Is it still profitable to travel?

Is it still profitable to work with travel agency vs finding a permanent job?


Ive been in nursing since 1997, specializing in Dialysis. Ive worked permanent and temporary positions in travel.

In general, nurses' hourly wage has not seen across the board increases in years. Most local jobs in hospitals and clinics (dialysis ) are going to offer what they see as commensurate with your experience. You could have 20 years experience and not make much more than a new nurse right out of nursing school, the only advantage you offer is your experience. And that in itself will at least give you more of a chance of landing that job. And then you may not see a substantial increase for years to come.

Travel temp and perm as well as local temp jobs offer a way to negotiate your hourly wage, whether straight pay or blended (agency rates taxed vs. Untaxed stipend), you are more in control of your wages. You will still be judged by your experience but you are not stuck in a job you need but are not satisfied with.

Statistically most people who are not satisfied with their wage will entertain other options within the first year of employment. Stability is very important in your job search, and unfortunately many who are saddled with debt and familial responsibilities don't have much of a choice.

But if you are in the position to take advantage of any opportunities in travel, in my opinion your work as a travel nurse can put much more money in your pocket than a permanent position. Even with the added cost of purchasing your benefits from the agency you have the option of buying independent insurance (Obama care) as well.

Not only is the money better but you have more control of your time. You can plan extensive vacations before or after each assignment. Also with traveling you are not involved in political spats or long term grudges. You can (stay in your own lane) and stay out of the daily backlash of dissatisfied coworkers that want to start trouble or have ongoing grievances. You can make it a point to bide your time and temper knowing that you're time at this facility is limited.

Travel also offers new experiences. Whether you like the heat of summer or the snow in winter you have options for both. I had the chance to work in Eureka, CA. A place I never thought I'd end up. I got to see Redwood trees for the first time and made long lasting relationships with some of the people I met there. I got to experience a different type of community, restaurants, and nightlife, and lived a walk away from the ocean.

Local employment usually involves signing your life away for a job that offers stability and a promise of increased workload, responsibilities, and sustained stress for a long time to come. No breaks other than very short paid vacation and personal/sick days that you must reserve months in advance which gives you very little control over your time.

I chose to travel because of latter reasons. I've done every type of shift work in a permanent position to being as needed (prn) and I find the most rewarding is travel and temp assignment (contracted ). Along with the options they offer as an employee as well as the experience attained by working at different facilities can also make you more valuable in the marketplace.

I know in dialysis knowing how to operate various and different types of dialysis machines widens your prospects for employment. The world through technology is moving to a more mobile platform of nursing. Dont wait too late to jump on the bandwagon.

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I've worked in Eureka too! Although I work OR, I had the occasion to meet a dialysis nurse there last year working acute inside an operating room intraoperatively (don't remember the exact situation requiring it).

Nice snapshot of some reasons to travel, and as I've been doing it over twenty years now, I tend to agree. But I'd like to add some counterpoint for balance. Travel is and should be a lifestyle choice, including professional benefits of learning different ways of providing care (and perhaps different equipment for dialysis), avoidance of negative workplace politics, and committee work, and financial only secondarily.

The downside of travel is you don't have the family get-out-of-jail free card so the slightest lapses from professionalism or the wrong word to a family member or charge/peer can leave you with a three month housing lease and no income. Hospitals use travelers for critical needs (and travelers are expensive so often employed only when the need is dire), so high patient ratios, stressed staffers and management are more the norm than not. That may not seem like it applies to dialysis, but unless you are doing mobile acutes or home dialysis, think about the joy you get from a recalcitrant tech or a tech who just doesn't care as much about patient care as you do. Travelers also experience unfair assignments, floor/tele/PCU nurses may have the most difficult patient assignments, and equally frustrating, NICU/PICU/ICU nurses may not get the more critical patients.

Generally staff benefits including retirement, good health insurance, PTO, sick pay, holidays, vacation, and education is worth somewhere between 30 and 50% of base pay. The higher net weekly of travelers is enticing (should be a similar no benefits included raise in net pay to go per diem), but often staff benefits are not considered when making a choice. For travelers, part of the benefits are significant tax free compensation and low hourly pay that results in very low taxation. This has some unintended consequences for travelers unable to save diligently (which describes most Americans) in that your Social Security wages and ultimate Social Security retirement pay will be lower than a similar staff nurse, perhaps just half.

