Questions about travel nursing


Specializes in ER / ICU. Has 12 years experience.

Hey all,

I graduated with my BSN in June, started working full-time on a busy med-surg/cardiac unit. I've spoke to multiple co-workers who have years of traveling experience but I'm looking for some more advice and opinions. I've got several questions...

1. Is 12 months experience enough or would you recommend more?

2. How much money do you recommend having saved to start off with? (I don't want to get on the road and end up with financial difficulties)

3. Do you find that the staff you work with are receptive to travelers or just dismiss them because they're the "new kid"?

4. What agencies do you recommend and why? (I've researched quite a few but I'm not entirely sure what makes them good or not)

5. What are some things about traveling you wish you had known before you started?

Any other words of wisdom are greatly appreciated! I only have a few months under my belt right now so I've got about 8-9 months left before I'm eligible but I figure it's never too late to start researching my options. Thanks for the input!


nghtfltguy, BSN, RN

Specializes in Emergency, Trauma, Flight. 314 Posts


thats my advice..

worst travel place to go...!!... the hospitals suck there!

not all of them.. just most of them!! either way...DON'T GO TO VEGAS AS A TRAVEL NURSE!!!... im just sayin............


Been there,done that, ASN, RN

Has 33 years experience. 6,765 Posts

I have traveled to the Mayo Clinic ,Az and Kaiser Permanente, Hawaii.

Awesome experiences.

It took all I had , with 29 years of experience, to succeed.

You will receive minimal orientation and be expected to perform to the facilities standards.

The staff will mostly view you as a newbie that is taking jobs from their own.

And treat you like you dont know your stuff, as you dont know their routine.

Assignments are 13 weeks long. You will be in a different place, driving a different car, going to a different facility.

I would not name travel agencies in this venue. Some are better than others. Do your own research regarding pay and housing accomodations.

I cannot give you the go ahead with 1 year experience, but i wish you the best of luck.

Feel free to PM me, would like to help.:smokin:


Specializes in Burn, CCU, CTICU, Trauma, SICU, MICU. Has 8 years experience. 280 Posts

I would recommend 2-3 years of experience if you are really competent in your job, or if you are having a hard time acclimating to changes in the routine that you deal with at your hospital - closer to 4 or 5. Previously hospitals were asking for nurses that had 1 year of experience, but it isn't unusual these days for them to ask for 3-5 years of acute care experience before they will even look at your resume. A travel company will take you on with 12 months of experience, but many hospitals will not.

As far as savings goes - save as much as you can. A LOT of people go INTO debt as travel nurses. The max most companies give you for travel is 250-500 dollars. ROUND TRIP. Even if you are traveling cross country. I recently had to do this and I had to negotiate to get 600 bucks for round trip reimbursement - not enough for hotels, let alone gas, food, and any tire or car repairs that may happen! You also will not get this money up front. Some companies give it to you the first week you start your assignment, others tack it onto the 1st paycheck which can be 2-3 weeks after you arrive. So you will need money to get comfortable too... groceries, trash can, shower curtain, cable and internet set up, parking pass for the hospital garage, gas money, sight seeing money... and then whatever money you need to maintain your usual bills.

As far as recommended agencies - PM for that info. :) Travel nursing companies scour these forums and I have been personally contacted by my company for voicing upset over some things that happened, so I will dish on companies privately.

The experience that you get at hospitals as to how they treat you varies WIDELY from hospital to hospital. I find it helpful to ask upon interview if they use a lot of travelers in the facility and if many travelers end up extending the contract. If they use a lot of travelers, the regular staff will be used to having you around. However, it also may mean that they have bad staff retention for good reasons.... Also, if other travelers extend or sign on - its a good sign! Most travelers feel pretty free to finish up the contract and peace out if its a bad experience.

Things I wish I knew about traveling...

I wish I knew that some hospitals love you and others will sabotage you. You have to be vocal, not be afraid to ask questions but not be afraid to go on scavenger hunts for supplies and figure somethings out on your own. You have to be a really fast learner, really easily adapt to change and adapt to different hospitals policies as you go. Never utter the phrase "But at my last hospital..." Always say "What is your policy in this hospital on how to...."

That if the contract says "floating to like units" - be aware that you may be floating A LOT. Kaiser facilities will float their travelers to different units every 4 hours of a 12 hour shift, changing your assignment and everything.

