If you’re a registered nurse and want to travel while you work, then a career as a traveling nurse is a great option. Travel nursing jobs give you the freedom to select where you work, the type of nursing that you want to practice, and the chance to branch out into different specialties. Traveling nurses also receive above average salary compensation as well as housing, health, and retirement benefits.
To find travel nursing jobs, registered nurses must partner with a travel nurse staffing agency — they’ll help secure your contract and negotiate with the hiring hospital or facility on your behalf. It’s important to work with a recruiter and staffing agency that understands your needs and the contracts you’re interested in. Experienced travel nurses suggest making a list of items that are must-haves for your contract — specific days off, vacation time, sick time/pay, cancellation policy, shift, etc. This will help you to determine what company and contract will be the best fit for you.
It’s also important to determine WHY you want to become a travel nurse. Do you want to see new cities, experience new cultures, and explore the country? Or, are you interested in the salary potential to pay off student loans or save for a new car or house? Determining the reason why also helps you narrow down the best contracts for travel nurse assignments.
One of the benefits of travel nursing is there are short- and long-term travel nursing assignments. In general, assignments last between 8-26 weeks — though, the typical contract length is 13 weeks. Some contracts may vary beyond this as hospitals and facilities have increasing needs.
Ultimately, it’ll be up to you to determine if you want the comfort of a longer assignment or enjoy the pace of short-term assignments. Travel nurses also may be able to extend their contract if they like the assignment and the hospital still has an ongoing need. It’s important to check with your staffing agency regarding state regulations and tax laws regarding multiple contract extensions.
Travel nurses have the opportunity to pick their assignments based off of available contracts. Locations like Hawaii, California, and New York are highly coveted especially for nurses who want to see the country, while locations like Minnesota in the winter and Alabama in the summer have better money potential because the cost of living is lower and the locations less popular.
The availability of contracts is also based on need — travel nursing started as a way to meet ongoing nurse shortages across the country both in rural and metropolitan areas. According to a 2017 study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there is a projected need for nurses through 2030 in California, New Jersey, and South Carolina. These states are expected to have the highest ongoing need for travel nurses. As a result, hospitals and facilities in these states often give out extra incentives to entice nurses.
Ziprecruiter.com determined the top five cities for travel nurses based solely on hourly wage. These include New York City (NY), Seattle (WA), Boston (MA), Florida (NY), and Washington (DC).
Read more: Best Cities for Travel Nurses
|City||Hourly Wage||Annual Salary|
|New York City, NY||$48.82||$101,547|
|Los Angeles, CA||$47.22||$98,208|
|San Diego, CA||$45.63||$94,915|
Some specialities are in high demand because they’re highly specialized. Nurses with these backgrounds generally have a high level of training and certifications. Hospitals have increasing needs in these areas because it takes longer to train new graduates. Travel nurses in these specialties have more opportunities, more available contracts, and higher pay options.
Currently, the highest needs are in the following specialty areas:
1. Labor & Delivery
2. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
3. Emergency Room
4. Operating Room (including training in Cardiovascular and Orthopedics)
5. Intensive Care Unit
With the ongoing nursing shortage across the country, most nurses, regardless of specialties, won’t have trouble finding a travel nurse contract. Most hospitals accept nurses with varying backgrounds if they have the appropriate training. Also, there is a high demand for nurses that have had travel nursing assignments before and know how to float through hospitals.
Traveling nurse jobs provide a great opportunity for RNs. But, if you’re new to it, you probably have some questions. Here are some of the most common questions asked and answered.
Yes. Each state requires its own licensing. The good news is that most travel nursing agencies help you obtain the required license before your start date. Processing time can take up to 8 weeks (California has one of the longest wait times), so it’s important to not wait. Pro tip: Make sure your current state license is up to date along with your certifications.
Read more: Current Nursing Compact States
Educational requirements for a travel RN are identical to those for a regular nurse — no additional schooling or certification is needed to travel. The main difference is the amount of experience you need. Each state has their own continuing education requirements to maintain licensure, which can be found on the specific state board’s website.
The experience requirement to be a travel nurse is usually 18 months, but some staffing agencies require at least 2 years of experience prior to your start date. It does vary by speciality, though — highly specialized positions may require more experience.
No. Contracts are typically 8-26 weeks. At the end of that time, you can choose another assignment with the same travel nursing agency or select a different agency altogether. You may also have the option to extend your current contract.
Yes, most companies offer benefits. Each travel nurse company offers different benefits in regards to retirement, dental, medical, and housing. It’s best to compare multiple agencies before signing your contract. If you don’t have time to make a comparison, then you could take your first assignment and research other agencies in the meantime. At the end of your assignment you can select a different agency if you’d like.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there will be a shortage of 1.1 million nurses by 2020. Employment opportunities for nurses are projected to grow at a faster rate (15%) than all other occupations from 2016 through 2026.
Additionally a 2015 study, discovered that over 40% of the current nursing workforce is over the age of 50. This number only continues to grow. The American Nurse Association states that more than 500,000 experienced RNs are expected to retire by 2022. Hospitals and medical facilities that are short on nurses will need travel nurses to fill staffing gaps.
There are over 25,000 currently working travel nurses throughout the U.S and it’s estimated by American Traveler that between 4.4% and 13.7% of nurses work outside their home state.
This depends in part on when you want to start. Once your application is processed by a travel nurse company, a recruiter may begin to present jobs right away. If a hospital or facility is interested in you, they’ll require a phone interview prior to offering the position.