Nurses in large swathes of the South and Midwest and some other localities have significantly lower pay. You can leverage the exact same benefits of travel by instead moving to locations with a better pay versus living cost ratio and keep staff benefits. Places with the most extreme pay rates such as San Francisco and Boston with $70 plus an hour for senior nurses usually have the most extreme housing costs, especially if you insist on home ownership rather than renting. The way to maximize this ratio is to pick communities nearby cities with great pay as the pay must be competitive within the region, yet housing costs are much lower (which is why many live in suburbs in the first place).

There are around 3.1 million RNs registered in the US, of which about 2.6 million are working, and about two thirds of those in acute care where most travelers work. Travel RNs number around 30,000, a minuscule proportion of all nurses. They fill a vital need, but it is impossible to imagine a world where everyone is a free agent. It would not work. Of course, travel is self limiting as the family needs of most mean they never leave their general home area and constant movement is not most people's forte. We just were not socialized that way. What's the point? Just that you really cannot make a blanket recommendation for a fringe professional activity (however romantic the idea) for all nurses based on perceived or even real financial benefit.

There is no rush to "jump on the bandwagon". Travel nursing will be here when ready for just a few assignments before settling down or a long term career as a traveler. It has its ups and downs, fully half of all travelers bailed in 2008/9 for the security of staff jobs and the travel industry has just recently rebounded to its old numbers. Yes, travel is paying particularly well right now for certain locations and specialties, but greed does not lend itself well to career decisions. In terms of having a career, we are in it for the long term, and a couple high paying three month assignments does not bump career long compensation to a noticeable extent.

The other thing that deserves mention here as so many of Allnurses reader's are still in nursing school dreaming of the romance of travel is that you cannot travel out of school. You need two years of specialty experience as a staff nurse (ideally in a teaching or trauma center so you are prepared for anything you get hit with) before you can become a traveler, and even then there will be assignments that won't simply take your experience, but require proven prior travel experience. Hospitals don't want to train travelers but expect them to adapt to new patient populations, local customs, EMR, policies and practices, patient flows on the fly.


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NedRN that was a great read, thanks for sharing. Hope to be out traveling in a year or so, and that need for travel nurses will remain high, particularly ICU, at that point.

Specializes in ICU. Has 12 years experience.

I have only done strike nursing. I have been toying with the idea of travel and will probably take the plunge next month. I only want to do it temporary until I get into NP school. Getting stuck in a lease would stink. Don't take assignments in tiny places. I feel like if you work in an area where you are not paid well travel would be the best thing for you.


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Don't take assignments in tiny places.

Why, too boring?


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Specializes in Peds, Neuro, Orthopedics. Has 3 years experience.

You need two years of specialty experience as a staff nurse (ideally in a teaching or trauma center so you are prepared for anything you get hit with) before you can become a traveler

Does "specialty" refer to acute care in general, or a particular floor? For example, I worked for a few months on neuro and now am working in ortho, but they're both acute care. Would I be able to be hired in med-surg and/or acute care in general?


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Medsurg is acute care but some specialties, such as LTC are not. As an entry level specialty, medsurg can be the exception to the rule of thumb requiring two years experience, but two years or more is best. In your case in a large hospital with specialized medsurg floors, I would recommend continuing to rotate floors so your experience is broader based before you try travel.

Specializes in ICU. Has 12 years experience.
Why, too boring?

Small places makes me nervous, because if the hospital terminated your contract early you are now stuck with a lease and probably an area that does not need you. A hospital canceled someones contract I knew in Dallas but, the RN was able to find another need in the area. Contract was canceled because the census had plummeted and full-timers were complaining. If that happened in Lake Charles Louisiana will there be another position close by? probably not.


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Thanks domextension1 and NedRN for sharing your views. All this insight is so interesting!

I am on my very first travel assignment in Hilo Hawaii and just finished orientation. I am hoping they will not cancel me too much or worse still, cancel my contract, because it is definitely a small town and there is no other hospital nearby....that being said, I will be working in the float pool so it's likely they will need me more often than not.

Eureka CA that was mentioned sounds great, California is definitely on my wish list for travel nursing locations. I am hoping to get an assignment on Oahu Hawaii as well; maybe after I complete this assignment I will get an assignment there. Hawaii is very enjoyable so far, but the cost of living is certainly not ideal. I definitely won't be putting as much into savings as I would like while working as a traveler here, but I knew that going in and am enjoying the experience!


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Hi, we are planning to move to Hilo Hawaii. Are you still on that travel assignment? How much do they pay for travel nursing? Do you know what their RN rate of pay is for regular benefited staff? I have many years of experience. I also have ED and Oncology experience....just curious what the rate of pay is though.