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What is a Travel Nurse?

By J.Gunsch
Updated Jan 20, 2024
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A travel nurse is a licensed health care professional who works in numerous short term assignments that require travel. Usually coordinated by a traveling nurse agency, registered nurses (RN) and licensed practical nurses (LPN) are matched with the staffing needs of various hospitals, physicians’ offices, clinics or practically any facility that has a need for nursing services. Individual assignments usually last between eight and 12 weeks, but vary depending on the facility's needs.

Any RN or LPN can work as a travel nurse, although nurses who specialize in a particular area, such as an ER or surgical nurse, are particularly desirable. Whatever his or her specialty, the nurse receives the same education and training as one who works as a permanent employee at a health care facility. Some traveling nurse agencies require that a person interested in becoming a travel nurse have at least one year of clinical nursing experience, however. The use of traveling nurses began in the United States in the 1980s, due to a shortage of qualified nurses that continues to this day. Hiring this type of nurse is ideal for many health care facilities, because he or she can fill seasonal demands for extra staff or the temporary need for nurses until a permanent position can be filled.

Many people find that working as a travel nurse has invaluable benefits. They get to see many different places around the world while earning a very decent income. The nurse can decide the travel distance and time frame of each assignment. He or she is also reimbursed for travel expenses and supplied with decent housing for the duration of the assignment. Family and pets are also often accommodated, and many nurses are allowed to travel with friends in nursing pairs.

A travel nurse also benefits from not having to sign a contract with any particular health care facility, while still receiving benefits such as retirement, health insurance and monetary bonuses. This job also looks great on a resume, because it shows that a person is enthusiastic about his or her career, efficient and adaptable.

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Discussion Comments
By sunshined — On Jul 07, 2011

If you are thinking about becoming a travel nurse, one thing I would recommend is to do your research on the different agencies who would hire you.

There are many benefits available for this type of job, and you want to be sure you get as many of them as possible. Some travel nursing companies will even give you a sign on bonus, or extra money depending on what shift you are willing to work.

Just make sure you understand all of the policies before signing on. This can be quite a big commitment, so you want to be sure you are well informed.

I have two friends who work as travel nurses and one of them likes it more than the other one. You have to be willing to be away from home for long periods of time and this is harder for some than others.

By SarahSon — On Jul 06, 2011

If you are a nurse, like to travel and are at a place in your life where you can get away easily, a travel nursing job may be something to look in to.

There are many benefits associated with being a travel nurse, and the pay is usually very good. You do need to be flexible because you are always working with different doctors and staff members. Every place is run a little bit differently, but if you don't mind this, it can be very rewarding.

My neighbor in the apartment next to me works as a travel nurse. She will only be here for a few months, and does not know yet where she will go next. She has done this for about 5 years, and hopes to continue doing it for a long time.

By julies — On Jul 05, 2011

My aunt works as a travel nurse and absolutely loves it. She likes to take short term assignments lasting around 6 months and has been able to travel to many different places that she would not have been able to otherwise. Her husband is retired and so he usually travels with her.

She has taken positions within the United States, but I know there are also opportunities for international travel nursing. This way you could see different parts of the world and be making a good income at the same time.

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