiter

How to Put Together a Travel Nurse Resume


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Kylee is a traveling Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse with a love for solo travel, wine, and Taylor Swift. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia. Passports and Preemies was created as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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1 Comment

  1. May 29, 2019 / 3:42 pm

    I liked that you explained that one benefit to hiring a travel nurse is to allow vacationing and traveling with family as an option since 24-hour medical attention will be at your side. I have considered hiring a traveling nurse for my dad as he gets older. This option would offer him a more normal transition into constant healthcare without enrolling him into a hoe. I will definitely research more regarding this option and discuss this with my husband.

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