Nurses are invaluable to the health system of this nation and, as a result, are in high demand. That means as a highly skilled nurse, you will have your choice of many prime assignments. You have the opportunity to work in different healthcare settings, such a hospital, clinic or rehabilitation facility. But you have even more choices than these standard positions.

If you want to combine the fulfillment of nursing with the thrill of travel, you should consider becoming a traveling nurse. You can travel the world while helping patients recover their health. The rewards of being a traveling nurse are great, and you will never fall into a career rut.

What Is a Traveling Nurse?

A traveling nurse is a registered nurse who works on short-term assignments at various healthcare facilities rather than being permanently employed at a single location. These assignments can range from a few weeks to several months and involve traveling to different cities or states.

Because nurses are in short supply in various areas, medical facilities sometimes hire nurses for temporary stints, often lasting around three months. They sign a contract that details their compensation and living arrangements and then travel to their destination. Sometimes, the facility will ask them to stay on for another stint if they are still in need of assistance. In general, traveling nurses spend around 13 weeks in one place before moving on to the next assignment.

How To Become a Traveling Nurse?

To become a traveling nurse, you need a valid nursing license and some experience in the field.

Education and Licensing Requirements: To embark on this journey, aspiring traveling nurses must first obtain a nursing degree from an accredited institution. Following graduation, passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is essential to become a licensed nurse. Additionally, pursuing specialized certifications in areas such as critical care or emergency nursing can enhance job prospects and earning potential.

Gaining Experience: Entry-level nursing jobs provide the foundation for a successful career as a traveling nurse. Building a robust resume with diverse clinical experiences and developing specialized skills are crucial steps in preparing for this unique role.

Understanding the Role: Traveling nurses are entrusted with a range of responsibilities, from providing direct patient care to collaborating with multidisciplinary teams. While the role offers exciting opportunities, it also presents challenges such as adapting to new healthcare settings and maintaining continuity of care.

Once you have the necessary experience and qualifications, you can work with a staffing agency that places traveling nurses. These agencies can help you find assignments, handle travel and housing logistics, and provide support throughout your assignments. 

Benefits of Becoming a Traveling Nurse

Becoming a traveling nurse offers several benefits. Here are some you should know:

1. Travel Opportunities

One of the most enticing benefits of being a travel nurse is the abundance of travel opportunities. This unique career path provides the chance to work in diverse healthcare settings nationwide, allowing for rich and varied experiences. Travel nurses not only get to immerse themselves in different healthcare environments but also have the opportunity to explore new cities and regions.

This blend of professional growth and adventure makes travel nursing an appealing option for those who seek to combine their passion for nursing with a love for travel and exploration.

2. Financial Rewards

The financial rewards of traveling nursing are excellent, usually better than you’d earn in a more traditional position. You will receive compensation is several different ways. Traveling nurses’ salary is often higher than nurses in permanent positions. Depending on your specialty and shift length, it’s possible to make up to $50 per hour. In addition, most agencies offer you free, comfortable housing or generous living expenses. These nurses are usually offered attractive bonuses for signing on and completing their assignments. In fact, some agencies may give bonuses as high as $1,500 or more. You can also receive bonuses for recruiting other nurses to sign on as well. This “extra” money can certainly add up.

When you travel for enjoyment, the expenses are yours alone. When you work as a traveling nurse, you get to experience all the sights and attractions of a new area, but you don’t have to pay for the privilege. An agency will pay the travel expenses for you, and these expenses are not taxable. You can travel coast to coast without it costing you a thing.

3. Flexibility

As a travel nurse, one of the major benefits is the adventure and discovery it offers. Unlike traditional nursing positions, travel nursing allows for the freedom to choose assignments in various locations, which can be especially appealing for those who enjoy exploring new places and experiencing different cultures. This flexibility also extends to work schedules, as travel nurses often have the option to work specific shifts or choose assignments that align with their preferred time frames. 

