A travel nurse is a licensed, registered nurse (RN) that works on a contract basis on temporary assignments. Travel nurses control their own schedule, pick their job locations, and work in all healthcare environments. Travel nursing is an excellent career for nursing professionals.
Travel nursing assignments are typically 13 weeks, but longer and shorter periods are scheduled, and some nurses renew contracts multiple times when they find a placement that they really enjoy. Travel nurse jobs are available in all areas of healthcare and all types of organizations including:
The travel nurse job description is similar to any other RN job description, and includes the following:
All logistics, such as arranging travel, accommodation, and providing benefits such as health insurance are covered by the travel nursing agency or staffing firm.
The travel nursing lifestyle gives flexibility and control of work schedules and environment. Most travel nurses work full time and simply move from placement to placement throughout the year, but some only work a few assignments per year, and can generally pick where they want to work.
Travel nurses find assignments in every kind of healthcare organization, and work in environments ranging from university-based research hospitals to busy rural family practices, and everything in between. This provides the opportunity to expand skill sets, resumes, and professional networks.
One of the biggest advantages of being a travel nurse is the ability to avoid burnout. Short assignments in different organizations and areas of the country help keep the job fresh and can be very rewarding. Additionally, a 13-week assignment is enough time to allow travel nurses to focus on the job and the patients, make an impression and then move on to the next exciting challenge!
A travel nurse must be an RN in good standing with an active license and, ideally, at least two years’ experience. Travel nurses must have licensure in every state that they practice, but can avoid the time and cost of obtaining individual licenses by acquiring a multistate license via the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which allows nurses to practice in all NLC states (there are currently 29 participating states: see below). Note: you must be a resident of an NLC state to obtain the multistate license.
Other documentation required: copies of your licenses (professional and driving); documentation of (current) vaccines, appropriate titer results, PPD tests, a physician statement; and Basic Life Support card.
Travel nurses must be able to jump in to a new environment and get up to speed quickly. They must have excellent clinical, analytical, and communication skills, a calm demeanor, the ability to work well within a team, and empathy for their patients.
Just as with traditional RN roles, additional certification is necessary to specialize and subspecialize, and requirements vary depending on location and specialty. Some of the most in-demand specialties include neonatal, critical care, health policy, anesthesia, pain management, and psychiatry.
Travel nurse salaries are at the top-end of RN salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average RN salary is $70,000 per year, and most RNs make between $48,690 and $104,100 per year. Travel nurses can expect to earn near the upper end of this salary range.
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