What's the real deal with Travel Nursing?

by PatMac10,RN PatMac10,RN, RN

Specializes in Nursing Education, CVICU, Float Pool. Has 9 years experience.

Have you ever been interested in travel nursing? Has fear of the unknown stopped you from looking into this booming corner of nursing? This article discusses some common questions and concerns about being a travel nurse, in the form of an interview!

What's the real deal with Travel Nursing?

So many nurses have consider becoming a travel nurse but are afraid to take the step for various reasons. Below is an interview I did for my travel agencies blog! I threw in a couple more common questions and concerns I get as well.

I have recently resumed work as a permanent staff nurse a major academic hospital in my state. I hope these questions and answers will help others take the leap and jump into the joys of travel nursing.

How long have you been travel nursing?

I was a travel nurse for 1 year, from late 2016 to let 2017, but I also travelled in the past for about 5 months.

What is your nursing specialty?

Cardiovascular Intermediate and a Critical Care

Why did you start travel nursing?

To save money. I hope to be a missionary in the future, and wanted to save money for being out of the country for a few months at a time. I also wanted to pay off my car faster! Haha!

How much experience do you need?

Most companies appear to have a policy of 1 to 1.5 years of recent experience in the field you are trying to receive travel in. For examples, if you used to be an ICU nurse, but have been working only in OR the last 5 years, your recruiter may likely match you only to OR jobs. Very companies policies and procedures are different however, so always refer to your recruiter.

I personally had about 2 years experience (little more than a 1.5 years) before my first travel experience, and I personally felt prepared and was offered many jobs on my first resume submissions.

What has your travel nursing experience meant to you and your career?

It's made me a more flexible nurse. Being able to jump in and get to work in new places has increased my adaptability. I appreciate the freedoms that come with being a travel nurse, like with my scheduled days off, not having to ask off for my vacations or pre-planned events, because they are part of my contract, is a very appealing part of my work. I also like that I can't be forced into overtime, and can pick up extra days at my leisure.

I am also learning how different regional health patterns can be. This hospitals has many admissions for one thing, while another may experience many admissions for something different. It's making me a more perceptive and well rounded clinician. Traveling has clarified my likes and dislikes in nursing practices and management and education.

Can you travel with an ADN or Diploma? Can LPNs be travel nurses?

Again, this may vary by region, but in my experience not having a BSN or being a LPN doesn't disqualify you from being a travel nurse!

I am a very proud ADN prepared nurse who then completed and RN to BSN program. Many travel agencies don't have particular rules about being required to have a BSN or being an RN vs. an LPN. However, some jobs may prefer candidates to have BSNs, so not having it may limit job prospects in some areas. However, many institutions don't apply the BSN requirement to contract or per diem workers (travel nurses are contracted/temporary employees, even if you stay in the same assignment for a year).

In many cases I've seen ADN travel nurses (including me when I first started) be hired at hospitals that exclusively hires BSN prepared nurses as actual permanent staff nurses.

One of the best things to do, if you're unsure, is to speak with your recruiter and research the institutions you'll be applying to. Ask the managers in your phone interviews.

Not all companies employee LPNs for travel positions, but there are many who do!!! There some who employee "travel-like CNAs too"!

Many of travel opportunities I see posted for LPNs include Assignments to prisons, nursing homes, and outpatient offices and survey centers, and also case management. Don't let anyone tell you that LPNs can't travel, that not true, there may not be options available in some particular areas, but there are many options available nationwide! Go make that money and see the world y'all!! Haha!

Have you had any fun, unusual or exciting experiences while traveling that you can share with me?

Of course! At my last assignment , there was faucet in the employee bathroom that comes on by itself. It's kind of creepy. One of my coworkers likes to joke that it's the ghost of a patient who was NPO (meaning not able to eat or drink) at some point during their hospital stay. Also, my coworkers were always amazing! I enjoyed going wine cafes and local breweries with them when we were off!

When on an assignment do you take the opportunity to explore your new surroundings, if so, what are your favorite things to do?

