What is a Travel Nurse?

What is a Travel Nurse?

We bring a lot of content here about tips and tricks to navigate the travel nursing lifestyle, news about the nursing industry, and our hot picks for seasonal destinations. Some of our readers do NOT travel nurses. This article is for you! We’ll explore what it means to be a travel nurse, both literally and figuratively, right here and right now.

Literally – What is a Travel Nurse?

A travel nurse is quite literally a nurse who travels for work. Nevertheless, that definition isn’t specific enough to help you decide if this career path is one for you, so we’ll break it down further:

1. A travel nurse retains a home residence, be it rental or owned, apartment or house, while they travel to other geographic destinations for work contracts.

2. A travel nurse contract is typically eight to 13 weeks long.

3. A travel nurse may have the opportunity to extend a travel contract. Nonetheless, we recommend not extending too often in one location. Accordingly, if most of your time working is in one location, even if it’s different from your official residence, you could have tax complications the following season. (Read more about travel nursing and taxes here.)

4. A travel nurse utilizes a travel nursing agency recruiter to connect them to nursing jobs in other cities and states.

5. A travel nurse enjoys time off between shifts, arrives at the contract destination a few days early, or remains a few days later to explore the city or tourist attractions nearby.

6. A travel nurse fills integral employment vacancies in facilities in need of medical clinicians across the country. (There is, after all, a nursing shortage).

7. A travel nurse can quickly acclimate to a new work setting without the complete orientation that a new staff nurse would receive.

Figuratively – What is a Travel Nurse?

1. A travel nurse may be a nurse who is feeling limited in their job opportunities in their facility staff job.

2. A travel nurse may be a nurse who wants to settle down but hasn’t determined where just yet, and wants to taste the flavors of different cities before making a decision.

3. A travel nurse may be a nurse who is needs hours to complete a specialization certification and can’t find enough opportunities at their current hospital.

4. A travel nurse may be a nurse who loves to explore new places, new cultures, and communities.

5. A travel nurse may be a nurse who needs a change of scenery to combat burnout.

6. A travel nurse may be a nurse who has friends and family in different cities, and decides the best way to spend time with the important people in their life, is to work and live in their town for eight to 13 weeks.

7. A travel nurse may be a nurse who wants more control over their career path.

Is a Travel Nurse and a PRN Nurse the Same?

No. And a little bit of yes.

No, because a travel nurse works the length of their contract in a designated facility with an assigned duty, while a PRN nurse picks up a shift here or there, on an as-needed basis, and often at different facilities within their area.

A little bit, yes, because travel nurses often pick up PRN shifts during their time between travel contracts. PRN shifts are a great way for travel nurses to establish and maintain their tax home residence, which is essential to their tax status. Travel nurses enjoy tax-free stipends or reimbursements for travel, housing, and incidentals due to the dualistic nature of their accommodation. If a travel nurse doesn’t have a tax home, all those stipends or reimbursements become taxable income.

How Does a Travel Nurse Decide Where to Go?

There are thousands of available travel nursing contracts nationwide. How do our seasoned travel nurses decide? This type of decision is unique to each nurse. To get started, ask about your biggest motivation for becoming a travel nurse.

1. Some travel nurses simply follow the money. Seasoned travel nurses prioritizing income look for a high hourly rate combined with a location with a low cost of living. Do the math by investigating a bit: just because a contract in Massachusetts has a high hourly rate doesn’t mean it’s more financially profitable than a contract in Oklahoma.

2. Some travel nurses look for specific positions. These nurses often work for a specialization certification and need the work experience hours or want a position to boost their career.

3. Others prioritize popular magazine-picture locations. Destinations such as Hawaii and beach cities in Florida and California are popular (who doesn’t want to see Hawaii?) Furthermore, the housing and cost of living are also higher in these areas. Nevertheless, the competition for these contracts means they don’t have to offer motivational pay packages.

4. Others choose locations based on nearness to family or friends they want to visit and spend time with. Imagine being able to see your nursing school friends without having to burn vacation time.

Is a Travel Nurse Always on the Road?

Not at all. Elite Specialty Staffing has no minimum requirement for the number of contracts required per year for our travel nurses. Some of our nurses work a few back-to-backs and then take an entire month or two off before heading back out. While others simply take some time off in between each one. Each travel nurse sets their own pace unique to their own needs.