Travel nursing is one of the fastest-growing trends in nursing in the United States and many other countries today. It is not sure whether this is because of the nursing shortage or the fact that some nurses are rather underpaid in some parts of the world. It may also just be due to the fact that the wanderlust is getting to dome individuals and the advent of travel nursing makes it easier for them to get around. Whatever the cause, it is gaining in popularity and said to do so for many years to come by the looks of it.
Many nurses say that they became travel nurses because they wanted to see more of the country and possibly even of overseas countries. According to them, travel nursing also encourages personal and professional growth as they are faced with different problems than what they normally face in a clinical or hospital situation.
What Exactly Is Travel Nursing?
Travel nursing is basically very similar to the old-fashioned “temp work” that has been done by administrative employees for many years. With the nursing shortage hitting all parts of the country and various segments of the nursing profession, managers of healthcare facilities are challenged to find personnel. This is very prevalent in the rural areas, and in areas which are rather out of the way, as they cannot attract sufficient full-time nurses and very often cannot afford to pay full-time nursing staff.
This has led to the advent of travel nursing, which essentially means that a nurse takes on an assignment for a specified amount of time, very often far from her home town. These assignments are generally awarded by agencies that specialize in travel nursing. The agency generally supplies the travel nurse with travel and housing and expenses, helps with required licensing, and provides benefits and payroll services.
Travel nurse assignments can last anything from 8 to 26 weeks, but can be renewed and lengthened should the need occur and the agency and client come to an agreement on this. Most assignments last between 8-13 weeks. Sometimes an agreement is made with the agency that allows the position to be converted to a full-time position should all parties agree on this.
Reasons To Consider Becoming A Travel Nurse
There are various reasons why one should consider doing travel nursing, and according to those that have done it and the experts, here are some of them:
Expand Your Skills And Knowledge Base
Travel nursing makes better nurses because no matter where the assignment, as a travel nurse, you would be constantly exposed to different ways of viewing nursing practice and will inevitably acquire new knowledge and skills that will add to what you have previously learned as well as adding to your curriculum vitae.
Travel nurses have access to a variety of assignments, from those in tiny rural clinics and hospitals where there are but a few beds and where a nurse is expected to be Jill-of-all-trades, to the most modern large hospitals and urban teaching centers where you will be able to specialize in the area of nursing that most interests you.
Each of these experiences will serve to challenge you and help you to grow as a nurse, as you could be learning the latest technique in negative-pressure wound therapy at one hospital one moment and teaching it to staff nurses unfamiliar with the technique at another hospital on the next assignment. This is the type of experience and growth that you may not have the opportunity to experience should you remain in one healthcare facility for many years.
Take Control Of Your Own Career
If you feel that you are getting nowhere in the position that you currently occupy, and are stagnating with no challenges, no hope of moving up in the ranks and too many hospital politics, then it may be time for a change. Travel nursing could offer you the opportunity for a change of scenery, the chance to experience some challenges and take control of your own career by deciding what assignments you want to take.
One of the greatest factors that travel nurses enjoy is the flexibility of the job, as they can change to a different practice setting, e.g. from a hospital-nurse setting to a skilled-nursing facility, a managed-care organization, or even an ambulatory care center. You can choose to work in a slow-paced facility with more patient-contact; a larger more modern, facility where you will have access to sophisticated, high-tech monitoring equipment; home-care, where you basically deal with a single patient one-on-one; or somewhere where you will be exposed to advanced, cutting-edge procedures. This way you can tailor your assignments according to what your personal preferences and professional goals are.
In most cases, those who do travel nursing find that the pay scales are comparable to and often better than most staff nursing positions. There are also many opportunities to earn bonuses for recruiting other travel-nurses, assignment completion, working during the Christmas Holidays, etc, depending on which agency you are signed with. This easily translates into earnings of between 10% and 15% more than a staff nurse.
There are also various attractive benefits linked to travel nursing, such as medical and dental insurance coverage, and once again, depending on the agency;
- Free housing
- Travel reimbursement or a travel allowance
- 401 (k) and matching contributions
- Free or low-cost continuing-education courses
- Licensure reimbursement
- Various types of insurance such as disability, life, and professional liability
Broaden Your Children’s Horizons
If you have been worrying about the fact that you have children and what will become of them, you can stop worrying, as most travel nursing recruiters are more than willing to accommodate just about any situation. Finding suitable accommodation for travel nurses with children is no problem for them, and this means that you could take your children, and even your spouse, with you on assignments, or at least some of them. This exposes your offspring to different parts of the country, different communities and different lifestyles, which is invaluable in forming a holistic world-view.
