Travel Nursing FAQ

Travel Nursing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Answers

If you’re looking to advance your nursing career and earn a lucrative salary all while traveling around the country, then a career as a travel nurse is a great option for you. No matter what kind of nurse you choose to be, providing excellent and compassionate patient care is at the core of the profession – however, there are a lot of differences between working as a staff nurse and being a travel nurse. Keep reading to learn basic travel nursing information as we answer travel nursing FAQs

How Does Travel Nursing Work?

Hospitals and healthcare facilities across the nation face staffing shortages on a daily basis, especially when it comes to nurses. Projections show that California will experience the greatest growth in their need for travel nurses in upcoming years, but that all states will experience employment growth in this division.

Travel nurses are hired by staffing agencies for nurses to help fill in these employment gaps. Traveling medical jobs are more abundant during certain times of the year, such as flu season or during the holidays when staff members take time off for vacation. One of the many perks of being a travel nurse is that you get to decide when you want to work and you can take time off in between contracts if you so choose.

Where can Travel Nurses Go?

Short answer: anywhere there’s a staffing need for nurses. Long answer, travel nursing assignments are available throughout the nation, but the location of these particular travel nursing jobs will vary based on the fluctuating needs of a hospital or healthcare facility. At the end of the day, you are in control of choosing where you want to go as a travel nurse. If your dream location is not currently presenting any opportunities, chances are that it will be in the future.

One important thing to keep in mind when looking at travel nursing jobs in various locations is the fact that you need an active license in the state where the assignment is to work it. In fact, to even apply for a travel nursing job, you often need to have this licensing completed. Talk to your travel nursing recruiter about compact state licenses to find out if your license is good in multiple states or if you should consider getting licensed in a state that is part of the eNLC.

Who can Become a Travel Nurse?

Registered nurses who have at least 12 to 18 months of hospital-based RN experience can apply for travel nursing jobs. If you are looking at travel jobs for specific nursing specialties, some hospitals and facilities could require a longer work history. You can find various travel nursing assignments available for all specialties, but there are some that are in more demand than others, such as labor and delivery (L&D) and intensive care units (ICU).

What’s the Average Travel Nurse Salary?

The amount of money you make working as a travel nurse is going to depend largely upon the location of the facility, your specialty, and the negotiated contract. Because there is such a high demand for travel nurses, the pay is considerable. The average travel nurse salary varies by state, so click here to see a full breakdown of average travel nurse pay according to each state.

Beyond the lucrative pay, there are many other perks to being a travel nurse, such as:

  • 401K plans
  • Bonuses
  • Health insurance for travel nurses
  • Stipends for housing, meals and travel incentives

It’s important to keep in mind that while you are working as a travel nurse, you are not employed by the hospital, rather by the travel nurse staffing agency.

Can I Take a Travel Assignment Close to my Home?

Yes. You can accept travel nursing assignments that are close to your home address. However, if you want to collect the tax-free housing stipend, then you have to choose jobs that are typically at least 60 miles away from your home.

Another option for nurses who wish to stay close to home is per diem travel nursing jobs. When you pick up per diem nursing jobs, you agree to a series of shifts at a local hospital or healthcare facility.

How Long are Travel Nursing Assignments?

Travel nursing assignments generally last anywhere from eight to 26 weeks. However, the standard in the industry is 13-week contracts. A lot of hospitals will offer to extend your contract sometime during the last month of your assignment.

If you are interested in staying at an assignment longer than what was contracted, be sure to let your travel nurse recruiter know so they can work toward making that happen for you.

How Many Days a Week do Travel Nurses Work?

This is going to depend on what type of shifts you have. Typically, a travel nurse works three days a week on 12-hour shifts. However, this is not set in stone. There are many contracts that require four 10-hour shifts per week or five 8-hour shifts per week. The shifts you will be working and the number of days will be specified in your travel nursing contract.

Will I be Eligible for Travel Nurse Health Insurance?

Yes. Almost all travel nursing agencies will offer medical and dental insurance. In addition, there are other travel nursing benefits they provide, such as:

  • Tax-free housing stipend
  • 401K plans
  • Weekly direct deposit
  • Free housing arrangements
  • Professional liability insurance
  • Referral bonuses

In order to maintain your health insurance policy, you are not able to take off more than 30 days in between assignments. If you plan on taking off more time than that, you should consider buying your own personal health insurance policy. As a travel nurse, you will not be eligible for vacation time or other paid time off (PTO) opportunities.

Can I Travel with my Family or Pets?

Absolutely. Your pet or family members can go with you to an assignment, but the housing might be a bit trickier. Most travel nursing agencies provide only a one-bedroom apartment, a studio apartment, or even an extended stay hotel.

If you require more room, you will have to pay the difference for the upgrade to a place with more space. You may have to take the housing stipend and search for your own housing arrangements to accommodate your family.

If you plan on traveling with a pet, be sure to let your recruiter know about this right away, so that they can find pet-friendly housing options. Keep in mind that there may be restrictions in regard to the weight and breed of your pet. Learn more about traveling with pets to a nursing assignment.

Can I Travel with Another Travel Nurse?

Yes. In fact, this is a great way to tackle travel nursing assignments. You can request to work at the same hospital or in the same city so that you can share an apartment or living arrangement and split the costs for housing and pocket the rest of the tax-free stipend money. There are also a lot of couples that travel together as nurses, too.

Will I get the Worst Assignments?

This all depends on the hospital environment and staff members that you work with. Oftentimes, they will assign the travel nurses the easier patients and leave the sicker ones to the staff nurses because they are more familiar with the facility and policies in regard to providing care.

However, there are some nursing managers who will put the most difficult patients on the travel nurses’ assignments because they get a higher pay rate than the staff nurses. It’s important to keep in mind too, that the hospitals that need travel nurses might also suffer from high turnover rates, which may be due to the type of patient assignments they have. So if you do get crummy patient assignments, keep in mind that it may not be intentional.

If My Assignment is Cancelled Due to Low Census, do I get Full Pay?

No. If your assignment is cut short because the hospital does not have enough patients to justify the need for travel nurses, your travel nurse staffing agency will do their best to find you a replacement assignment quickly. Also, your contract will specify the number of shifts a hospital is able to cancel on you.

Does the Travel Nurse Staffing Agency Pay for my Living Expenses?

Yes. There are two different types of travel nursing housing arrangements. If you choose to take the agency-provided housing, then all of your living expenses will be covered. If you decide to take the housing stipend pay, you will be responsible for finding housing and getting everything set up. If the total amount it costs you to do your own housing arrangements is less than the stipend amount, then yes, the agency is still paying for your living expenses.

Will Working as a Travel Nurse Advance My Nursing Career?

Absolutely. As a travel nurse, your skill level will increase drastically – fast! This experience will make you more eligible for future nursing jobs because you are exposed to various environments and patient populations; you may gain experience in different nursing specialties; and you become familiar with learning a new clinical environment quickly.

How Long Will there be a Demand for Travel Nurses?

The nationwide nursing shortage has been ongoing since the 1980s and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. As long as this nursing shortage pursues, there will be a need for travel nurses to fill the positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are more than one million nurses needed to meet the current demands, and the employment opportunities will continue to grow at a rate of 15 percent through 2026.

How do I Become a Travel Nurse?

To find out more information, read our blog post, “What is a Travel Nurse and How do I Become One?” If you’re ready to explore the highest paying travel nursing assignments today, give us a call at 208-378-1338 and a staffing specialist will be happy to go over current opportunities to work with Elite Specialty Staffing.