If you’re looking for a profession that will let you travel the country and even the world, becoming a Travel Nurse is a great option. America is facing a nursing shortage, with the average age of RNs at about 44 years as of 2010. Ten thousand Baby Boomers retire in America every day, and almost 14 million people have gained health insurance coverage, some for the first time in their lives, under the Affordable Care Act.
That means nurses are in higher demand than ever, especially since many nurses currently in the field will soon be retiring. According to at least one study, the U.S. will need to add at least 5.6 million new health care professionals by 2020, and 4.6 million of them will need some amount of college education. All of this adds up to a rosy future for travel nurses. Sign on with a travel nursing agency, and you’ll be able to take temporary positions around the country or even abroad. You’ll receive competitive pay and benefits, and the ability to work as much or as little as you want. Many agencies provide you with housing and travel reimbursements.
Benefits of Being a Travel Nurse
Perhaps the primary benefit of working as a travel nurse is the ability to travel. The typical nursing assignment lasts about 13 weeks, so you’ll have the opportunity to spend a little more than three months exploring a new city or rural area. Perhaps you love skiing — wouldn’t it be nice to spend three months of the winter in Colorado? Or maybe you like the beach — you could spend time working in Florida, California, or even Hawaii. Nurses are in high demand everywhere, so there’s no limit to the places you can go as a travel nurse. Nursing already offers a great deal of flexibility, but travel nursing offers even more than standard staff positions. You can work for anywhere from four weeks to an entire year, then take a month off if you so prefer. You can expect to earn more money than an ordinary staff nurse — about $75,000 a year, plus bonuses that average from $1,000 to $1,500 but can go as high as $8,000. You’ll receive reimbursement for travel expenses and any costs associated with getting a compact RN license. Many agencies offer 401(k) plans with contribution matching, and you can even qualify for medical and dental benefits. You can be reimbursed for continuing education or receive opportunities for free continuing education credits. Housing is also covered — you’ll either receive a housing allowance commensurate with the area’s cost of living, or you’ll be assigned free housing offered by the hospital in which you work. Perhaps best of all, you’ll have the opportunity to experience how hospitals and clinics in different parts of the country and world do things, and to improve your own patient care skills thanks to the experience.
How to Become a Travel Nurse
If you want to become a travel nurse, you will first need to earn a nursing degree and pass the NCLEX to obtain your RN. Once you’re an RN, you should work in a hospital for at least a year to gain the experience you’ll need to make yourself an attractive travel nurse candidate. A certification in your specialty can also help you gain a travel nursing position.
Most travel nurses work for a travel nursing agency that places qualified nurses in positions around the country. You’ll receive most of your benefits, including health care, bonuses, housing, retirement, and travel reimbursement, from the agency itself, not from the hospitals in which you work. Usually, you’ll be interviewed by a hiring manager at the agency; you may or may not also be interviewed by a unit manager at the hospitals and clinics to which you travel for assignments. Most travel nurses have preferences for where they would like to travel, and you always have the option to accept or decline a contract. In addition, the agency will do its best to place you as close as possible to your preferred city.
Travel nursing is a great career option for the nurse who has a passion for travel. It’ll give you the opportunity to see the country and the world, learn from a greater variety of health care professionals, make new friends, and have experiences that will be the envy of your loved ones back home. Give travel nursing a try, and start making the most of your life.