The call goes out. A healthcare facility is experiencing a staffing crisis needs nurses — stat. There may be a seasonal shortage or an emerging health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. The issue could be the chronic trend of too few experienced nurses in an area that’s seen an unexpected rise in patient population.

Travel nurses have the opportunity to bring their expertise with them across the country and throughout the world. Adventurous and highly proficient, travel nurses are problem solvers who are willing and able to fill a pressing healthcare need wherever duty calls.

What Is a Travel Nurse?

A travel nurse is a trained healthcare professional who takes on a short-term assignment to fill a staffing need. At minimum, travel nurses must have 12 months of recent acute care clinical experience and a license in good standing to qualify for the role. For adventuresome nurses, this career path offers the excitement of seeing new places in addition to other, more tangible benefits such as higher pay and relocation reimbursement.

Opportunities for travel nursing aren’t limited to just the U.S., as there is a very real need for nurses around the world. The global nursing shortage has been a perennial problem, leaving the healthcare industry with too few nurses for too many patients. This supply and demand inequality kickstarted the need for travel nursing as healthcare organizations scrambled to invent creative solutions fill to the shortage.

What Is the Hiring Process?

Typically, a healthcare organization with a staffing need will work with an independent nursing staffing agency rather than hire nurses directly. In addition to 12 months of clinical experience and a valid license, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is often preferred of travel nurses by many healthcare organizations. While not a requirement, a BSN does give a travel nurse an edge in obtaining assignments.

What Other Qualifications Are Required?

In addition to a license, clinical experience and other credentials, a sense of adventure and an independent spirit is absolutely recommended for travel nursing. This is not a career path for everyone. Travel nurses may feel isolated since they spend a lot of time away from their support systems back home. They are sometimes placed in stressful or even dangerous environments, such as on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic or a natural disaster.

Compensation and Housing

Financial compensation can be quite rewarding for a travel nurse. Frequently, travel nurses make more than local staff nurses. Big cities with a high cost of living tend to pay more than rural areas.

Compensation is also generally higher for nurses who have specialty credentials, particularly those in “ultra-specialized” positions such as a pediatrics or neonatal intensive care units (PICU/NICU) or cardiovascular operating room staffers.

Nurses willing to serve in crisis situations are paid accordingly. To help combat COVID-19, some hospitals in New York City offered travel nurses crisis pay rates of over $10,000 a week (plus quarantine pay).

Housing is provided in one of two ways. Either the travel nurse is placed in an agency-provided apartment located near the hospital or the nurse is given a non-taxable housing stipend each month based on the average cost of living. This second option means the nurse is responsible for locating and securing a place to live as well as covering any rental amount not covered by the stipend. Still, this remains a popular choice among more seasoned travel nurses as it allows flexibility in location, finding pet-friendly accommodations and taking on a roommate to save money.

Where in the World Will YOU Go?

Large hospitals, small community hospitals, large cities and rural towns all need nurses. Becoming a travel nurse gives you the flexibility to experience a wide variety of healthcare operations. From the arctic cold of Alaska to the wind-swept plains of Oklahoma, or the big lights of Hollywood to the bright stars of Texas, there are patients who need your expertise.

To increase that expertise and give yourself a better shot at earning assignments as a travel nurse, consider pursuing an online RN to BSN program. The convenience and flexibility of an online degree means you can continue to accumulate clinical experience as you earn your BSN. Upon completion of your degree, you will be in a perfect position to bring your nursing practice with you as you explore the country — or the world.

Whether your interest lies in meeting new people and facing new challenges far from home or maximizing your earning potential, opportunity awaits.

Learn more about Eastern Michigan University’s RN to BSN online program.


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