The Truth About Travel Nursing: Myths vs Reality

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By Amber Pickler

August 8, 2018



Step #4: Understanding the Myths

The Truth About Travel Nursing

Travel nursing myths are abundant. As in any career, it’s important to be able to make an informed decision. Here, we will break down some common travel myths and counter them with the truth about travel nursing.

Travel Nursing Myth #1:

Travel Nurses make $10,000 per week (or some other outrageous amount).

The Covid 19 pandemic definitely skewed the perception of what travel nurses actually make. It is hard to say for sure what an “average” rate for a travel nurse is because so many factors play a role. Explaining travel nurse pay can be tricky because it’s not as simple as saying, “travel nurses will make $100 per hour.” Location, cost of living, the desperation of the unit, and even the season can affect what a travel nurse makes.

A travel nursing myth that goes hand in hand with pay is how our housing works. Often it is assumed that travel nursing agencies are putting their nurses in lavish rentals, but the truth is most travel nurses find housing themselves. Often this housing can cost 1.5 to 2 times the amount of normal housing in the area. This factors into how your pay is broken down because each area of the country has a max amount you can receive as a housing stipend. There are some tax home requirements that have to be adhered to receive these housing benefits at a tax-free status. You can read more about housing here.

Another consideration when discussing pay is that travel nurses generally do not receive paid vacation or paid sick leave. They are like other contract workers, and when they need personal time off, they take it without pay—a significant benefit difference and downside from typical staff nurses.

Myth #2:

Travel Nurse companies choose where you will go.

The truth is that a travel nurse has complete control over where they go. This travel nursing myth makes it sound like the system is militant in its decisions, and that is simply not the case. Obviously, there is a supply and demand factor.  Generally, travel nurse agencies will post a listing of current openings, and the travel nurse will consider the options and tell the recruiter which locations they are willing to go.  A good recruiter will try to find a nurse placement in a desirable location for the travel nurse.

Myth #3:

Travel nurses have to move every 13 weeks.

The standard travel contract is for 13 weeks.  That does not mean that you will have to move at the end of the contract.  Many travel contracts offer extensions, and others will contract for more than 13 weeks.

There are tax home considerations regarding being in a location for extended periods of time, generally around the one-year mark.  Consult with your tax professional to make sure you are practicing within the law.

Myth #4:

Travel nurses are all young.  I’m too old to be a travel nurse.

This travel nursing myth could not be further from the truth!

There is no age limit for a travel nurse.  There are a variety of groups that travel.  Young nurses will travel before they start families because they have the freedom to do so without any other obligations.  Many travelers will begin a travel career after their spouse retires or their children are grown.

It’s highly recommended that a nurse obtain at least two years of experience in his/her specialty before exploring a travel nursing career.

Myth #5

You can’t travel with family or pets.

This is entirely untrue.  Many nurses travel with a spouse, friends, pets, and children.  There are additional considerations if you travel with your family, but that depends a lot on how many children you have, their ages, and their educational needs. For some ideas on how to make travel nursing with a family work, check out this article.

Pets can be a challenge to travel with, but it isn’t impossible.  It’s important to inform your recruiter if you plan to travel with family or pets so that these considerations can be accommodated.

What other travel nursing myths have you heard? Post in the comments, and let’s dispel all of the travel nursing myths.

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