If you prefer to not move your children around, then it is possible to request assignments with an easy commute during the school-term and take on other longer, distance assignments during the school holidays, which solves the problem of giving the children something exciting and different to do and experience during holidays and still allows you to work and be with them at the same time. This is a definite win-win situation!
Travel nursing is a wonderful way to take you out of your comfort-zone and teach you what you can do. After a few days of orientation on each assignment you will be ready to draw on the confidence that your previous learning and experience has given you and find yourself fitting in just perfectly whilst learning many new things at the same time.
Who Can Become A Travel Nurse?
Although there are some positions available for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN/LVN) to do travel nursing, the positions more often than not call for a Registered Nurse (RN), so this could be an incentive for you as an LPN/LVN to study further and get your licensure as an RN.
There are various full-time and online programs available for LPNs to study to become RNs, including some fast-track programs that only take a few months to complete.
Travel With A Friend
Many travel nurses prefer to travel with a friend so that they do not feel so lonely on their assignments, and it is a wonderful way to travel and see the country with someone who can share your experiences. Depending on the skill set that you and your friend possess, and the needs of the hospital, this can often be arranged. There are even lots of husband and wife teams that travel together.
What About Licensing?
As per law, you are required to be licensed in each state in which you work, but his is not a problem if you decide to do travel nursing, as the agency will help you with this process. The process is not that difficult or onerous for those who already have licensure in the state in which they live. Your agency representative will be able to give you all the necessary information regarding licensure in the state in which you would like to practice, and will assist you with whatever you need to do to acquire said licensure.
How To Find A Travel Nursing Agency
Before just jumping into travel nursing, it is important that you find a suitable agency, and there are some important factors that you should keep in mind when doing your research. Remember the reasons that you decided to do travel nursing, and make sure that the agency with which you sign up can provide and meet all those reasons. One of the easiest ways to find a good travel agency is to go to the travel nursing website, where you will find a list of agencies. Click on one of the banners to go directly to that agency’s website, where you can find out more and get all your questions answered.
Make a list of your expectations, what you want from travel nursing, and what your priorities are, and then find the agency that can offer most, if not all, of them. Your list should include some of the following:
- Excellent pay rates – money is not everything, but you should be paid according to your experience.
- Free Insurance – one of the benefits should be that you get free medical, dental, vision, and life insurance coverage for yourself, and also for dependents, should you have any.
- 401K with employer contribution – some agencies will pay 100% of your 401k, but some may only pay 50%; you will need to decide what priority this takes.
- Completion Bonus – competition between the agencies is fierce, and many of them offer a completion bonus for each assignment; this can make for some nice savings.
- Direct Pay – is it important to you that your salary be deposited in your bank account via an electronic transfer, or don’t you mind getting a check which you then need to either deposit or cash yourself?
- Travel Reimbursement – some companies will reimburse fully, whilst others offer a travel allowance, which would you prefer? Also check whether they only pay for your travel to and from the assignment or will also pay for any travel you have to do during the assignment, especially if it is a ling assignment.
- Continuing Education – this is important to any nurse, and it is important for you to check whether the travel nursing agency will pay for CPR, ACLS, and PALS if required for an assignment, and whether they offer any financial assistance for other further study, including CEUs.
Travel nursing offers two main benefits that are not available to nurses who practice as full-time nurses in one facility; being able to manage your own career how you see fit, and flexibility as to when and where you work.
Travel nursing will allow you to enjoy a flexibility and freedom that is not generally associated with a staff position; it allows you to take off between assignments to visit family or friends or go on holiday, with no limits on how long you can take off. You can also leave time between assignments to explore the area in which you have just been working more fully, or so that you can visit and take in the sights on the way to your next assignment.
Travel nursing with definitely test your mettle and draw on every bit of knowledge and experience that you have, but it will also offer the chance for growth, both professionally and personally. Becoming a Travel nurse will allow you to challenge your perceptions about yourself, your capabilities and abilities, and open yourself to new experiences along the way. Travel nursing will also allow you to make many memories that you would never have had the chance to make had you stayed in one place.