What’s the real deal with Travel Nursing?

What’s the real deal with Travel Nursing?

Have you ever been interested in travel nursing? Have you let a fear of the unknown stop you from looking into this booming corner of nursing? This post discusses some common questions and concerns about being a travel nurse, in the form of an interview.

So many nurses have considered becoming a travel nurse but are afraid to take the step for various reasons. Below is an interview I did for my travel agencies blog! I threw in a couple more common questions and concerns I get as well. 

I have recently resumed work as a permanent staff nurse a major academic hospital in my state. I hope these questions and answers will help others take the leap and jump into the joys of travel nursing. 

This is a repost of an article I submitted to another nursing website, as well. 

How long have you been travel nursing? 

I was a travel nurse for 1 year, from late 2016 to 2017, but I also traveled in the past for about 5 months in 2014


What is your nursing specialty?

Cardiovascular critical and intermdiate care.

Why did you start travel nursing?

To save money. I hope to be a missionary in the future and wanted to save money for being out of the country for a few months at a time. I also wanted to pay off my car faster! Haha! 

How much experience do you need? 

Most companies appear to have a policy of 1 to 1.5 years of recent experience in the field you are trying to receive travel in. For examples, if you used to be an ICU nurse, but have been working only in OR the last 5 years, your recruiter may likely match you only to OR jobs. Very companies policies and procedures are different, however, so always refer to your recruiter. 

I personally had about 2 years experience (little more than 1.5 years) before accepting my first travel assignment, and I personally felt prepared and was offered many jobs on my first resume submissions. 

What has your travel nursing experience meant to you and your career?

It's made me a more flexible nurse. Being able to jump in and get to work in new places has increased my adaptability. I appreciate the freedoms that come with being a travel nurse, like with my scheduled days off, not having to ask off for my vacations or pre-planned events, because they are part of my contract, is a very appealing part of my work. I also like that I can't be forced into overtime, and can pick up extra days at my leisure. 

I am also learning how different regional health patterns can be. One hospital may have many admissions for one thing, while another may experience many admissions for something different. It's making me a more perceptive and well-rounded clinician. Traveling has clarified my likes and dislikes in nursing practices and management and education. 

Can you travel with an ADN or Diploma? Can LPNs be travel nurses? 

Again, this may vary by region, but in my experience not having a BSN or being an LPN doesn't disqualify you from being a travel nurse! 

I am a very proud ADN prepared nurse who then completed an RN to BSN program. Many travel agencies don't have particular rules about being required to have a BSN or being an RN vs. an LPN. However, some jobs may prefer candidates to have BSNs, so not having it may limit job prospects in some areas. However, many institutions don't apply the BSN requirement to contract or per diem workers (travel nurses are contracted/temporary employees, even if you stay on the same assignment for a year). 

In many cases, I've seen ADN travel nurses (including me when I first started) be hired at hospitals that exclusively hires BSN prepared nurses as actual permanent staff nurses. 

One of the best things to do, if you're unsure, is to speak with your recruiter and research the institutions you'll be applying to. Ask the managers in your phone interviews. 

Not all companies employee LPNs for travel positions, but there are many who do!!! There some who employee "travel-like CNAs too"!

Many of travel opportunities I see posted for LPNs include Assignments to prisons, nursing homes, and outpatient offices and survey centers, and also case management. Don't let anyone tell you that LPNs can't travel, that not true, there may not be options available in some particular areas, but there are many options available nationwide! Go make that money and see the world Y'all!! Haha!

Have you had any fun, unusual or exciting experiences while traveling that you can share with me?

Of course! At my last assignment, there was faucet in the employee bathroom that comes on by itself. It's kind of creepy. One of my coworkers likes to joke that it's the ghost of a patient who was NPO (meaning not able to eat or drink) at some point during their hospital stay. Also, my coworkers were always amazing! I enjoyed going wine cafes and local breweries with them when we were off! 

When on an assignment do you take the opportunity to explore your new surroundings, if so, what are your favorite things to do?

I do. At my last assignment, I loved staying at this historic inn that is near an awesome Sushi place! Eating good food and drinking good wine is a hobby of mine, haha! There was no shortage of those things in this place where I was previously assigned. 

Is there a place you are looking to go in the future if a travel opportunity becomes available?

I've always wanted to live in New Orleans (close to the French Quarter), just for a little while at least. I love music and am dying to eat some homemade Gumbo! 

Do you have any advice about travel nursing that you can share with someone who is new to it or considering becoming a traveler?

Have a plan. Talk with others who have traveled, join a Facebook group to ask questions, and do your research on where you want to go. Some of the best advice you can get is from experienced travelers! Also, explain your goals and purposes for traveling with your recruiter, it helps them helps you. 

Don't be afraid of going into new situations and places. Like to keep a few small reference books in my work bag that I can pull out when something I'm unfamiliar with comes up. 

Be honest about your skills and experiences with your manager, Recruiter, and coworkers. Of a procedure or skill comes up that you haven't been exposed to, there is nothing wrong with being candid and saying "I'm not familiar with this" or "I don't have much experience with this type of thing, could you show me what is standard or policy here"? I've never had a negative experience when I was upfront and honest. Many nurses are accommodating and realize that different institutions expose you to many different ways of doing things or limits what other types of exposure you may have. 

Finally, the old cliché, "be yourself", rings true. Although it can be intimidating going to a new place, especially if you are like me and came from working in predominantly smaller rural hospitals, don't discount your experiences. 

Finally, the question of money??? How much do you make as a travel nurse?!?!

Of course, this will differ according to you're experience level, education level, the region you'll be working, and your travel agency. 

A good explanation of how much I made as a travel nurse is this: 

I brought home about 300-400 more, a week than what I made as a staff nurse getting paid every 2 weeks! So I essentially doubled my monthly income!!!! I traveled in one state, which is primarily rural. Of course, there are jobs that offered more than what I made, but being that I am single, healthy, with no kids, I was fine with my contracted rate. I also didn't ask for housing to be found for me and received my housing stipend to find housing myself, which sometimes effects your pay with some companies. 

I also took advantage of purchasing benefits from my agency, which was great, because it was inexpensive since it was just me and I'm Healthy! 

Generally, travel companies will explain the way travel pay works, so if you don't understand, Ask your recruiter. 

Good questions to have in mind? 

What will your taxable hourly rate be? 
What portion of your weekly pay will come from housing, travel, and food stipends?
Are there bonuses for contract completion or uniform purchases? 
Are there bonuses for competing your onboarding process quickly? [My company gave you an extra $100 on your first check for doing this]
How will this affect my taxes a year from now? [Ask this question in tandem with your tax-preparation specialist]

Any more questions or comments? If you do have something to add, post it in the comments below or send me a message from the contact form. 

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Happy Nursing!

Patrick McMurray, BSN, RN

PatMacRN

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