These options give you much more control over your schedule than a regular permanent position would do. If you feel burnt out and want to take a month off, you can certainly do so.

4. Networking

 Travel nurses have the chance to work in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities across different regions. This exposure allows them to connect with a wide range of healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and administrative staff. Building this diverse network not only fosters professional growth but also creates opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Additionally, these connections can be invaluable for future career prospects, as travel nurses often gain insight into different work environments and practices, further expanding their professional network and enhancing their overall career development.

5. New Skills

Traveling nursing quickly gives you an impressive resume. Whether mastering new technologies or learning best practices from seasoned colleagues, travel nurses continually expand their skill set, making them valuable assets in any healthcare setting.

Working in diverse settings and adapting to different patient populations allows travel nurses to learn new medical techniques, familiarize themselves with various hospital protocols, and gain experience in specialized care areas. That breadth of experience and knowledge takes years to manage when working in a permanent position.

Career Concerns

Working as a traveling nurse requires that you be flexible as well. You have to adapt to new situations and new co-workers every few months. For some nurses, that makes the job exciting. For others, it simply causes stress and loneliness. If you crave routine, traveling nursing is not the job for you.

Family issues can also hold you back. While some jobs allow you to bring along a family member, most are aimed at nurses who have few family commitments to tie them down. If you are married with small children, traveling nursing would probably be a hardship.

Also, you have to be licensed in the state where you will be working. If you are not, you will have to acquire that license. Fortunately, most staffing agencies help you get this documentation when you agree to take the job.

If you want a steady routine that keeps you in the same place most days, then traveling nursing is clearly not for you. For others, it offers adventure and career advancement rolled into one.

The Bottom Line

Life as a traveling nurse is both rewarding and challenging. With the right mindset, skills, and support systems in place, this career path offers endless opportunities for personal and professional growth. For those seeking adventure, flexibility, and the chance to make a difference in the lives of others, becoming a traveling nurse may be the perfect fit.

The first step to becoming a traveling nurse is getting your education at an excellent facility. At the Institute of Alternative Medicine, you will get the training you need to be successful in any nursing job, including a traveling position. Applying is easy and can be done online. At AIAM, you learn about traditional and alternative forms of medicine, which makes you particularly attractive to facilities which integrate both approaches. The school also offers excellent job placement assistance, including help in obtaining a traveling nurse position.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What qualifications are required to become a traveling nurse?

To become a traveling nurse, you must hold a valid nursing license in the state(s) where you intend to work. Most travel nursing agencies require a minimum of one year of clinical experience in a hospital setting, although requirements may vary.

How do I find travel nursing assignments?

Travel nursing agencies match nurses with available assignments based on their skills, preferences, and desired locations. Nurses can also directly apply to healthcare facilities or use online job boards for travel nursing opportunities.

Do I need to have my own housing as a traveling nurse?

While some travel nursing assignments offer housing stipends or furnished accommodations, others may require nurses to arrange their own housing. Travel nursing agencies often assist nurses in finding suitable housing options in the assignment area.

How long are typical travel nursing assignments?

Travel nursing assignments can vary in duration but typically range from 8 to 26 weeks. Some assignments may be shorter or longer, depending on the facility’s needs and the nurse’s preferences.

Can I choose where I want to work as a traveling nurse?

Yes, one of the advantages of being a traveling nurse is the ability to choose your preferred locations for assignments. Nurses can select assignments based on geographic location, climate, facility type, and patient population.

What are the challenges of being a traveling nurse?

While travel nursing offers many benefits, it also comes with challenges, such as adjusting to new work environments, building rapport with unfamiliar colleagues, navigating licensing requirements in different states, and managing travel and housing logistics.

Is travel nursing financially rewarding?

Travel nursing typically offers higher pay rates than permanent staff positions and benefits such as travel stipends, housing allowances, and healthcare coverage. However, compensation varies based on location, specialty, and experience.


Ready to Start Your Career as a Traveling Nurse?

School of Nursing