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Considering Travel Nursing, but limited experience


Looking for some experienced travel nurses to weigh in with opinions. I'm considering leaving my full-time position with the hospital I currently work at. Pay (or lack thereof) is a big issue, as well as a lack of trust in upper management. I'm 30 years old, married, have a house and a 6-year old, and all that jazz. I'm an OR RN at a Level 1 Trauma hospital in Indiana; it's been my only nursing job, and I've only been there for 14 months. That's not a lot of experience, I know, but I catch on quickly to new things. I left a VERY well paying job to go to nursing school, and now I'm suffering because I make more than 20k a year less than my previous job, and racked up a lot of debt during the two years I was a student and unemployed.

I talked to a recruiter with Aya yesterday; he basically told me that getting local travel work would be limited, because I haven't hit that two-year point of experience (I'd be forced to only take the jobs that no other traveler would fill, which I imagine would be terrible). However, he said there was a lot of work in Louisville, making around $1500 - $1800 per week. Louisville is 2 hours away, so I'm considering it. He said there would be no call, and if I could get a contract with 3 12-hour days in a row, I could crash in an on-call room or nearby motel for 2 nights a week, and be back home for my 4-days off, all while almost doubling my pay! It seems too easy... Like it's too good to be true. It also seems scary to leave the safety net of full-time job. I'm in the military (one weekend per month, two weeks per year), so I get all my medical/dental benefits through them, instead of the hospital I work at anyway, so I'm thinking about going where the money is; that being said, what if I hate it and I just blacklisted myself from my current hospital network (I will be breaking contract and leaving early) and find myself in need of a job with bills piling up? Or what if contract work isn't as steady as some of the recruiters make it sound, and I end up without work after my first contract ends? I have a family to provide for, and I want to make responsible decisions that are in their best interest.

I guess this post is more of a rant, but I'm open to feedback of anyone with this type of experience. Thanks!


Specializes in ICU, Dialysis. Has 5+ years experience.

Since you asked for opinion I will offer mine....

I would stay for at least 2 years to expand out my experience base. During that time I would work on a goal to gain experience in all the facets of being an OR nurse. There are various positions within the OR that have different stills sets and being able to be comfortable in all those positions would be a huge asset for you. Let your charge and manager know that you would like to expand your experiences in the OR and see how they could help you do that. Give yourself a challenge till the 2 year mark- become the best OR Rn you can be with the most experience in the most facets of your job.

How much longer is your contract? and what type of contract is it?

You are right-going out on your own can be a big scary jump, especially being the lead wage earner in the family. Being in the same boat as you, I understand that burden, responsibility and privilege. My thoughts are to get the 2 years of experience and then you will have a firmer base from which to lauch yourself from into the traveling world. OR Rn traveling is a specialty that does tend to bring in more $$ per hour than average travel positions. Saying that, you do have to be marketable, and the more experience in more facets of OR nursing the better for you and gaining subsequent jobs.

The last point I will touch on is your recruiter agency. AYA has had a previous track record of not being the best company for travelers under there previous name Access Nurses. Changing the company name does not necessarilly change the company. I would work on the experience till at the 2 year mark and during that time work on getting set up with a few (3 minimum,5 better) travel companies and getting comfortable with your new recruiters. They will be the lifeline on which you depend for your financial future, so if you do not like them now you will be even more unsatisfied when push comes to shove. As you come closer to the 2 year mark, have recruiters send you sample pay packages from the same jobs and see which ones offer the larger amounts of pay, better re-imbursement rates or whatever variables matter most to you..... Also work on getting licenses in other states... the more states the better options you will have when its time to look for your next contract. Some states take months to get a license and others are fairly quick, but usually you cannot apply for a job till you have the state license in hand.

There you go...my two cents.... well probably three at least......



Specializes in ICU, Dialysis. Has 5+ years experience.

I guess I should also address on other aspect of travel nursing that should be considered as well. The emotional toll that being away from your family will take. Yes, a possible job is only a few hours away now, but job market needs change all the time and what happens if your next job is several states away and you cannot economically justify weekly travel back to home? How will you, your wife and children take it? In that light, is it worth it to you? Those are questions only you can answer.

Yes you can try to only take more local jobs but then you are severely limiting your options. Indiana is not typically a well paying state (for travel nursing or nursing in general) and typically does not have many open traveling jobs. Right now there is sort of anomaly of needs going on in IN but it appears to be a bubble that will pop rather than a trend...in my opinion.

There you go another two cents......

meanmaryjean, DNP, RN

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia. Has 40 years experience.

I'm assuming that since you're at a Level 1 trauma center in Indiana and 2 hours from Louisville- that you're in Indianapolis. Right?

I would strongly encourage you to look also in the local market. St. V just gave a fairly substantial market increase to their nurses. Other systems are bound to follow. There are a LOT of hospitals- shop local!


Specializes in PCU / Telemetry. Has 9 years experience.

I have to agree, there is something about the 2 year mark on a resumé that sings much better than 14 months. If I were you I'd stick it out for 10 more months. That way also, you don't have to worry about breaking your contact (which I assume might be part of a fellowship or recruitment bonus program?).

Don't jump to offers out of desperation. Shop around ... 10 months is more than enough time to do that.

I agree that you shouldn't leave before the two year mark. If you take that good travel position and are terminated for whatever reason a week later (not uncommon for new travelers), what would be your options going forward? Your career and finances would take a big hit.

Look hard at your finances and see what you can do better. Pick up some OT, or experience some per diem at another local hospital (good way to figure out if you have the adaptability needed for travel).


Has 2 years experience.

I'm a med/tele nurse so not as specialized as OR, but here's my experience and opinion. I started traveling after a year and 3 months experience, not sure if I would get a travel position. Nursing is a second (and lower paying) job for me too, and I wanted to get as much traveling done as I could before having to settle down. I got greedy and just went for it. I did end up getting a job in Texas and just completed my first assignment. It was a busier unit with more acute patient's than I'm used to, but I made it through and think I did a decent job (coworkers encouraged me to renew). I did make a lot more money (I was in St. Louis), and now am going to start a second assignment in CA.

I think it's a matter of risk. The less risky and safer thing is to complete your 2 years, and yes, you will gain invaluable experience in those extra months. But it's POSSIBLE to travel now too, it's just up to you. Somebody posted in a different forum to try PRN shifts at different local hospitals to see how you would adapt to a new environment, so you could try doing that.

As as side note, I also talked to Aya (and almost went with them until the last minute) and the recruiter was very pushy. All recruiters are kind of pushy and will tell you that you should travel now instead of waiting, but they were by far the worst. They texted me pretending to be HR of the hospital and the manager even called me after I rejected the contract with them to ask why. Their ads pop up everywhere and it's probably because they spend more on marketing than paying their nurses. That's just my personal experience.

I think the above commentor's note about stress of being away from family is worth noting (although this probably would be a problem even after you've had 2 years experience). My husband traveled with me and we saw a lot of TX and it was about the experience just as much as the money. It may be very stressful to start at a new place and be away from family for a few days at a time.


Specializes in Emergency, Med/Surg.

I almost started traveling at the 15 month mark. I was born antsy and ready to do something else. I am so grateful that I stayed in a staff position for another year, because the real learning happens when you aren't just focusing on keeping your head above water.