Travel nursing is a rapidly growing niche in the nursing world. The current nursing shortage, fueled by a lack of staff nurses, has created a huge demand for registered nurses across the country and around the world.
To fill this void, many hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare operations have turned to travel nurses.
Simply put, travel nurses are registered nurses that travel to areas where they are needed when they are needed. Usually, they are hired by hospitals and other healthcare facilities on a temporary basis. Because they are hired when the demand for nursing is great, they are often offered higher pay than a staff nurse.
A travel nurse may be hired to cover vacation or sick time for the facility’s staff nurses, work seasonally in tourist areas or, most recently, provide additional help when hospitals see a spike in patients. Often the facilities use nursing agencies to find travel nurses especially if they are in need of a rapid response to immediate nursing shortages.
Traveling nurses have many of the same responsibilities as their staff counterparts. Their exact job description depends in large part on what type of facility they are working in and the job description. There are some tasks that any traveling nurse should be able to do, these include:
There are many reasons why a person may choose to become a travel nurse rather than a staff nurse.
Although registered nurses are in high demand everywhere these days, those with the most experience still tend to get the best job offers. Starting your career as a traveling nurse will give you the opportunity to get a wide variety of experiences in a short period of time.
At one hospital you may be assigned to the emergency room, another the ICU, and yet another the maternity ward. Each of the positions offers you unique skill sets to learn and another highlight for your resume.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean hourly wage for registered nurses in the United States is just a bit over $80,000 annually. The compensation package offered to a traveling nurse can vary significantly based on geographic location, need, and experience. He or she can earn more than a registered nurse on staff, especially if they have a strategic plan about where and when they work.
Travel nurses that work in areas where the cost of living is higher will receive higher wages as will those that are willing to work shifts or departments, like critical care or NICU, where positions are difficult to fill. They may also be able to pad their pay packages by choosing long-term assignments with completion bonuses or choosing to stay on after the original contract and earning a retention bonus.
In addition to earning more than enough to cover his or her living expenses, many travel nurses also enjoy either free housing or a housing stipend as part of their compensation package. This tasks a lot of the pressure of relocating off the shoulders of the travel nurse and, in many cases, allows for a more rapid response to the job request.
Another perk of being a travel nurse is having the cost of your travel covered by someone else. Not every facility in search of a travel nurse will offer this but many of the staffing agencies that have travel nurses working for them include this in their travel assignments.
Even if the agency or facility you will be working for does not offer travel reimbursements, you can write off your travel expenses against your taxable income when filing your taxes.
Higher overall pay and free or low-cost housing and travel are pretty good reasons to make becoming a travel nurse a part of your career path, but there are other reasons why this may be the right choice for you. The life of the traveling nurse offers you so many options.
You could spend your summers in a beach town and your winters near a ski resort. You could get paid to explore new cultures in various parts of the country. You could choose to spend time in a large thriving metropolis and then relax for a few months in a sleepy small town. Whatever suits your personality or mood at the moment, you are free to choose.
Many of the listed advantages of being a travel nurse involve his or her pay package and it is important to consider all of these things when determining the actual value of a travel nurse’s salary. This is especially true if you are comparing the rates offered to you by travel nursing agencies. Some will offer their nurse practitioners higher base pay and fewer stipends or reimbursements while others opt to offer more perks and less pay.
Understanding these perks and how they translate to actual; money in your pocket is an important step for those considering becoming a traveling nurse. Find out what an average traveling nurse’s salary is.
This one seems pretty obvious, it is the rate you will be paid for every hour that you work. Be aware, a lower hourly rate does not always mean less money in your bank. Look at the stipends, bonuses, and reimbursements you are being offered as well as the hourly rate to determine the true monetary value of the position.
These are offered to traveling nurses to help offset the costs of traveling and staying in temporary housing. Again, it is not as simple as just looking at the monetary value of these stipends. Some places offer free housing which would lower the dollar amount of your stipends but would not lower the value of your compensation package.
Most travel nurse positions do not include a health benefits package as they are only considered temporary hires. If you choose to work through a staffing agency, you may qualify for benefits from them but you will likely receive a lower base pay.
When a particular hospital or geographic region has a sudden or drastic increase in its need for nurses, such as after a natural disaster or the spikes in Covid cases, the pay rate is often raised in order to attract more travel nurses. While this will increase your overall pay rate, the extra money is added to counteract the sometimes substantial risks you may be taking.
The rates offered in times of high demand are tempting and will certainly raise your travel nurse salary but keep in mind that the demand is likely high because few other people want to do the job.
It is not difficult to earn a comfortable wage working as a traveling nurse. However, if you want to earn more than an average salary, there are a few ways to maximize your earning potential.
If being a traveling nurse sounds like a career path you would like to pursue, you can begin with a school search for nursing schools near you. It is the right career choice for many people, including both experienced nurses and those who are just getting started. A competitive base wage, numerous benefits, and a chance to travel and see the country while being paid is a lot to say no to.
Furthermore, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job of a traveling nurse has great opportunities for continued growth providing you with job security.
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