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The nursing industry is facing a crisis, and it is a crisis that has been looming for a while. With 87% of nurses indicating they feel burnout, and a large number of nursing professionals nearing retirement, America is facing a serious nursing shortage. Yet the healthcare industry needs nurses more than ever post-pandemic, and with a larger number of seniors requiring medical care.

This nursing shortage and the high demand for nursing professionals has created an environment where travel nursing is a growing consideration. Travel nursing allows nurses to fill in for temporary shortages when hospitals and medical centers do not have enough nurses available to meet the demands of their patients. Is travel nursing right for you, and how much do travel CNAs make? This guide will take a closer look at these important questions so you can make the right choices for your healthcare career.

What Is a Traveling Nurse?

A traveling nurse is a skilled professional who is willing to take temporary nursing positions in areas that have a high need for nurses, even if that requires them to travel away from home. As healthcare organizations around the country face continuing nurse shortages, traveling nurses are in high demand. They often receive a higher compensation when they step in to meet a staffing need in this way.

What Does a Travel Nurse Do?

A travel nurse performs all of the same duties as any other nurse, but they are committed to a specific location for just a short period of time. They step into healthcare settings when there is a temporary gap or increased need. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, some areas that had high caseloads did not have enough ICU nurses to handle the demands of their patients, so they turned to travel nursing agencies to help staff their COVID wings until the peaks subsided.

Once they are at the facility, the travel nurse will step in and do any job the healthcare center needs. They report to the lead nurse on the floor just like a nurse who lives in the area. If they have a nursing specialty, they will usually work within that specialization while they are at their location.

Travel nurses do have to learn the ropes at their location quickly, as each hospital or medical center has its own way of handling paperwork and other processes. Technology is often different from one location to the next, which requires adaptability.

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How Does Travel Nursing Work?

Travel nurses will sign a contract with the healthcare location to fill a temporary position. These positions can last several days or even a couple of months. While each contract is different, most of the time it includes highly competitive pay and housing during the time of the stay. These programs usually have travel reimbursement as well.

Sometimes, travel nurses will work with a travel nursing agency. This allows them to benefit from medical coverage and retirement plans, even while traveling from one location to another. The agency also handles the travel nursing contracts to ensure everyone is clear on expectations.

Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing

Working as a travel nurse offers many benefits, as well as some potential drawbacks. On the positive side, you might enjoy:

  • Choosing the facility: You may be able to choose where you want to work, and you always have the flexibility to turn down a position.
  • Choosing the location: Travel nursing gives you the chance to experience many different parts of the country, all while getting paid to do what you are trained to do.
  • Potentially higher pay: Because travel nursing is in high demand, these positions often have bonuses and pay perks. Some nurses find they can make more money as a travel nurse than working as a regular nurse in their community.
  • Flexible scheduling: Travel nurses can plan their contracts around important dates, vacations, and other family responsibilities.
  • Additional compensation: Depending on the terms of the contract, a registered nurse taking a travel nurse position will often receive a stipend for travel expenses, housing and more. This added perk makes it easier to make the move.

Of course, as with any professional decision, travel nursing is not perfect. Potential drawbacks can include:

  • Time away from home: If you have a family, you may need to leave them behind while on assignment. If the travel nurse positions are long-term roles, this could be a serious drawback. Many positions do allow you to bring family and pets with you, but this would pull children away from their school and friends.
  • Need for adaptability: Every time you take a new assignment, you may be faced with a new system and technology to learn as well as new coworkers to befriend.
  • Lack of connection: It’s hard to become part of the nursing team at a location when you will only be there for a few weeks or months. This can be a drawback for nurses who like that sense of teamwork.
  • Multiple state licenses: If you plan to take travel nursing jobs in more than one state, you will have to follow state licensing requirements, which can be frustrating.

How to Become a Travel Nurse

If you feel that life as a travel nurse would make sense for you, then the next step is to get the right training. First, you will need to get a nursing degree and become an RN. After earning at least your associate nursing degree, you need to take the NCLEX-RN exam. This National Council Licensure Examination is necessary for licensure in all states. It also allows you to hold one license that is valid in many states, so it is an essential step.

Once you are licensed, consider gaining experience in a particular specialty you think would be a good fit for your future travel nursing roles. For instance, if you would like to work in the ICU, get ICU experience.

If you are already an RN, consider a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, a good starting point to position yourself for options in the travel nurse industry.

Finally, make sure you are licensed for the states you wish to travel to. If the states are part of the Nursing Licensure Compact, then your existing license will be all you need. It is important to note that with the Nursing Licensure Compact, there are time limits after which you are considered a state resident and need to apply for a license via endorsement. If you plan to work in a state that is not in the NLC, you will need to get licensed in that state.

Now you are ready to start looking for travel nursing positions. A final step, if you choose, is to sign with a travel nursing agency. This provides staffing benefits, like insurance and retirement, and also makes it easier to find travel nursing positions.

Start Your Travel Nursing Career Today

If you are interested in the perks of travel nursing, the first step is to earn nursing credentials. An RN license is required to begin any nursing program at American Sentinel College of Nursing & Health Science at Post University. Our undergraduate online RN to BSN program will provide a stepping stone for your career, allowing you to complete your bachelor’s degree. We also have two online graduate degrees that busy nurses could use to make them more competitive in the travel nursing world. The online RN to BSN to MSN degree and the straight MSN degree both provide flexibility and exceptional training in an online platform.

If you want to know more about these programs or wish to see if they are a good fit for your needs, contact an admissions professional at American Sentinel College of Nursing & Health Science at Post University today.

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a list of our accredited online nursing programs on our website or reach out directly!

Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.