Hospitals and other healthcare facilities often rely on travel nurses to maintain adequate staff. An aging population, retiring nurses, and an increasing number of people with access to health insurance are a few factors that have contributed to a nursing shortage. A travel nurse can help a healthcare facility meet staffing needs while it goes through the often time-consuming process of finding a permanent hire.

What Is Travel Nursing?

A travel nurse is hired to work at a specific location for a limited time frame, usually 13 weeks. These short-term assignments as contract employees for healthcare staffing agencies place travel nurses in a variety of settings and locations. A healthcare facility may shorten, extend, or renew the contract based on staffing needs. When the contract ends, the nurse moves on to another facility.

Many hospitals and other healthcare facilities rely on travel nurses for temporary roles between full-time hires, coverage for nurses off for health or personal reasons, or support during busy seasons.

Explore the Benefits and Drawbacks of Travel Nursing

Competition for coveted jobs may already have you considering a Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree to improve your career prospects. The experience and skills you’ll gain as a travel nurse will add to your resume while you flexibly complete your BSN online from any location.

The positive aspects of travel nursing include professional growth, opportunities to travel, and job flexibility. Drawbacks include issues surrounding licensing, onboarding, and contract cancellations.

Reflecting on the positive aspects and the potential drawbacks can help you determine if travel nursing will match your professional goals, meet your expectations, and complement your lifestyle.

There are many positive aspects of travel nursing, including opportunities to:

  • Expand your clinical skills.
  • Explore different work settings and specialties.
  • Become familiar with the latest technology and charting systems.
  • Enhance personal skills such as communication and flexibility.
  • Explore new cultures during your downtime.
  • Determine if you might like to live in a certain location.
  • Avoid workplace politics.
  • Earn money between permanent jobs.
  • Avoid getting stuck in a rut.
  • Plan extended time off between contracts.

You can manage your expectations of travel nursing with an awareness of the following potential hurdles:

  • Experience requirements of a year or more.
  • Limited location choice due to competition for prime locations.
  • Loneliness and difficulties with being away from family and friends.
  • Difficulty arranging for time off during a contract.
  • A negative perception by permanent staff.
  • Requirements to be licensed in multiple states and satisfy CEU requirements in each.
  • Poor orientation and onboarding procedures at some facilities.
  • Tax challenges.
  • Frequent job changes and extra paperwork.
  • Unexpected contract cancellations.

Salary and Benefits of Travel Nursing

The salary and benefits can differ from one travel nursing company to the next, so be sure to discuss your priorities with your staffing agency recruiter. A recruiter often has insider knowledge about different facilities and does some of the work involved in a job search. Their goal is to find a good fit between you and the facility.

Usually, travel nurses earn more than their counterparts in permanent positions, but this may depend on the specialty and the state. In addition to a salary and health and retirement benefits, travel nurses often receive an allowance for meals and incidentals. They are often guaranteed a minimum number of hours and receive overtime pay, if applicable. Housing may be offered cost-free or with a stipend, which may or may not be tax-free.

Explore Your Opportunities

Change is inevitable in the rapidly evolving healthcare environment. Being tech-savvy and having a diverse skill set, along with varied knowledge and education, can help you land the nursing job you desire. If you take the path of travel nursing, you will discover opportunities to expand your skills and increase your income while you explore the world.

Learn more about Nevada State College’s online RN to BSN program.


American Nurses Association: Anatomy of an Excellent Nursing Resume

Minority Nurse: Steps to Choosing a Nursing Specialization

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Job Outlook for Registered Nurses

American Nurses Association: ANA Health Care Economist Peter McMenamin on the Nursing Shortage Outlook

Becker’s Hospital Review: How Travel Nurses Are Filling the Staffing Gap