Travel Nurse

What Is a Travel Nurse?

Travel nurses are registered nurses who come from a wide variety of clinical backgrounds and are hired to work in different areas around the country or world for a given amount of time. Typically, they'll work for an independent staffing agency who assigns them to an area of care on a temporary basis - usually eight to thirteen weeks in the U.S. - to fill employment gaps. Due to the extremely high demand for nurses, there are commonly shortages in specific areas that are always in need of filling. The specialty of travel nursing came about as a response to the nationwide shortage of nurses. In order to attract RNs to unfilled positions, employers offer higher rates of pay and cover housing and relocation costs. Some travel nurses work outside of the country as international travel nurses. The freedom to choose where and when to work mixed with the excitement and adventure of traveling to new places makes travel nursing attractive to a wide variety of RNs.

What Are Some Travel Nurse Duties?

Although many tasks of the travel nurse will depend on the specialty that they're trained in, general tasks that are commonly carried out by travel nurses include:

  • Work job assignments that typically range from eight to thirteen weeks in the U.S. and one to two years when outside of the country
  • Assess, diagnose, plan, implement, and reevaluate care for patients in differing healthcare settings
  • Respond to areas that have experienced disease outbreaks, natural disasters, or wars
  • Provide medical aid and care to underserved, remote, and rural populations
  • Collaborate with other healthcare professionals to develop a plan of care
  • Administer medication and fluids to patients
  • Refer patients to other healthcare professionals as necessary
  • Evaluate and attempt to meet the psychosocial needs of both patients and their loved ones
  • Assess and interpret lab work, imaging, and other kinds of diagnostic tests
  • Provide around the clock monitoring for patients in critical condition
  • Become familiar with different kinds of patient care systems and documentation
  • Act as an educator and information source for patients, families, and communities
  • Assist patients with daily activities

Where Do Travel Nurses Work?

Travel nurses have the benefit of working in different environments regularly, and may travel around the country or even the world taking assignments. Common employers include:

  • Independent staffing organizations
  • NGOs
  • Non-profits
  • Government

How to Become a Travel Nurse

To shine as a travel nurse, you should love taking on new challenges, learning new things, be flexible, and enjoy traveling. If you think that you possess the characteristics that would make you enjoy and excel a career as a travel nurse, the first step you'll need to take is to finish a nursing degree program - preferably an ADN or BSN. LPNs are less commonly employed as travel nurses, so keep that in mind. Once you have your RN license, it's advisable to gain at least a year of traditional nursing experience in whatever specialty it is that you would like to work in before you move on to travel nursing as a specialty. Next, you should determine your preference on healthcare setting, location, and the length of time, and then use this info to assist you in finding an independent staffing agency that offers travel nursing assignments. Then, you should tailor your resume as best you can for travel nursing.

Step 1: Educational Requirements

At the very least, you'll need an LPN education to become a travel nurse. However, the vast majority of traveling nurses will hold ADN or BSN degrees. Some may even hold advanced degrees like MSNs or DNPs. Holding an advanced degree, of course, will make you more competitive and desirable in the field. Technically, there aren't any nursing education programs that are tailored to travel nursing. Those looking to become travel nurses should take the same educational route as a traditional RN would. The more certifications and experience in different specialties and settings that one has, the more equipped they'll be to find success as a travel nurse.

Do Travel Nurses Need an RN Degree?

Most travel nurses will be either registered nurses (RNs) or advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). However, though it isn't nearly as common, it is possible to become a traveling nurse as a licensed practical nurse (LPN).

Step 2: Required Travel Nurse Certifications/Credentials

After you've completed the necessary work to become a registered nurse, there are almost 200 additional certifications that you can choose to pursue. The more certifications you have, the more competitive in the job market you'll be. Although there aren't any specific travel nurse certifications, many travel nurses will pursue certifications in the following specialties:

  • Medical-Surgical nursing
  • Intensive Care (ICU) nursing
  • Pediatric nursing
  • Emergency room nursing
  • Ambulatory care nursing
  • Women’s Health/Labor and Delivery nursing

These certifications can be acquired through organizations like the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

Travel Nurse Jobs, Salary & Employment

The United States is currently experiencing a shortage of nurses. Because of this, travel nurses can expect to find gainful employment in the coming years to fill in the healthcare gaps in many areas of the country and world.

Job Description & Information

  • Essential Skills Needed - Flexibility, critical thinking skills, adaptability, teamwork, language skills, empathy and compassion, emotional intelligence, strong interpersonal communication skills, a sense of adventure, cultural competency
  • Job Outlook - The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that job openings in the nursing field are expected to increase by at least 16% between 2014 and 2024 - a rate that's much higher than most professions. Due to the nursing shortage in the U.S. you can expect that jobs in the travel nursing sector will grow at a similar or even higher rate than the one mentioned above.

What Is the Average Salary of a Travel Nurse?

According to PayScale, the average annual salary for a travel nurse inside the U.S. is approximately $69,000. However, because pay is highly competitive in this field, some travel nurses can make salaries of $100,000 or more per year.

International travel nurses tend to make less than those working inside of the U.S., with the exception of people who work in certain Middle Eastern countries. This is mainly due to the fact that nurses tend to make substantially less outside of the United States.

Aside from their salaries, travel nurses can enjoy a wide range of benefits which include travel reimbursement, housing stipends, medical coverage, the ability to select which hours they work, retirement plans, help obtaining work visas, and bonuses.

Salaries will depend heavily on the agency a travel nurse chooses to go through.

How Much Do Travel Nurses Make per Year?

  • $47,000 – $104,000 annually

How Much Do Travel Nurses Make per Hour?

  • $34.05 average hourly wage

Travel Nurse Resources