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Everything You Need to Know

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Certain travel nurse specialties pay higher than others. The need and availability of travel RN assignments is based on market demand. It’s difficult to list an average travel nurse salary range, since there are so many factors that determine an individual’s pay.

Several variables determine a travel nurse’s salary, such as:

  • Level of education (RN, BSN, MSN, additional certifications)
  • An isolated or nationwide pandemic, such as COVID-19
  • Specialty
  • Location of assignment (and the cost of living in that area)
  • Length of assignment
  • Shift differential
  • Staffing firm
  • Market fluctuation, such as unit openings, emergency responses, and electronic medical record (EMR) upgrades

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, hospitals saw significant census spikes. These country-wide spikes created what you might know as “crisis assignments,” which paid up to $10k/week in some specialties. However, since COVID has declined across the country, crisis pay assignments are not as common.

Because the range of variables is so vast, travel RNs can expect to make anywhere from $2,000-$4,500 per week.

According to Indeed.com, based on more than 60,000 salaries reported by travel nurses all over the U.S., the average base salary per week is $2,284. (April 2022)

To calculate a blended hourly rate for travel nurses based on the above Indeed data, we take the $2,284 weekly salary and divide it by the hours worked (for ease, let’s just use 40 hours). This equates to about $57/hour.

Travel nurses often receive additional perks beyond hourly pay and their stipend, such as: sign-on bonuses, opportunities for overtime, licensure reimbursement, medical insurance, scheduled paid time off, completion bonuses, and referral bonuses.

Nursing specialty is one of the key factors that determine how much money a travel nurse will make.

Generally, Registered Nurses working in a Cath Lab are among the highest paid, followed by those who specialize in OR (Operating Room), especially CVOR (Cardiovascular Operating Room), and Critical Care (various forms of an Intensive Care Unit, or ICU).

We’ll break down the top paying travel nursing assignments by specialty, starting with the highest:.

1. Cath Lab RN

Travel Nurse Salaries by Specialty Pillar Page Banner (1)Cardiac Catheterization Lab nurses work in specialized hospital rooms where cardiologists conduct minimally invasive procedures to monitor heart function. Other responsibilities of a Cath Lab RN include: ability to receive a heart attack victim from the emergency room, educating patients about how to live a more heart-healthy lifestyle, prepping patients for procedures and evaluating sedation.

How Much Does a Travel Cardiac Cath Lab RN Make?
Because the Cath Lab is extremely specialized, travel Cath Lab RNs often make between $3,500 - $4,500/week over the course of a traditional 13-week assignment.

2. Operating Room (OR) RN

Travel Nurse Salaries by Specialty Pillar Page Banner (2)-1OR RNs provide care to patients who are undergoing various types of surgery. They are sometimes referred to as perioperative nurses, which is defined as a nurse who works with patients at all stages of surgery – before, during and after.

Post-anesthesia care (PACU) RNs, which fall under the OR RN umbrella, care for patients as soon as they get out of surgery. Other OR nurses include those working in pre-op, Cardiovascular Operation Room (CVOR), Pediatric CVOR, and more.

Sometimes, Travel OR RNs are required to scrub and circulate during surgeries. Circulating means the nurses work outside of the operating room to coordinate with other members of the health care team, help patients change into appropriate clothing, and ensure that supplies are readily available prior to surgery. A scrub nurse stays inside the operating room to help maintain a properly sterile environment while assisting the surgeon throughout the operation. Scrub nurses help with passing instruments and marking areas of interest on a patient’s body to assist with proper location during surgery.

How Much Does a Travel OR RN Make?
Travel OR RNs can expect to make between $3,000-$3,700/week while on assignment.

3. Critical Care - Intensive Care Unit (ICU) RN

Travel Nurse Salaries by Specialty Pillar Page Banner (3)Critical Care travel nurses work with patients who are experiencing life-threatening injuries or conditions. They can work in a variety of units within a hospital, including pediatric ICUs, cardiovascular ICUs, neonatal ICUs, medical ICUs, and recovery rooms.

How Much Does a Travel CCRN (Critical Care Registered Nurse) Make?
Because there are so many individual units within critical care, pay can vary greatly in range. Currently, ICU RNs can expect to make anywhere from $2,600 - $3,600/week.

4. Labor and Delivery RN

Labor and Delivery travel nurses focus on caring for soon-to-be mothers and their new additions. Travel L&D RNs are a critical part of an interdisciplinary care team within the maternity ward. They administer medications, check vital signs for mom and baby, and play an integral part in the overall recovery process. Labor and Delivery nurses also help to educate new parents prior to discharge.

How Much Does a Travel L&D RN Make?
Travel Labor and Delivery nurses can expect to make anywhere from $2,700 - $3,500/week while on a travel assignment.

5. Emergency Room (ER) RN

Emergency Nurses Day (1)-1Emergency Room RNs see patients who need immediate care, due to injury or illness. They are responsible for triaging and stabilizing incoming patients, administering medications, starting IV lines, cleaning wounds, drawing blood, performing intubations, and giving stiches or sutures.

How Much Does a Travel ER RN Make?
As of May 2022, Emergency Room travel nurses, on average, are earning between $2,500-$3500/week.

6. Medical/ Surgical RN

We’ve learned from travelers that many RNs start out in Med Surg, so it’s normal to see this specialty have lower pay compared to some of the others.

MS RNs play a key role in direct patient care. The Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) notes that medical surgical nurses are the frontline providers who have more facetime with patients than any other professional in the hospital while also planning care, listening to patients’ concerns, and answering loved ones’ questions. 

How Much Does a Travel Med Surg Nurse Make?
According to Vivian, the average salary for a travel Med Surg RN is $2,881/week.

7. Telemetry RN

Travel Nurse Salaries by Specialty Pillar Page Banner (4)-1A Telemetry travel nurse monitors patients using remote electronic signals and respond to noticeable variations in cardiac rhythm. Telemetry RNs (often written as “Tele RNs”) care for patients with cardiovascular complications and a variety of conditions, such as heart failure, heart disease, or heart arrhythmia (improper beating of the heart where it beats irregularly, too quickly, or too slowly).

Some Tele RNs also work in Med Surg, or MS. In this case, their specialty would be written as MS/Tele.

How Much Does a Travel Tele RN Make?
According to ZipRecruiter, as of May 2022, the average annual pay for a Telemetry RN Travel Nurse in the U.S. is approximately $49/hour, which equates to $1,968/week.

Highest Paying States

States offering the highest pay for travel nursing by specialty are California, Texas, Washington D.C., and New York. Keep in mind, these areas may also have higher cost of living, so a travel nurse’s net take home amount will be lower.

Travel Nursing Hours

How To Become a Travel CNA - Pillar Page Image ClockMost assignments will guarantee you 36 hours per week (breaking down to three 12-hour shifts). With that, depending on the staffing needs of the unit or building, you may be able to pick up overtime. Most travel assignments offer overtime rates of 1.3-1.5x your hourly rate.

Usually, overtime begins after 40 hours has been worked in a single pay period. Although, in California, they have a statewide rule where anyone who works more than eight hours in a day gets paid overtime.

Other Ways to Increase Pay

  • Shift differentials – known as “shift diff” – sometimes allow for nurses to get paid higher. Typically, night shift nurses will get paid more than day shift nurses.
  • On-call – some travel nurses can earn more money by opting to be on-call. For example, this is often the case for OR RNs.

To learn more about the benefits of travel nursing, check out our Travel Nursing FAQ page.

Interested in learning about new travel nursing opportunities? Join the LeaderStat Network so we can inform you about travel assignments that fit your needs.


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