Travel and Work as a Nurse

As a young girl I always knew I wanted to be a nurse.  I also knew that I wanted to travel and see all that this United States has to offer.  If you have to work in nursing to pay the bills but want to travel, what better way to do both than a travel nurse.  Travel nursing can be challenging but also satisfying.  If you like adventure and want to see other parts of the country travel nursing might be for you.

In Demand

As a travel nurse you are contracted in facilities to fill gaps in facility staffs caused by worker shortages.  You may fill the spot of on employee on leave, or when nurses go on strike in a unionized hospital.  There may be an increased need in a disaster such as the ones we have seen this year.  The need for increased nurses is at times seasonal such as flu season or ski season in the mountains. Many nurses I know admit to moving from job to job.  I find that most change about every 5 years.  So if you are someone who has the need to move in order to stay challenged, travel nursing may be for you.

Who Can Travel?

Travel nurses range in age and specialty and background.  A contract is typically 13 weeks so you are moving frequently.  Nurses may travel alone or with their family or a friend.  You might be an empty nester looking for that perfect place to retire.  Younger nurses want to add to their resume and try a new professional experience.  Depending on the agency you choose the compensation can vary based on specialty area, skill level and location.  travel nurse options

Salary Range

As with most any nursing position salary ranges will vary based on specialty and location.  A traveling ICU nurse anywhere will make more hourly than a med/surge nurse in any location. Those working in Hawaii or California would expect to make more than if working say in Idaho or Wyoming.  Figuring salary for travel nurses is a bit tricky.  Compensation packages can vary widely and can range from $24 to $75/ hour.  Travel nurses generally make more than permanent staff and when you factor in housing stipend it can be substantially more.  For a better idea of how salary can be figured for a travel nurse check out

The one downside is there is little ability to advance into a leadership role.  When nurses work in a permanent job they typically take steps to further leadership options such as charge nurse or an administrative position. Another disadvantage is there is always a learning curve with each new site.

In-demand specialties

As we know the demand for travel nurses is high there are many specialties that are especially in demand.  Most agencies require at least 2 years in the specialty but you may find that some will consider less experience.  The most needed specialties are OR, ICU, NICU, telemetry and cath lab.   You will also find a need for labor and delivery and of course travel nurses.

Are you ready for an adventure?  To start the process select an agency to go to work for you.  Interview with the agency and work with them to determine several prospective locations of interest. . The agency will submit your application to hospitals looking for your specialty.  Once their is interested in you a hiring manager may interview you by phone.  Your agency recruiter should meet with you and review your pay package and housing options.

Your Reason

Every nurse has a different reason to begin travel nursing. Flexibility and change of scenery may be the reasons.  Some want to be close to family or just to try an area before making a permanent move.  Some RNs are committed to the travel lifestyle, while others may be retirees, who only take on a few assignments a year.  Travel nurses may be accompanied by a partners or family member on assignment. Taking time off between assignments for extended vacations is always an option.   You will get to experience how nursing is practiced in different areas of the country. Since you will work 12-hour shifts travel nurses get four days off each week to site see and visit the surrounding area.

If this sounds like the job for you check out our agency rankings page to find a Travel Nursing agency to contact to get started.

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a retired RN and US Army Nurse Major. She has over 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 once to South Korea. Her medical training began during the Vietnam era when trained as an army medic. She went on to train as an OR tech and then as a LVN/LPN. She completed nursing school and was direct commissioned into the reserve Army Nurse Corp. nurse. 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 working in other medical facilities. During her career she spent years as an OR nurse, Occupational Health Nurse, Hospice Nurse, Forensic Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as being a Nurse Entrepreneur.