Travel Nurse: Job Description, Salary, and How to Become One

Interested in becoming a travel nurse? Read more about the job description, responsibilities, salary, and steps to becoming one. Careers

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Are you an experienced nurse seeking adventure? Consider becoming a travel nurse. This informative guide offers valuable insights into travel nursing, including job responsibilities, benefits, salary expectations, and the necessary steps to begin your journey.

Travel Nurse Job Description

A travel nurse is an experienced and skilled healthcare professional who takes on short-term contracted assignments in facilities that require additional nursing staff.

If you are an LPN, RN, or NP with a license, you can search for contracts to work as a traveling nurse. You can expect to work 13 weeks on temporary contracts with a weekly requirement of 36-48 hours. However, travel nurse contracts can vary from two to 26 weeks.


Related: Best Registered Nurse (RN) Jobs and Salaries in 2023


Where Do Travel Nurses Work?

Travel nurses have the flexibility to work in a wide range of healthcare settings across the country and even internationally for the most adventurous. Below are some healthcare settings where travel nurses work:

  • Hospitals: All units, including, but not limited to;
    • Intensive care (ICU)
    • Emergency room (ER)
    • Stepdown (PCU)
    • Telemetry 
    • Medical-surgical
    • Labor and delivery (L&D)
    • Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
    • Pediatric
    • Oncology
    • Cardiac care
    • Surgical
  • Long-term acute care hospitals (LTACH)
  • Urgent care facilities
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Home health agencies
  • Nursing homes
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Dialysis centers
  • Psychiatric hospitals and mental health facilities
  • Pediatric hospitals and clinics
  • Oncology centers
  • Operating rooms and surgical centers
  • Women's health clinics and labor and delivery units
  • Public health clinics

Travel Nurse Responsibilities

As a travel nurse, you share similar duties and responsibilities with staff nurses in your specified specialty, including: 

  • Patient care
  • Patient assessments.
  • Vital sign monitoring. 
  • Medication administration. 
  • Evaluation of patients for changes in condition.
  • Patient education. 
  • Communicate effectively with patients, families, and the healthcare team. 
  • Documentation.
  • Team Collaboration.
  • Problem-solving.

But, there are some critical distinctions as a contracted worker. In addition to your typical staff nursing duties, your additional responsibilities as a travel nurse will encompass the following:

  • Adapt rapidly to new healthcare environments, policies, and procedures to integrate into different facilities seamlessly
  • Demonstrate proficiency in learning and navigating electronic health record (EHR) systems specific to each assignment
  • Maintain compliance with specific facility requirements, such as specialized documentation processes, quality assurance protocols, and unique equipment usage
  • Adhere rigorously to facility-specific safety protocols and infection control measures to ensure the well-being of patients, colleagues, and yourself
  • Exhibit exceptional adaptability and flexibility to thrive in diverse assignments, embracing different cultural practices and regional variations in healthcare delivery

As a travel nurse, your ability to effortlessly integrate into different healthcare environments while delivering quality care is crucial. Your expertise and adaptability allow you to make a positive impact wherever you go.

Benefits of Becoming a Travel Nurse

Becoming a travel nurse offers a range of advantages that can enhance your personal and professional life. Here are some key benefits to consider:

  • Power to choose your time off: As a travel nurse, you can decide when to take time off between assignments. This flexibility allows you to maintain a healthy work-life balance and prioritize personal commitments.
  • Traveling and seeing the country: One of the main advantages of being a travel nurse is exploring different regions and cities. You can immerse yourself in diverse cultures, experience new environments, and create unforgettable memories while working in various locations.
  • Making new friends: Each assignment introduces you to a new network of healthcare professionals, enabling you to expand your professional connections and form lasting friendships. Collaborating with diverse teams fosters a sense of community and provides valuable networking opportunities.
  • Ability to make more money: Travel nursing often comes with competitive compensation packages, including higher pay rates, stipends, and bonuses. This financial advantage allows you to pay off debts, save for the future, or enjoy bonus travel experiences.
  • Experience in various healthcare facilities: With exposure to multiple hospitals and facilities, you can enhance your expertise, flexibility, and understanding, making you a versatile and in-demand healthcare professional.

Travel nursing is an alluring pathway for those who crave excitement, freedom, change, and traveling.

Travel Nurse Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in May 2021, the average annual salary for registered nurses was $77,600. 

As of May 2023, a report by ZipRecruiter states that the average annual salary for registered nurses is now $77,976, while travel nurses can expect a yearly salary of $105,021.

Nursing experience does not affect travel nursing pay. Instead, the salary varies on the state, healthcare facility, nursing specialty, travel nurse agency, and how many contracts you work in a year. 

Ziprecruiter's May 2023 report highlights that pay for travel nurses will vary depending on the state, with some offering higher compensation and others offering lower.

Highest Travel Nurse Pay by State 2023:

  • New York: $128,277
  • Arizona: $109,776
  • Wyoming: $109,765
  • Hawaii $109,653

Lowest Travel Nurse Pay by State 2023:

  • South Carolina: $80,182
  • Louisiana: $82,597
  • North Dakota: $83,025
  • Texas: $85,025
  • Michigan: $86,825

How to Become a Travel Nurse

Step 1: Complete an Undergraduate Nursing Program 

Complete your associate's degree (ADN) or bachelor's degree (BSN) in nursing. Undergraduate nursing programs take 2-4 years to complete. Obtaining your BSN may be preferable, depending on the specialty you desire to work in. 

Step 2: Get Your Nursing License 

Take and pass the NCLEX-RN to become an RN. If you want to be a travel nurse, it may be worth applying for nursing licensure and obtaining your first nursing job in a compact licensure state. By getting your compact RN license, you can travel to 39 states without needing to endorse your nursing licensure for every assignment. 


Related: Best RN to BSN Programs in 2023


Step 3: Obtain Nursing Experience

Any travel position will require at least one to two years of nursing experience in the specialty you plan to work as a travel nurse. This fundamental nursing experience will set you up for success, as each healthcare facility will have varying systems and processes. By having a solid nursing foundation, you can adjust and adapt accordingly. 

Step 4: Find a Healthcare Staffing Agency

Research and set up your applications with preferable travel nursing agencies.

Step 5: Apply for a Travel Nurse Assignment

Apply to your desired travel nursing jobs.

Step 6: Start Your Travel Nurse Contract 

Explore the world of travel nursing further with our detailed resources. Whether you're a beginner or ready to start your journey, we've got you covered with our beginner's guide and step-by-step instructions

As a travel nurse, you'll have the chance to work in various healthcare settings, discover new locations, and grow personally and professionally. Embrace the adventure and pursue a rewarding career that lets you make a positive difference in patients' lives while enjoying the excitement of travel.

Editorial Team / Admin

Erin Lee has 12 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care, Procedural, Care Coordination, LNC.

23 Articles   207 Posts
Specializes in COVID, retirement home, mobile care. Has 5 years experience.

Is it possible to make an internship as a travel nurse? 
best regards 
 

canoehead, BSN, RN

6,891 Posts

Specializes in ER. Has 30 years experience.
Sabrina S. said:

Is it possible to make an internship as a travel nurse? 
best regards 
 

Its not wise to travel as a new grad, and I doubt any hospital would hire someone without experience.

Specializes in COVID, retirement home, mobile care. Has 5 years experience.

I'm a certified nurse since 2019. I want to do an internship for 3 months as an abroad experience. I'm looking for a place (hospital, citizens' residence, mobile care, ..) in California, LA. If you have any tips for me, let me know 🙏 

I'm living and working in Austria.