What does a travel nurse do?

Whether you’re already a nurse or making your way through medical school, becoming a traveling nurse is one of the most exciting, challenging, and fulfilling jobs you can have.

While nurses can expect more pay and interesting experiences, there are still other factors you need to consider. Here’s everything you need to know about what it means to be a travel nurse.

What is a traveling (or travel) nurse?

A travel nurse is a registered nurse that helps fill gaps in areas that have a nurse shortage. During the pandemic, where shortages were plenty, travel nurses were contracted to go to areas with severe hospital overcrowding. Before the pandemic, a typical travel nurse would work short-term roles at clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities worldwide.

There are still plenty of jobs for traveling nurses available if you’re willing to relocate to different countries or work at a local hospital to fill in as a temporary nurse. Travel nurses aren’t employed by a single hospital but an independent nursing agency instead.

Great benefits, competitive pay, and free housing are the main attraction for these roles, especially because the pay isn’t influenced by education or experience level. It’s possible for a new nurse to make as much or more than one with 10 years of experience.

Requirements for a travel nurse

Travel nurses can start their careers when they are registered and have good standing in the hospital or clinic they currently work for. You must have at least two years of nursing experience to be considered, but you don’t need anything else unless the position you’re applying for requires a specific certification, specialty, or credentials.

COVID requirements

The pandemic has made it easier for travel nurses to meet the necessary job requirements. Plenty of nurse recruitment agencies have waived licensure requirements under the current state of emergency and have asked retired nurses to come back into the field. During lockdown procedures, you’re more likely to be recruited for a travel nurse position than a local role.

Duties of a travel nurse

A travel nurse conducts the same procedures as a regular nurse unless they’re hired for a specialty role. Here are some things a travel nurse will do on a typical day:

  • Check patient’s vital signs
  • Draw blood or perform other tests
  • Stay current with modern procedures, medications, and health care options
  • Coordinate care with specialists and health care providers
  • Give counseling and health care to multiple patients
  • Analyze and listen to patients physical and emotional needs
  • Take detailed patient histories
  • Conduct various physical exams

The most significant difference between a local nurse and a travel nurse is the need to travel. You may need to travel between multiple hospitals per week to help different patients. 

How much does a travel nurse make?

A travel nurse’s salary varies depending on their expertise and location, but it’s common for travel nurses to make over $3,000 per week, over $50 an hour, and over $100k a year. Travel nurses will also receive company-paid housing accommodations and will often have their travel and food expenses paid for by the company that hired them. 

If you were to add to your qualifications, the family nurse practitioner job outlook is pretty good. It can add a considerable increase to your earning potential as you will be able to perform more duties, thus making your skills more valuable. Family nurse practitioners can earn over $55 per hour, which can increase when you consider the role of a traveling family nurse practitioner.

COVID rates

The COVID pandemic has seen a massive hike in payment for travel nurses as an incentive to travel to the most infected parts of the world. It’s possible to earn over $10,000 per week, which adds up to half a million per year. Multiple travel nurses have made that amount or more during their assignments which may be worth the potential health risk for some. 

What other factors determine pay?

If you’re interested in making the most money possible as a travel nurse, you need to target high-paying locations like New York, Washington, Massachusetts, Texas, and California. Destination locations, like Florida and Hawaii, also pay a lot. If you have a specific specialty and are willing to work the night shift, you could earn a significant amount more per year.

Photo by Zach Vessels