Be aware that hospitals can cancel your contracts. If you show up and they don't like you - they can fire you. Your contract binds you to show up for work, etc... but they do not have a written contract to keep you employed there for the 3 months. If a hospital drops you, fees can happen, you will be out of your company housing in 2 days and be homeless and penniless very very quickly. I have seen people fired for having a cell phone on in their pocket by accident - it rang, and she was asked to turn in her badge and surrender her assignment because she broke the ICU no-cell-phone policy. Seriously. She was just starting. It was bad.

You will get little to no orientation. Sometimes a 1 day computer class and 6 hour orientation with another nurse and you are on your own so you better know the right questions to ask to do your job, write them down and focus. How do you page someone? How do I call a code? What are dietary's hours? What are the codes to all the supply rooms? Where is the schedule book? etc... You really really need to be able to hit the ground running and take whatever type of patient that is handed to you, so the more experience you get under your belt the better!!!

canesdukegirl, BSN, RN

Specializes in Trauma Surgery, Nursing Management. Has 14 years experience. 8 Articles; 2,543 Posts

I would recommend you starting out traveling as close to home as you can at first to get used to the idea of being in a new place while still being able to see your friends and family. This will make the adjustment phase easier for you.

Get at least 2 years of experience first. When you accept a contract with a travel company, you will have to pass a few competency tests first. The key to successful travel nursing is hooking up with an awesome recruiter, so talk to some travel nurses who are happy with both their travel company AND their recruiter.

When I started travel nursing, I had just gotten a divorce, so I literally had nothing. I was living with a friend and decided to yank myself up by the bootstraps and try travel nursing. It was a blessing. I was able to put some money into savings and qualified for bonuses that my company offered. I had an amazing recruiter.

I think on the whole, travel nurses are a bit of an unwelcome entity. Staff nurses know that travelers get paid high dollar, and also know that the hospital pays through the nose for them. Some of the nurses that I have talked to about this believe that instead of spending so much money on a traveler, the hospital should put that money into hiring more FTEs. In one hospital I traveled to, there was no competing hospital in the area, so the nurses were paid shamefully low wages. I was shocked to know that my hourly wage was more than twice theirs.

I was not given a warm welcome by many of the staff nurses in that hospital, but once they saw that I was working hard, pulling my load and helping out other staff members when they were in a bind (trading call, covering shifts due to illness, cleaning their rooms with them, etc.) they treated me like any other staff member.

My first travel company screwed up my tax forms and I didn't realize it until I filed my taxes that year. I ended up owing several thousands of dollars. I didn't look over my pay stubs at all-totally dumb on my part. I just trusted that they were correct. DUMB! To add insult to injury, they increased my hourly rate during a contract renewal as promised but did not pay the increase...again, I didn't realize it until I looked back through my pay stubs. Then one morning I was in the shower and heard two male voices in my company furnished apartment. I was scared to death, got dressed and saw the apartment manager standing there with a guy holding a dolly. They were taking my furniture out because the travel company did not tell the apartment manager or the furniture company that my contract had been renewed and I was staying 3 extra months! It really REALLY matters who your company/recruiter is. I changed companies as soon as that contract was done.

I had a wonderful experience with the last travel company I worked for and still remain friends with my old recruiter. Two years ago she left the company and started her own, or I would recommend her. I think you would love travel nursing once you get some more experience. It is true that you must be a quick study and learn to fend for yourself when going on a new assignment. The good thing is that you don't need to understand how to be a nurse, you just need to understand where to find everything and understand the policies of your hospital.

enchantmentdis, BSN, RN

Specializes in Hospice, ONC, Tele, Med Surg, Endo/Output. 521 Posts

Just avoid any Kaiser in California.


Has 6 years experience. 235 Posts

Really good advice. I am new to traveling so I appriciate the responses!

Silverdragon102, BSN

Specializes in Medical and general practice now LTC. Has 34 years experience. 1 Article; 39,472 Posts

Moved to the Travel nursing forum

kc87t, BSN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in ER / ICU. Has 12 years experience. 52 Posts

Thanks so much for the info. I've heard a lot of pros and cons, I guess it's all very dependent on where you are, your recruiter, and all the other specifics.


Has 1 years experience. 43 Posts

oh god, stay away from kaiser and american mobile. im on my first assignment, its almost over, i love travel nursing but do your research!

Enfermera85, BSN, MSN, NP

Has 14 years experience. 112 Posts

oh god, stay away from kaiser and american mobile. im on my first assignment, its almost over, i love travel nursing but do your research!

What is it that you don't like about American Mobile?


Specializes in med-surg. Has 5 years experience. 21 Posts

Thank you for sharing your expertise with us. I am a fairly new nurse going into my first traveling assignment. reading your post really help me. i wish i could PM you i do not know how.