Nurse Types / Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing
Travel nursing is an ideal career for those who like spontaneity and new places. It’s also a smart way to gain experience in other healthcare settings.
Thriving travel nurses are typically adaptable, positive, organized, and a little adventurous. With thick skin, they brave various work settings, unfamiliar medical devices, and computer systems, and various assignments during one shift.
Read these pros and cons of travel nursing to help you decide if it’s your next great adventure.
In this article we cover:
- Great pay
- Travel and adventure
- Job security
- Negotiable contracts
- Career experience
- Minimal work politics
- State licensing delays
- Floating schedules
- Insurance changes
- Loss of seniority
- Being the new kid on the block
- Changing contracts
- Canceled contracts
- Finding housing
Pros of travel nursing
Most travel nurses receive free housing or a stipend for housing expenses. Your agency may even set you up in deluxe lodging.
You can also earn large sign-on bonuses. It’s possible for travel nurses to receive $5,000 to $10,000 sign-on bonuses. Remember, however, bonuses are taxable income.
Travel and adventure
If you like nursing but want the flexibility of traveling, you’ll love travel nursing. You can even journey to other countries.
This suits nurses who feel stuck or bored in their current position. It also fits anyone who wants to explore new places and meet new people.
As a travel nurse, you’ll become travel-savvy and culturally aware. Plus, your stories will wow your friends at dinner parties.
As a travel nurse, you only have to commit to a work contract if you want to. If you need a break between contracts, you wait to take a new assignment. Also, travel nurses choose where to travel, offering freedom to travel where you want or need to.
If you’re working in New York, and your mother-in-law in Arkansas becomes sick and needs your help, you can ask for a transfer to Arkansas. Once in a while, you may be able to move immediately. If not, you finish your current contract in New York before starting the new one in Arkansas.
You may also find a contract near your home base if needed. But flexibility with distance provides greater job opportunities.
Flexible nurses often don’t mind change. If this is you, you might love travel nursing.
Travel nurses enjoy lasting job security. As long as hospitals need nurses, they’ll need ones who travel.
You may need to relocate to keep a position with equal or higher pay, but you’ll usually have many options when choosing a new contract. That freedom eases emotional and financial fears about providing for yourself or loved ones.
Unlike many hospitals, everything is negotiable in a travel nursing contract.
You hold the most bargaining power when you’re willing to walk away. If you’re not desperate for a specific contract, you can walk away if it doesn’t meet your wishes. There are usually plenty of other options.
If negotiating intimidates you, remember it’s not personal. It’s business. You can build confidence and negotiating skills by asking for one request with each new contract. Learning to read and negotiate contracts is a skill you’ll carry throughout life.
It won’t take you long before you’ll be able to negotiate like a pro.
Travel nurses learn many different processes and systems across facilities. You’ll encounter cutting-edge ideas and ones they should’ve trashed in the 80s. If you want to move into leadership someday, travel nursing offers a unique insight into different healthcare models.
Travel nurses who try new specialties and tasks build skills quickly. They’re more likely to find a specialty they’re passionate about, too. You may also have the chance to work at top-ranked hospitals.
Working in a wide variety of healthcare institutions will deepen your expertise and resume.
Minimal work politics
There’s no shortage of workplace politics in the healthcare industry. As a travel nurse, you can usually steer clear of politics.
Travel nurses are rarely involved with committees, meetings, and task forces. They sense conflicts and problems but won’t stay long enough to feel obligated to help.
Cons of travel nursing
That said, travel nursing is no different from any other career option. It has its downsides, too. Take a look at these cons to see how they weigh against the pros for your unique personality and situation.
Not every travel nurse can bring loved ones along. Making money is great, but you may feel hollow when you have no one to share it with.
State licensing delays
States require travel nurses to be licensed wherever they work. Fortunately, many U.S. states participate in compact licensing. A compact license is a multi-state license allowing you to work in several participating states.
Some states, however, still require a sluggish licensing process, which can slow you down and even hinder career opportunities.
