Nurses often want to know the pros and cons of travel nursing before making a colossal life-altering career decision. If you have been considering travel nursing as a potential career trajectory, this article is for you.
For anyone who dreams of entering the healthcare field to help others but doesn’t want to be tied down to working in a single facility, becoming a travel nurse is an appealing option. As a travel nurse, you can spend your days working in different facilities in your immediate area, taking care of patients in their homes, or providing skilled nursing services as needed in different parts of the country—or even the world.
In a lot of ways, travel nursing is amazing. That doesn’t mean, though, that there aren’t any potential drawbacks. If you are considering a career in travel nursing, keep reading to learn a bit more about the pros and cons, and how to get started.
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Travel Nursing Pros
Let’s start with the good stuff. As a travel nurse, you will have the opportunity to live in various towns and cities throughout the nation. In some instances, you may even get to travel to exotic locations in other parts of the world. You’ll get to meet new people and immerse yourself in unfamiliar cultures.
When you work as a travel nurse, you quickly gain valuable work experience. You can gain knowledge that would likely take you years to learn in a single location in a matter of months. And if you don’t love your current nursing job, accepting a travel position can provide you with an easy way to escape.
As a travel nurse, you’ll be able to take more time off throughout the year as you choose. You have a higher degree of flexibility and control over your schedule than you do when working at a single facility. Because travel nurses work through staffing agencies, you will have the opportunity to try out potential employers before committing to a full-time position.
Travel nurses have a high level of control over where and when they work, so they often have the freedom to go where they want to go, when they want to go. You may even be able to find work in a specific city when you know there is an upcoming event that you would like to attend. Or you could accept an assignment near a friend or family member’s home if you would like to visit them for a few days (or longer).
Travel nurses are in high demand, too, so there are often attractive sign-on bonuses and other incentives that tend to make this career path look pretty appealing.
Travel Nursing Cons
The pros of working as a travel nurse are numerous, but there are also some drawbacks that you should be aware of when you are trying to decide whether it’s the right career for you. For starters, it doesn’t offer the same sort of stability as you would expect in other nursing positions. As a travel nurse, you are classified as a temporary employee, which makes it much easier for your employer to terminate your working relationship. Being classified as a temporary employee can also make it more challenging to collect unemployment benefits if you are terminated.
While you may have more flexibility in terms of taking time off, you shouldn’t expect that time to be paid. Paid time off is rare for travel nurses and, even when it is available, it’s usually tough to qualify for.
When you take on a new assignment, there will usually be onboarding requirements that can be quite time-consuming, and in many instances, they’re unpaid. Travel nurses also tend to move around a lot, which can make it challenging to build and maintain personal relationships.
Last, if you have what the IRS considers a “tax home,” many of the reimbursements and stipends you receive as a travel nurse are non-taxable. This may seem like a good thing because it means more money on your paycheck. However, it also means a lower gross income on paper. This could be problematic in the eyes of loan officers or when you reach retirement age.
Getting Started as a Travel Nurse
For many people, the pros of being a travel nurse outweigh the cons. If it still sounds like a career that you would be interested in, you will need to have the appropriate qualifications to get started. Most travel nurses are RNs, so you will need to have completed nursing school and become one before you are qualified for the job. Some agencies also work with LPNs, but you will have a much easier time being placed if you are an RN.
Keep in mind that you will need to be licensed to work in states other than your own. If you do not have the proper licensing to work in a state where you would like to be assigned, however, your staffing agency should be able to help you obtain it.
You usually need to have some experience working in a traditional nursing position, too. Before you can start traveling across the country as a nurse, you’ll need to spend a year or two (at minimum) working in a hospital or another facility. If you plan on working in a specialized field, such as ICU or labor and delivery nursing, additional bedside experience may be required.
Of course, you’ll also need the general supplies that are required for nurses. Do some research to discover the best shoes for nurses, find scrubs that are appropriate for the climate in which you will be working, etc.
The Bottom Line
Life as a travel nurse can be challenging, but it is also incredibly rewarding. If you think this career path is right for you, now is a great time to start preparing for your future. Whether you prefer to keep your travel distance relatively small or you dream of helping patients throughout the entire country, when you look and feel your best in your favorite scrubs and are committed to reaching your goals, anything is possible!
Adela Ellis is a full-time nurse and part-time ambassador for Infinity Scrubs. Adela attended the University of Arizona and has been a travel nurse for the last six years. She enjoys working with different doctors, nurses, and patients from all over the country and blogging about her experiences. In her free time, she loves true-crime podcasts and cooking for friends and family.
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