There are so many perks to travel nursing! The money, the freedom to choose when you work and when you take a break, exploring cool new locations, the added professional experiences and so many more reasons are why you should become a travel nurse. You’ll meet some amazing other nurses and learn a lot about yourself! You can read all the awesome reasons why I became a travel nurse and see the benefits for yourself.
What is a Travel Nurse?
Travel nurses are contracted, temporary workers that are used to help with staffing in healthcare facilities across the country. Travel nurses are employed by agencies that have partnerships with the healthcare systems to provide supplemental staffing.
Most travel nurses work full time, and the contracts have traditionally lasted 13 weeks (although, the COVID-19 pandemic saw much shorter contracts for the crisis). The 13 week length of contracts is derived from the fact that travelers were historically used to fill in maternity leaves. Hospitals, long term care facilities, home health systems, clinics, and many other sites hire travelers to help them cover their schedules.
Travel nurses that are eligible for tax-free stipends are paid a combo of a taxed hourly wage and tax-free stipends for living and expenses. Our travel nursing pay package breakdown article describes this in more detail.
Why are they needed?
All nurses can relate to the short staffing issues that are plaguing the industry. All specialties and types of facilities are suffering from this problem, as well as the allied health sector. Travel nurses help fill these staffing holes while managers recruit and train permanent staff. Travel nurses are also used to help cover maternity leaves or be an extra set of hands during an EHR (electronic health record) conversion. They also may be used to help with patient care during strikes and times of unanticipated increased census. Additionally many hospitals and healthcare systems rely on local agency staff (a form of travel nursing) to help complete their schedules.
Where are travel nurses needed the most?
Everywhere! Places with higher needs will pay a bit more, and some of the less popular rural areas have higher rates. Before the pandemic, California was always hiring, paid great, and had safe staffing ratio laws that protect all nurses working in the state- but, again the cost of living can cut into your salary. Choose your top five locations and determine how much money you need to make and check out the jobs waiting for you to apply!
Where are popular travel nursing locations?
There is no one set place that is most popular among travel nurses. Historically, many travel nurses have gone to work in California because of their awesome patient ratio laws and decent pay scale, but that is balanced by a high cost of living. Many travel nurses are looking for the highest paying jobs, and location can vary greatly. A smart travel nurse looks at the compensation and compares it to cost of living to make the most fiscally responsible decision. But, you can literally travel anywhere that has a job posted as long as you are licensed in that state.
What states can you travel to?
Any state in which you are licensed. You can also apply for a license in other states, or travel to other ‘compact’ states if you hold a compact license. Some states have fast licensing, others take months. See Vivian’s guide to preparing for licensure and info on compact states article for more detail. For more information regarding licensing in other states, please visit: https://www.ncsbn.org/nurse-licensure-compact.htm
Can travel nurses work close to home?
Most facilities require that you work at least 50 miles from your permanent tax home to be eligible for the tax-free stipends, otherwise you are considered a ‘local’ worker. Some facilities have even longer distance requirements. I had a travel nurse job in Massachusetts that required my permanent tax home to be at least 180 miles from the facility. Check with your recruiter to be sure. If your home is inside the mileage radius, you can still work as a traveler but your wages will be fully taxed and you will not be eligible for tax-free stipends.
Do travel nurses make more money?
Most travel nurses will make more money than they would as a staff nurse, with or without a duplication of expenses (having a permanent tax home). This will always depend on the cost of benefits and pay for specific travel nurse assignments, as well as your own personal finances.
Is travel nursing a career?
Yes! A lot of travel nurses travel for years before going back to a permanent staff position, and some just keep traveling! You gain so much experience as a traveler and it’s a great way to see all of the country! Read more about developing your travel nursing career!