“Floating schedules” are still common for travel nurses. If you work a floating schedule, you “float” to different areas of the facility other than those listed in your contract.
Some clinics and hospitals float travel nurses first. Either way, there’s a good chance you’ll float to areas you’re less familiar with.
Changing insurance policies between jobs can be another travel nursing pitfall.
Fortunately, many agencies provide coverage. Some agencies offer insurance to nurses as employees. Others partner with insurance companies to provide affordable coverage to nurses as contractors.
It’s also possible to choose private insurance you set up and pay for on your own.
Loss of seniority
Staff nurses build seniority and rank within an organization. With seniority, you pick your schedule, work fewer weekends, and move up the pay ladder.
Travel nurses, on the other hand, typically work when management asks them to. It can be hard to have little power over your schedule. However, if you travel to assignments alone, working odd or varying shifts is easier.
Even if you miss out on seniority as a travel nurse, you can still build strong connections and a solid reputation. You may like a facility enough to apply later as a staff nurse.
Being the new kid on the block
Some people love new places, but always being new is challenging. Thick skin and adaptability help with this con. A positive attitude goes a long way, too.
Since travel nurses work temporary positions, the administration may not feel motivated to make you happy. Sometimes, they’ll give you the most demanding assignments.
But when you work hard and help your fellow nurses, you’ll earn their loyalty and gratitude. Those nurses will support you in return and even protect you if necessary.
Another challenge is constantly learning new policies and procedures. Orientation always feels inadequate. You have to know when to ask questions and when to ask for help.
It’s tough showing up to work and not knowing anyone. It’s also hard knowing who to trust. Your best bet is to be friendly, cheerful, and helpful, and you’ll win friends quickly.
When the going gets tough, you have the sweet reminder that you’ll soon be traveling to the next location.
Typical contracts last about 13-14 weeks. As one contract ends, you’ll need to have the next one set. Some nurses struggle with this constant change and planning.
One option is to request an extension to your current contract. Some facilities will extend your contract many times if you want to stay longer. First, ask your location manager if an extension is possible. Next, let your recruiter know so they can make it happen.
If you want to move on, finding your next assignment will be the same process as finding your first one. You’ll need to be organized and flexible to keep good contracts rolling.
Start researching options about a month before your current contract ends. You can also request a specific location.
You may snag a lucrative contract by remaining open to unusual options, which may be available because others won’t take them. Rural hospitals struggle to fill some positions and may offer higher rates than urban hospitals.
Compact licenses are also handy for shifting quickly between contracts.
Travel nurses must always be prepared for a canceled contract just before it starts. For the most part, contracts offer stability. However, some institutions overbook travel nurses, especially during crises.
Know your agency’s policies regarding cancellations. They may still reimburse travel expenses and part of your expected salary. They may also help you find another position quicker than usual.
Beefing up your savings can shelter you from canceled contracts. A solid savings account quiets nagging financial worries.
Housing for travel nurses can be tricky, even with a hefty housing stipend.
Know an agency’s housing policy before signing on. This helps you know what part of the process is your responsibility. Some agencies arrange housing for you. Others let you find your own housing.
When you have to find housing, knowledge is power. It takes time, but learning to navigate the temporary housing market helps you spot good deals quickly.
Use trustworthy housing forums – like Airbnb and VRBO – that are more likely to protect consumers from scams. Travel Nurse Housing, Transplant Housing, and Furnished Finder are sites for travel nurses to use as well.
Hotels are typically the most expensive choice, and living in a hotel for more than three months gets old. Staying with friends and family may be a fun option, too.
Start your search early and narrow down your search criteria to quicken your finds.
Most importantly, choose affordable housing so that the extra stipend money is left jingling in your pocket!
As with any nursing job, communication, flexibility, organization, and a positive attitude are key to travel nursing. If you enjoy traveling and helping exhausted staff nurses, give it a whirl!
But if travel nursing isn’t the job for you, we can help you find your dream position at Incredible Health. Create a profile to discover a job where you don’t have to leave your family and friends behind.