I do. At my last assignment, I loved staying at this historical inn that is near an awesome Sushi place! Eating good food and drinking good wine is a hobby of mine, haha! There were no shortage of those things in this place where I was previously assigned.

Is there a place you are looking to go in the future if a travel opportunity becomes available?

I've always wanted to live in New Orleans (close to the French Quarter), just for a little while at least. I love music and am dying to eat some homemade Gumbo!

Do you have any advice about travel nursing that you can share with someone who is new to it or considering becoming a traveler?

Have a plan. Talk with others who have traveled, join a Facebook group to ask questions, and do your research on where you want to go. Some of the best advice you can get is from experienced travelers! Also, explain your goals and purposes for traveling with your recruiter, it helps them helps you.

Don't be afraid of going into new situations and places. Like to keep a few small reference books in my work bag that I can pull out when something I'm unfamiliar with comes up.

Be honest about your skills and experiences with your manager, Recruiter, and coworkers. Of a procedure or skill comes up that you haven't been exposed to, there is nothing wrong with being candid and saying "I'm not familiar with this" or "I don't have much experience with this type of thing, could you show me what is standard or policy here"? I've never had a negative experience when I was upfront and honest. Many nurses are accommodating and realize that different institutions exposes you to many different ways of doing things or limits what other types of exposure you may have.

Finally, the old cliche, "be yourself", rings true. Although it can be intimidating going to a new place, especially if you are like me and came from working in predominantly smaller rural hospitals, don't discount your experiences.

Finally, the question of money??? How much do you make as a travel nurse?!?!

Of course, this will differ according to you're experience level, education level, region you'll be working, and your travel agency.

A good explanation of how much I made as a travel nurse is this:

I bought home about 300-400 more, a week than what I made as a staff nurse getting paid every 2 weeks! So I essentially doubled my monthly income!!!! I traveled in one state, which is primarily rural. Of course, there are jobs that offered more than what I made, but being that I am single, healthy, with no kids, I was fine with my contracted rate. I also didn't ask for housing to be found for me and received my housing stipend to find housing myself, which sometimes effects your pay with some companies.

I also took advantage of purchasing benefits from my agency, which was great, because it was inexpensive since it was just me and I'm Healthy!

Generally travel companies will explain the way travel pay works, so if you don't understand, Ask your recruiter.

Good questions to have in mind?

What will your taxable hourly rate be?

What portion of your weekly pay will come from housing, travel, and food stipends?

Are there bonuses for contract completion or uniform purchases?

Are there bonuses for competing your on-boarding process quickly? [My company gave you an extra $100 on your first check for doing this]

How will this effect my taxes a year from now? [Ask this question in tandem with your tax preparer]

PatMac10, RN is a cardiovascular nurse who resides in NC. He has worked over a year as travel nurse and is currently completing a MSN to become a nurse educator.

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13 Comment(s)



Specializes in medical surgical. 7 Posts

I've been a travel nurse for about six years now and have never looked back. Love being able to stay out of the politics and gossip and concentrate on my job. Also love meeting so many amazing people and nurses. So many places do things differently it's so cool to learn pabout the different rationales. I also love the sightseeing and regional foods. Absolutely lucky to be able to do this type of job on the road!



Specializes in hospice. Has 13 years experience. 197 Posts

I love traveling. The job is the same everywhere, just different EMR and staff. I have made wonderful friends, had some interesting adventures, and gained valuable experience. The one thing I wish I'd known is that you have to file a tax return in EVERY state that you work (unless it's a state without personal income tax) AND each state taxes your ENTIRE income; yours, your husband's, investment income, interest income, EVERYTHING. That might make you take a closer look at where you take an assignment.



Specializes in Anesthesia, Trauma, Palliative, Tele. Has 9 years experience. 25 Posts

Travel nursing is one of the best things I ever did! Not only do you create life long friendships but each facility comes with its own challenges that will make you a better nurse and person. You MUST be flexible and adaptable which is a quality that will serve you well your entire nursing career. The patients I cared for have all been unique and taught me unbelievable lessons I've carried with me to this day. And at each place I worked at, I was able to hone different skill sets such as US guided IV's, EJ IV placement, Arterial sticks etc. Overall, I believe it has made me a better CRNA and a better person. It's amazing what happens when you are pushed out of your comfort zone. Don't be afraid to take the plunge to travel!

