What is a Travel Nurse & Why Are They Important?

Nurse on computer looking up what is a travel nurse?

Travel nurses are an essential part of healthcare staffing. If you’re wondering, “what is a travel nurse,” you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to talk about what travel nurses do, why they’re important, and why you should consider this unique and adventurous career opportunity. Read on to learn more about travel nursing!

What is a Travel Nurse?

Travel nurse helping patient with medical ID bracelet
What is a travel nurse? They help fill in for nurse staffing gaps.

Travel nurses fill staffing gaps in healthcare facilities who need their help. There are many reasons why a facility might have employment gaps and need a nurse to fill in temporarily. For instance, between permanent hires, to cover leave for their staff, and during busy times of the year. 

Travel nursing started around the 70s when warm states like Florida needed help meeting healthcare needs for snowbirds, or people who traveled to warm areas during colder times of the year. Because they had a peak busy time during the winter, these facilities often didn’t need to hire more permanent nurses. Instead, a lot of nurses from the north started migrating south during peak snowbird season to help out with healthcare needs. 

Today, travel nurses are often needed year round and throughout the country. You’ve likely heard a lot about travel nurses since the pandemic, leading many people to ask the question: What is a travel nurse and why do we need these professionals? 

What is a Travel Nurse: Why Facilities Hire Travel Nurses

Right now, we are in a major nursing shortage across the U.S. There are a few reasons for this. One is that we have more healthcare needs. People are living longer and the overall population is aging. Additionally, we’ve seen a rise in a lot of chronic health conditions like diabetes that require care. Also, there are fewer nurses in the field, with many retiring or making career changes. This has led to issues for facilities recruiting and retaining nursing staff. 

Many facilities solve this problem by hiring travel nurses to fill in temporarily and give them time to find other arrangements and prevent understaffing. Travel nurses usually work assignments for a set period of time, with the average assignment lasting about 13 weeks, though they can be longer or shorter. 

Perks Of Becoming a Traveling Nurse

Because travel nurses fill in quickly where they’re most needed, the job also comes with a lot of different advantages. When looking into the question, “what is a travel nurse,” there are some key benefits to keep in mind as to why you might consider this career path, including:

Get More Freedom

Traveling nurses often get a lot of freedom, typically more so than the average staff RN. As a travel nurse, you decide which assignments to take. That means you’re in charge of how long your assignments are, where you go, and other things like what shifts you work. Also, you have the ability to take time off in between assignments as needed. It’s a really liberating experience for many people when they start a career as a traveling nurse.

See the Country

Another important benefit is right in the name “travel nurse.” A lot of people choose to become a travel nurse because they get to travel around the country. While you can stay in your home state, a lot of people get into travel nursing so they can see a lot of sights and spend time in different cities. There’s huge demand all over the nation for travel nurses, so there’s a lot of opportunity to see the U.S.

Earn More Money

Money is also a big factor for why many nurses become travelers. How much does a travel nurse make? This depends on each assignment, but it’s often significantly more than staff nurses at the same level. 

Not only do you make more per paycheck, but there are also other financial benefits that make up a competitive compensation package for a travel nurse. For instance, nurses with AHS NurseStat can take advantage of:

  • Free private, furnished housing or tax free housing stipends
  • 401K savings program with matching
  • Professional liability/malpractice coverage
  • Low-cost medical, dental, and vision insurance
  • Licensure and credentials reimbursement options

As we mentioned in our section about what is a travel nurse, traveling nurses are in high demand and fill critical gaps in staffing, so facilities often pay a premium for their help. This, plus the fact that our team negotiates with facilities to get the best possible pay for our nurses means you can earn a lot more by becoming a traveler compared to taking a permanent position as a nurse.

Gain More Experience

Travel nurses also get to gain a lot of valuable experience by working in different facilities all across the nation. This helps you learn a lot of different ways of doing things, network with professionals in your field, and also sharpen your clinical skills by learning from many different people. 

What is a Travel Nurse: A Day in the Life

Now you know what a travel nurse is, you might be wondering what everyday life in this career path looks like. Travel nurses perform the same duties as staff nurses, including assisting with diagnostic testing, maintaining medical records, and providing patient care, depending on the nursing specialty

Generally, when you first start an assignment, you have a short orientation period, usually just one or two days, so you need to adapt fast. Since you’re there to help with staffing gaps, oftentimes other nurses will be incredibly happy to see you, as you prevent understaffing problems and also help reduce the need for other nurses to work a lot of overtime. 

When it’s close to the end of your assignment, you work with your recruiter to find a new assignment based on the criteria you have. This might involve staying in a similar area or choosing an assignment in a completely different state. 

How to Become a Travel Nurse

If you want to become a travel nurse, there are a few things you’ll need first. Keep in mind that some skills and characteristics that help travel nurses include:

  • Exceptional clinical skills
  • Positive attitude
  • Quick learning
  • Adaptable

You’ll need to have your nursing credentials, which includes your degree and license. In addition, you will need at least two years of working experience in your specialty before you can take a travel assignment. Once you’re ready to get started as a traveling nurse, then reach out to our travel nurse agency for help.

Work with AHS NurseStat – One of the Top Travel Nurse Companies in the Nation

Our team at AHS NurseStat is here to help travel nurses find adventure and freedom in their careers. We are one of the top rated travel nurse companies and offer placements nationwide for qualified nurses. We are proud to provide a community and support for travel nurses, including help from credentialing specialists to make your dream job come true. Get in touch with a recruiter or browse our job board now to get started!

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