What is Travel Nursing?

Travel nursing is popular among nurses that want a flexible career option. Travel nurses typically work on contracts of 8 to 26-weeks and travel to different cities for each contract. Hospitals use travel nursing agencies to help alleviate the burden of a nationwide shortage of nurses in America.

What does a Travel Nurse do?

Travel nurses are just like staff nurses when it comes to their job duties. The difference is that travel nurses are usually skilled in a certain specialty and experienced enough to jump into any hospital and immediately contribute to that unit with 1-2 days of orientation. Since the contracts for travel nurses are short (average of 13 weeks), hospitals don’t want to spend a lot of time training nurses that will be gone in a few months.

From the travel nurse’s perspective, the flexibility of working in short contracts, controlling their schedule, and the adventure of traveling to different locations makes this an appealing career path.

Skill Required to Become a Travel Nurse

As with most nurses, the minimum education requirement is an Associate of Science in Nursing degree, though a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is preferred, especially if you don’t have decades of experience. Most travel nurse agencies also want nurses who have at least a year of U.S. based hospital clinical experience. As mentioned before, the greatest need of hospitals that travel nurses meet is the ability to jump right into the job and perform. To do this well, travel nurses may also need additional training and credentials for a specialty placement.

In addition to technical skills and experience, those interested in travel nursing should examine their soft skills to ensure this style of nursing is a good fit. Here are 4 soft skills we consider essential for travel nurses:

1. Adaptability – Travel nurses are constantly changing cities, living arrangements, and work environments, so they need to be comfortable with change.

2. Clear Communication – Travel nurses work with many different co-workers and supervisors with varying personalities and clear communication ensures success in any hospital.

3. Active Listening – Jumping from one hospital to the next means active listening (applying what is heard) is essential for nurses to succeed in each hospital they’re assigned.

4. Work/Life Balance – This is important for all nurses, but travel nurses should particularly make sure they’re taking care of themselves physically and mentally outside of work. This includes exercise, hobbies, and rest to avoid burnout.

Travel Nursing Pros and Cons

PROS   CONS
Higher Salary and Earning Potential Only Paid When Working & Usually Higher Taxes
Traveling to New Locations Consistently Packing, Moving, and Finding a New Normal
Included Housing and Meal Stipends Additional Experience May Be Required
Flexible Schedule in between Assignments No Ability to Earn Paid Time Off (PTO)

Travel Nursing Alternatives

For nurses, the main alternative to travel nursing is the traditional staff nursing (employee of a hospital) arrangement. The advantage of a staff nurse position is the consistency of pay, benefits, and work environment.

But from the hospital’s perspective, travel nursing is expensive. While it does fill the clinical shortage need temporarily, it’s not viewed as a long-term recruitment and retention strategy. Nurse Managers want the ability to grow a team; not stress over training and turnover. Even with new nurse graduates and travel nurses, experts don’t think the U.S. has enough nurses  to support healthcare needs in the next 10 years.

Because of this need, there are increased opportunities for international nurses to work in the U.S. through international nurse recruitment companies like Shearwater Health. The benefit of this solution is that it helps solve long-term recruitment and retention issues and not just a temporary fix.

International nurses are sponsored (through a visa program) by their recruitment company and then placed at U.S. hospitals under contracts ranging from 2-4 years. These international nurses also have years of experience already as they’ve continued gaining hospital experience while waiting for their visa sponsorship to get approved.

How to Find Travel Nurse Opportunities

In summary, if you’re a U.S. nurse who has the ability and desire to travel with your career, you may want to consider travel nursing. We found this website helpful in exploring travel nursing opportunities: https://www.travelnursing.org/

If you’re an international nurse interested in taking your nursing career to the U.S., consider Shearwater Health: https://swhealth.com/nurserecruitment who are part of a larger network of international recruitment agencies listed here: http://aaihr.org/ourmembers/

If you’re a hospital that’s looking for a long-term recruitment and retention solution as an alternative to travel nursing, you can learn more here: https://swhealth.com/nursestaffing