Concerto_in_C, BSN, RN

Specializes in Medical-Surgical, Telemetry/ICU Stepdown. Has 8 years experience. 196 Posts

Been a travel nurse for 3 years. I like my recruiter and have known her for 2 years but some people who have approached me on LinkedIn or Facebeeok had tried a bait-and-switch trick on me which I didn't find amusing. There are something like 70 of those sleazy salesmen in my email box. It's far better to find a recruiter you can trust, even if money is average, than go shopping for the best pay rates offered by people you don't know.

Edited by Concerto_in_C

Just a word of advice.

Please proof read your article prior to posting. It was a difficult read with several grammatical errors especially for one going into teaching.

Affect and effect.. your and you're. Look it up. I don't expect bachelor level students to write this way, how much more a masters.

Good luck

Edited by phill_rn



1 Article; 5,747 Posts

It is difficult not to carp about poor writing, yet it is fascinating how often such snarks are also full of errors. First sentence by phill_rn has no verb, and this last clause is certainly difficult to parse meaning: "how much more a masters."

No doubt a student of English will easily find fault with my writing, and perhaps even this short snarky post of a snarky post.



Specializes in L&D. Has 4 years experience. 50 Posts

Travel nursing is wonderful with it without children. I work as a travel RN and it makes plenty enough of the dollars which enables my husband to stay home with our children when I'm working. And we are currently traveling in Asia for 2 months just making our dollar stretch, less work more play al because of travel nursing.

FOR SURE BE AWARE OF UNTRUSTWORTHY RECRUITERS. They all make money off of YOU, so get a good recruiter that you trust. There are many options if companies etc. The first assignment you do should be much like the job you're familiar with aka size of unit, patient load...

when interviewing : you can ask patient ratio questions, is your hospital traveler friendly, how many other RN's per shift are scheduled? Make sure your shifts are guaranteed!

Okay there is so much advice, but mostly talk to other travelers, and don't fall for the first recruiter, they are like salesmen.

PatMac10,RN, RN

Specializes in Nursing Education, CVICU, Float Pool. Has 9 years experience. 1 Article; 1,164 Posts


In future I will do this. I was dictating much of this when it was originally written, and honestly I didn't do an in depth analysis of my grammar and fluidity. Another reason it may have been difficult for you to read is because of the format it was posted in, that being the form of Q&A post.

PatMac10,RN, RN

Specializes in Nursing Education, CVICU, Float Pool. Has 9 years experience. 1 Article; 1,164 Posts

True Ned. Phil's first "sentence" was probably meant to be a transitional or prepositional tool, yet he presented it as independent, though woefully incomplete, sentence. A very good example of how we are all imperfect and how we all see things differently. Haha!!!

Sadly it appears I can't correct the article at this point, however, I will endeavor to give closer attention to such things in the future. Constructive criticism is how I'll choose to view this! ;)



Specializes in Med Surg Tele. 52 Posts

Just a word of advice.

Please proof read your article prior to posting. It was a difficult read with several grammatical errors especially for one going into teaching.

Affect and effect.. your and you're. Look it up. I don't expect bachelor level students to write this way, how much more a masters.

Good luck

What does ..."how much more a masters" mean? Maybe you should correct your own grammar before criticizing someone else. Plus, who cares? It's a online community, she's not a frekin PHd in English. I guarantee you would never correct someone like that in person.


gettingbsn2msn, MSN, RN

Specializes in medical surgical. Has 5 years experience. 610 Posts

I fell in love with travel nursing. So much so that I continued the lifestyle even after I earned my NP. Also made more money as a traveler. Kids got older. We bought a house in one of the cities I traveled to and settled down. I stopped traveling in 2012. I now teach NPs with a medical company part time so I still travel when I get the bug.