I want to be a travel nurse. Advise?

Specialties Travel


Specializes in Geriatrics.

I have been in touch with Aureus staffing ever since I graduated almost a year, letting them know how my experience was going (I have been in Ortho/MegSurge for the past two years, one as a nurse tech and one as a RN) and was recently told that the travel market was saturated with nurses and jobs were getting harder to find. Well, there is no shortage at the local hospital I work at, and it is our slow season right now so we have no travelers here, but the snowbirds always come back. Aureus still wants me to become one of their travellers, but to start thinking about where I wanted to travel and they would research what employers are looking for.

I'm not in a rush but is Travel nursing a pipe dream? I live in Florida, we just bought our house here, and travelling is something I wish to do to help pay it off. Any recruiters out there let me know what you suggest to make myself a better candidate.

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia.

I think you need a different specialty. Med surg is not as in demand as critical care. My Peds critical care friends who travel have multiple offers in the air at all times- and this has been true for the past 3-4 years.

Google Aureus travel nurse reviews for an eye opener. Worst agency ever. Regardless, putting your eggs all in one basket is not a good plan.

There does seem to be a bit of a downturn in travel assignments right now, and it is true that you won't be very competitive with med surg nurses who have many more years of experience and proven travel success as well. Would you believe there are a fair amount of hospitals that will not take a new traveler? I'd recommend at least getting proficient in telemetry and another full year as an RN before hitting the road.

But if you are at all interested in a specialty and your hospital is willing, I'd second that idea. Pretty easy to drop down to med surg, not so easy the other way. More training in any profession is a no lose proposition. I have a nephew in IT for the last 25 years who is finally going to college to be able to move up in his career. Already making more than we do!

If you want to do it, go for it! I started with only a telemetry and med/surg background and have had no trouble finding assignments. Multiple recruiters always sending me emails. "Specialty" nurses don't really earn more than med-surg or telemetry nurses, only a couple of dollars an hour, and often rates are the same. I was trained in step-down at one facility and have learned new skills while traveling, and made good money. Aureus assignments and rates are fine, their health insurance policies are AWFUL. Good luck!

From my own experience, bill rates for OR nurses have been double that of medsurg nurses in some places at some times in recent years (seems to top out at about $130), and are always at least $10 more ($80 versus $70 for example). That has been the case (with other numbers) for the over 20 years I've been traveling. 25 years ago, there was always a $5 difference in rates between medsurg and specialties. Yes, the effect is watered down by the time it hits the traveler's paycheck (agency wants their 25% cut), but it is still pretty significant. Very different in the permanent staff world where market rates are completely distorted - in that a medsurg nurse may make exactly the same amount as a CVICU nurse with the same number of years experience.

If you love medsurg, I wouldn't suggest a new specialty that you don't like simply to make money. But it is really indisputable that travelers with a specialty make more. Simple supply and demand. Entry level jobs pay entry level wages when the marketplace is more "efficient" (a Wall Street or economics term). Even if it comes down to simply $2 an hour, that is $4,000 a year. I think of that as real money. My belief is that on average, the difference is closer to $5 an hour or a little more (more like $10,000 a year). Specialty travelers can milk crisis rates far more effectively than medsurg travelers for some huge differences. Talk to several agencies about the difference in compensation for specialties and current and historical demand. I'm pretty astonished at a claim that it pays the same.

OR nurses work 5 shifts per week, med-surg typically works 3. It makes sense OR nurse bill rates would be higher because they work more hours... but they also have to work almost every day. Med-surg nurses who want to earn extra money can work 4-12s on a 48hr/week contract if desired. I have seen multiple recently.

I was discussing hour pay differences, not how many hours worked in a week. Of course if you work more hours you make more. My one and only staff job was 12 hour shifts and I prioritize 12 hour assignments.

For an interesting travel industry quirk: the hourly bill rate is actually higher on 12 hour shifts than 8 or 10 hour shifts. Weekly housing and per diem costs are the same no matter the hours worked so fewer billed base contracted hours means 36 hour contracts pay more per hour to support those costs. Hourly pay rate to the traveler would be the same no matter the hourly obligation.

As a corollary to this, the overtime bill rate is higher and those fixed costs have already been covered by the base hours worked. This means the agency can theoretically pay 36 hour travelers a higher OT rate than 40 hour contracts. One more reason to negotiate overtime pay completely divorced from the base hourly.

Hello Blackberry74, ASN, RN,

As others have mentioned if Med/Surg is the specialty you enjoy most, you should stay in there. However, if you are focused solely on making the most money possible a more specialized field often yields higher bill rates as NedRN has stated. For example the current Med/Surg bill rate for travelers range from 60-75/hr. However for a specialty like OR you're seeing 70-100/hr and if you are able to do CVOR you're seeing 80-120/hr. I do not think travelling is going to be a pipe dream, but make sure you do a lot of research before taking an assignment to make sure that everything is done correctly. Working with multiple agencies is in your best interest to find the best contracts out there for you, but also to make sure you find a recruiter that is the best fit for you.

Here are some tips i tell to all my new travelers.

1) Having a sub-specialty in your field always helps like Oncology, Neurology, Ortho, Cardiac etc.

2) Having extra certifications will always help. For instance if you got your ACLS and NIHSS it would allow you to float to the tele/stepdown unit which is often coupled with med/surg when traveling.

3) If you haven't yet make sure to get the compact FL license as it opens your opportunity to where you are able to travel.

4) Be open to assignments. More often then not the assignments my travelers aren't thrilled about turn out to be the ones they love the most.

5) Have all your paperwork in one area that is easily accessible to make the application and credentialing process easier for yourself. (IE licenses, certs, immunizations, resume, etc.)

My last post was done quickly on my cell phone while distracted on a dental appointment. Forgot to say that you are right, perhaps most OR travel assignments are 8 hour shifts - often during the interview asking the manager they will say that 12 hour shifts will work because of three heavier days. But there are 12 hour shift assignments from the get go and I do prioritize those. 12 hour shifts are common in the CVOR and I do that as well.

Specializes in Peri-Op.

Im OR and have done all 3 shift lengths, even at the same facility on different contracts. Im working 4-8s right now making $2300 a week take home on 32 hours. No call, no weekends. Most I have made in the past couple years was $3000 a week take home on 36 hours, no call/weekends.

I have yet to meet a medsurg traveller making close to what OR makes, i k ow it occasionally happens but it is no where near the norm. If your working as a staff nurse in a union facility with set rates for years experience then sure, but we are talking about travellers.

Specializes in oncology, MS/tele/stepdown.

Congratulations on your house! I just bought in Florida too. Definitely make your license compact. Florida during season is not really representative of the travel market as a whole, because that is a very reliable cycle of needs. I don't say that to discourage you. If you are nervous about traveling you can very easily travel within the state during season to get your feet wet, knowing you won't be too far from home.

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