Understanding How a Career in Travel Nursing Works

A career in travel nursing allows nurses to visit new locations for short-term work assignments. Nurses with a flexible schedules and who can manage the extra expenses involved in travel nursing should consider this opportunity. Hospitals often hire travel nurses to fill temporary gaps in staffing due to turnover or vacations. Healthcare staffing agencies seek nurses with the right skills and positive attitude to fill these positions.


Before starting a travel nursing career, you must have the proper credentials. It entails obtaining a nursing license, which requires a bachelor’s or associate’s degree (ADN or BSN). Most hospitals prefer BSN nurses. BSN coursework covers various topics, including prevention and health promotion, evidence-based practice, statistics/research methods, healthcare systems and management, and community health. This type of education typically takes four years, but some students who transfer college credit or have AP passing scores can complete the degree in less time.

Other qualifications include having excellent communication skills and adapting quickly to different working environments. Travel nurses often work in diverse healthcare settings, and each facility has its standards of practice and technology. It requires a nurse with the ability to learn new things quickly and develop strong critical thinking abilities.

Hospitals and other medical facilities rely on travel nurses to fill temporary staffing gaps due to staff shortages. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted some medical organizations to delay hiring, the need for travel nurses continues, especially in specialty areas such as labor and delivery, pediatrics, operating rooms, and critical care units.

These nurses make a significant contribution to patient safety and satisfaction. In addition, travel nursing jobs pay up to four times what a full-time staff nurse earns.

Job description

A registered nurse (RN) works under contract, typically for 13 weeks, as a stand-in nurse at healthcare facilities and is known as a travel nurse. Nurses interested in travel nursing can choose from countless assignments nationwide in different specialties and locations. Neonatal intensive care units, medical-surgical nursing, and labor and delivery are the most in-demand specialties for travel nurses. Nurses with more experience are eligible for higher pay rates and often have more choices of locations for their assignments.

To work as a travel nurse, you must have an associate’s or bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or ADN. While many agencies will hire nurses with just an ADN, having a BSN will open far more opportunities and make you more desirable as a travel nurse candidate.

Having the flexibility to work in different healthcare settings and embrace new environments regularly is a must for travel nurses. The ability to learn quickly, adapt to various technologies and practices in hospitals or clinics nationwide, and keep a positive attitude in challenging contexts are also vital for this nursing career. Many travel nurses opt for a compact license, allowing them to work in multiple states without going through the long process of getting separate support for each state where they accept an assignment.


If you’re considering becoming a travel nurse, you should know how flexible this line of work is. In addition to negotiated pay packages, travel nurses typically receive non-taxable housing stipends that can be used to cover the cost of housing in their assignment locations. These stipends can make the difference between living alone or with roommates, saving money by renting a smaller apartment, or even banking some of it for another contract.

However, because hospitals are often staffed to meet specific needs and meet their mandated nurse-patient ratios, there may not be an opportunity to choose your shifts or schedule. In addition, some staffing agencies only want RNs with at least two years of experience, so you may need to work back-to-back assignments.

Despite this, many travel nurses still report that the flexibility is worth it. Being free to visit new places, meet new people, and explore different parts of the country is attractive to many RNs. It’s true for those in a specialty with high demand or those seeking to make more money than they would work full-time at a single hospital.

Having the right mix of traits and skills also helps travel nurses succeed in this role. For example, having a solid support network is essential to keep up with the demands of long-term travel nursing assignments. Being away from family for so long can be lonely, and it’s a good idea to have friends or family nearby to help you stay grounded and happy while you’re on an assignment.


There are countless opportunities for nurses interested in pursuing a career in travel nursing. In addition to a competitive pay package, a nurse who chooses to specialize in a high-demand specialization like critical care can expect to find more assignments available than their counterparts. Having a bachelor’s degree in nursing rather than an associate degree will also open more doors for travel nurses, so consider getting your BSN and get on the road to travel nursing much sooner.

New travel nurse positions are posted daily nationwide; most contracts last only 13 weeks. This flexibility allows travel nurses to try a new specialty or location and then move on to another assignment. It’s essential to know each destination’s specific state licensing requirements before starting a new job. Fortunately, many states are part of the nurse licensure compact, which makes it easier for travel nurses to obtain their licenses quickly and without extra cost.

Travel nurses gain diverse professional experience and expand their network by working at various locations and specialties. This diversity of experiences translates well on a resume and helps travel nurses stand out in the competitive healthcare job market. It’s also an excellent way for nurses to practice their skills in a different setting, which can be especially helpful for those preparing to take on a permanent full-time job.


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