Travel nurses are registered nurses who fulfill temporary roles at hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities around the world where there are often shortages. Travel nursing is a win-win: understaffed hospitals get the support they need, and travel nurses get the experience of exploring a new place. You can also get paid more doing it. Many healthcare professionals choose travel nursing for its perks, which can include competitive pay, tax-free housing and meal stipends, and travel reimbursement. When you consider total compensation, travel nurses tend to make more than a staff nurse.
What do travel nurses do?
Travel nursing encompasses a full breadth of nursing disciplines and specialties, from disciplines like RN, LPN, and Therapy to specialties within those disciplines like Med-Surg, ICU, OR, and many others. Not to be confused with nurses who “travel” to a patient’s home, travel nurses tend to work directly with patients at a single medical facility and on a specific unit as part of a short-term contract. While you can find part-time work as a travel nurse, most contracts are full time and last about 13 weeks. Travel nursing is a great way to gain experience in a specialized setting to advance your career because you’ll have access to opportunities that may not be available where you live.
How do I become a travel nurse?
You’ll need to be a Registered Nurse to apply for travel nursing jobs. At least one year of recent experience in the specialty that you are applying for is required, preferably in a hospital/acute care setting, and 2+ years experience is preferred. If you’re already a licensed nurse, then you can work as a travel nurse in your state. Each state requires a license, and you can typically transfer your license from state to state for a fee. This process takes a few weeks. In accordance with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), a nurse that has a “compact license” can practice in any other compact license state without obtaining an additional license.
How much is a travel nursing salary?
The average salary for a travel RN was $1,543 per week last year working an average of 36 hours per week, according to NurseFly data on thousands of job listings. This includes non-taxable compensation like living stipends, meal stipends, and housing. Keep in mind, many hospitals will offer higher compensation for specialties that require more knowledge and expertise, and many locations will offer higher salaries where there is a greater need for nurses. For example, Director of Nursing, CRNA, and First Assist specialties earned the highest weekly salaries on average in 2019. Similarly, states like California, New Jersey, and District of Columbia paid the highest average weekly salaries last year. How does a travel nurse salary compare to that of a staff nurse? Travel nurse pay is typically higher. According to 2019 BLS data, the average annual salary for a staff RN was $73,000 per year ($35.24/hour) or $1,409 per week working 40 hours per week. Staff RN’s were paid slightly less while working more hours. Additionally, meal stipends, housing stipends, and per diems for incidental expenses that travel nurses receive are often tax-free, which increases the total compensation.
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Travel Nursing FAQs
👩🏼⚕️ What are the benefits of travel nursing?
One of the top benefits of travel nursing is working and traveling at the same time. It’s a great way to meet new people, work in diverse settings, and explore different cities before settling down. Most travel nursing contracts last 13 weeks so there’s ample opportunity to get to know a new place beyond just a week-long trip. Travel nursing also affords nurses a more flexible lifestyle since you can control when and where you accept assignments. Maybe you want to work through winter and take off the summer months or you want to explore a city for a few months before moving there; you can have that flexibility as a travel nurse. An often overlooked benefit is that travel nurse pay tends to not only be higher than that of a staff nurse, but it also isn’t as dependent on experience. This can create more opportunity to advance your career and specialize in areas that may not be accessible where you live.
👩🏼⚕️ How does travel nursing work? What’s the process?
Travel nurses fulfill short-term contracts at medical facilities all over the world so a big part of finding a job is choosing a location. To apply for travel nursing jobs you’ll need to have a license in good standing, and at least one year of experience. If you’re working in the US, you can usually transfer your license between states for a small fee. You’ll either work with a staffing agency or directly with an employer to choose a travel nursing assignment. You can review agencies and explore thousands of jobs on NurseFly. Or you can save time by creating a profile to share with recruiters. A travel nursing assignment typically lasts 13 weeks, and most are full-time roles. In many cases, you’ll receive travel reimbursement, a housing stipend, and/or meal stipends as part of your compensation package. This makes relocating a lot easier, but you’ll still need to do a lot of planning beforehand.
👩🏼⚕️ How do I choose a travel nursing agency? Do I need one?
Travel nursing agencies contract with employers like hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities to recruit travel nurses for open positions. They make money when they find the right person for the right job. Building relationships with recruiters can help you land more jobs. In fact, many travel nurses work with multiple agencies when choosing their next assignment because it allows them to discover more opportunities and potentially receive multiple offers. When you have more options, that’s more leverage when negotiating a contract. A good recruiter understands your career goals and will work on your behalf to help connect you with the jobs that are the best fit. They should also help you advocate for the best possible compensation based on your specific skills and experience. Finally, they should make the process easy, which will involve submitting documentation to verify your experience, signing a contract, and other communication related to the role itself.
👩🏼⚕️ Do travel nurses get housing or meal stipends?
One of the advantages of travel nursing over many staff nurse jobs is that it is common to receive compensation in addition to your base salary like housing stipends, travel reimbursement, and meal stipends. If you’re able to claim a permanent tax-home, then you can be paid a blended rate, meaning your salary is taxed as ordinary income but your stipends are tax-free. When you consider this additional compensation and the tax savings, travel nurses can expect to make more than staff nurses.
👩🏼⚕️ Can travel nurses bring their families?
Yes! Many travel nurses travel with their partners and children. It helps to also have a partner that can work remotely or seasonally. However, when children turn school aged this can be tough. Travel nursing with school-aged children can be made easier by taking longer contracts, extending assignments, or homeschooling your children. You may also be able to choose assignments that are during the summer months when most children have a break.