Examining Travel Nursing Benefits and Challenges By Ryan Bannan and Brandi Borden
You ’ re a senior running the gauntlet of nursing school clinicals and tests , gearing up for the NCLEX . Or perhaps you have recently finished this part of your academic journey and are traversing the real world of bedside nursing care . One of the most talked about niches within our profession is travel nursing , which garners attention because of the unprecedented demand for a mobile nursing workforce . Also , the money is amazing , and it ’ s an unparalleled opportunity to see the countryside in your downtime . Hard to imagine a better opportunity , right ?
We can get so wrapped up in the benefits of travel nursing , it can be hard to do a realistic assessment of the challenges . In this article , we want to help you better evaluate if and when you should incorporate the life of a travel nurse into your career plans .
Minimum Requirements A travel nurse is a registered nurse who works at a healthcare facility on a temporary contract-based assignment , usually lasting from a few weeks to a few months , to help relieve nursing shortages in healthcare facilities locally , throughout the country , and around the world ( Walker , 2022 ). Travel nursing is not a platform for nurses to “ try out ” different specialties . It ’ s meant to fill urgent staffing needs with proficient and experienced nurses .
When you ’ re looking for work as a travel nurse , you need to apply to a healthcare staffing agency . Most agencies require a minimum of one year nursing experience and possibly more depending on your nursing specialty ( Brusie , 2021 ). The agency will expect you to upload your resume , references , and complete a self-assessment of competencies on the staffing agencies website . Different types of contracts are available . For example , a local staffing contract may be worth exploring for nurses with families or who want to take assignments close to home .
From there , job offers are extended to nurses on a case-by-case basis depending on the individual policies of the hospital and the decision of unit managers . Once at the facility , travel nurses are expected to jump right in with little to no orientation and harsh but necessary evaluations from their colleagues .
We can get so wrapped up in the benefits of travel nursing , it can be hard to do a realistic assessment of the challenges .
Workloads vary across facilities . During your application cycle , knowing what questions to ask and how to ask them can be the difference between accepting an awesome 13-week assignment versus taking one that ends up crushing your soul . Your experience as a nurse should inform the bulk of these questions , but a quick search online and conversation with your recruiter can help fill in those blanks .
Context Matters The pandemic has created a unique environment for the healthcare industry and it ’ s easier than ever to become a travel nurse . Boards of nursing are allowing emergency licensures so out-of-state nurses can help during COVID surges ( NCSBN , 2021 ). Hospitals are paying unprecedented amounts of money to fill temporary needs , and travel agencies are loosening criteria to sign contracts with them ( Farmer , 2021 ). Burnout has hastened the pace at which nurses are choosing to exit the profession through retirement or career change ( Jackson , 2022 ; Shah et al . 2021 ). Significant pay disparities between travel nurses and full-time employees are making it even harder for healthcare systems to attract and retain highly skilled permanent staff ( Farmer , 2021 ).
Begin with the End in Mind A great leadership principle is to begin with the end in mind . Travel nursing presents many opportunities for nurses , but how does it fit in with your overall plan ? Think through how this decision aligns with why you became a nurse . How does traveling affect your plans to pursue an advanced degree in nursing ?
34 NSNA IMPRINT • JANUARY 2022 • www . nsna . org