Travel Nurse Options

travel nurse options

Consider One of These Travel Nurse Options for Your Next Job

Many RNs choose to pursue travel nurse jobs as opposed to the traditional choice of work in a hospital.  Traveling nurse jobs can be very attractive to nurses who want to travel and explore new places while furthering their career as a nurse and helping others. This career choice also may offer higher compensation, and there may be allowances provided for additional travel and housing. If you are considering moving forward with a career as a traveling nurse, it is good to know the various travel nurse options available and the positives and negatives of each.

becoming_a_travel_nurseTypical Travel Nurses

Of all the different travel nurse options, the most commonly thought-of one is a position where a nurse works for roughly 13-week periods at a time. Placements can be anywhere in the world, and the length of the assignment can vary depending on the exact nature and needs of the location. After one assignment is up, a travel nurse will move to a different location. If this type of nursing appeals to you, it is a good idea to remember a few things:


1. You may need to get a physical exam or get immunizations before you begin an assignment.
2. Because of the nature of travel nursing, you will need to be comfortable with an ever-changing environment where you need to quickly get up to speed.
3. You need to be registered in the location where you plan to practice nursing. If you plan to practice in the United States, consider the Nurse Licensure Compact, which allows you to practice in multiple states with one license.

Short Term Assignments

Sometimes, there may be a need for a travel nurse on a shorter-term assignment. These travel nurse options can occur because of a strike, a major health crisis or an outbreak of disease, and other reasons. In these situations, nurses may be needed immediately and required to work for a short period of time. These nurses, also called rapid response nurses, are highly vital to crisis situations.

Strikes are by nature unpredictable. They can last for a long or short period of time. Nurses entering an environment where other nurses have gone on strike will need to be prepared to perform well in a very uncertain and unstable environment. When a strike ends, you should be prepared for the possibility of losing that employment very suddenly.

Medical Crisis

Medical crises and disease outbreaks can happen at any time and at any place in the world. One example is the Ebola outbreak. In these situations, there is an immediate need for quality medical care to help prevent the spread of these dangerous diseases. Though these travel nurse options can be very high-risk and high-stress jobs, many nurses may appreciate the chance to help others and make a difference in the middle of a crisis.

Agency and Registry Nurses

Agency and registry nurses generally work for one hospital or group of hospitals and can be given very short notice.  Notice can be almost non-existent or up to a month in advance. Registry nurses also sign up to be available as needed, but they generally work in one metropolitan area. The hospitals they work at occasionally need extra help but not enough to need more full-time nurses. One difference between these two types of travel nurse jobs is that registry nurses may not be required to travel as far, whereas agency nurses may have to travel around a larger area.

Independent Contractors

Independent contracting is not yet very widely done in travel nursing but may be an option. A travel nurse independent contractor chooses to be more in control of their compensation contract details. These nurses would interface directly with hospital HR departments instead of going through an agency, registry or another company. The downside is you may not have access to company benefits such as health insurance, workers’ compensation or vacation days. You will also need to be in charge of paying taxes on your earnings as independent contractors do not have taxes automatically deducted from their paychecks. Still, if you like the sound of working for yourself and having extra freedom, independent contracting as a travel nurse may be a route you will want to research.

High-Demand Nursing Specialties

Travel nursing needs many different specialties. Most jobs require at least one year of real-life experience in a particular specialty. Some of the specialties that are in high-demand for travel nurses include radiology, occupational health and rehabilitation. These are a few nursing specialties for travel nurses.  Demand for other specialties may be available as well.  You will likely be able to find a location that needs your particular skill set.


Maybe you like a job that is fast-paced and constantly changing or you want to explore new climates and cities. Maybe you are looking for a better paying job in the nursing field. Travel nurse jobs can be a great career move and answer to the change. As you consider this job, examine the different types of assignments so you understand the benefits or downside. The high-pressure as a travel nurse in the midst of a health crisis draws many to the career. Others may want a more predictable assignment and stable position. You should pick the travel nurse option that best fits your skills, strengths, working style and career aspirations. You can expect an exciting, rewarding and character-building experience of a lifetime no matter which job you choose.

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a Registered Nurse and retired US Army Reserve Nurse Major. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career, she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and to South Korea. She was trained as an Army Medic during the Vietnam era and later as an OR tec. She went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and then completed her nursing training as a Registered Nurse. She was then commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserves. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and work in other medical facilities. During her career, she had the opportunity to work in several specialties to include, OR, Occupational Health, Hospice, Sexual Assault Team, Forensic/ Correctional Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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