Aerial view of a Travel Nurse using a laptop

How to Become a Travel Nurse

Learn about the skills, salary, job outlook, and educational requirements for becoming a travel nurse.

Aerial view of a Travel Nurse using a laptop

Becoming a travel nurse is an enticing career choice in today’s dynamic healthcare landscape. The healthcare industry is continually evolving, with a significant surge in demand for specialized nursing skills due to various factors. An aging population, advancements in medical technologies, and a rise in chronic illnesses have all contributed to this growing demand. As healthcare needs become increasingly specialized, hospitals and healthcare facilities are seeking highly trained and adaptable professionals to cater to diverse patient needs.

A travel nurse is a registered nurse who temporarily works in various healthcare settings, moving from one location to another to fill short-term nursing positions. These nurses typically work for a predetermined period, ranging from a few weeks to several months, before moving on to a new assignment in a different location. Travel nursing offers a unique opportunity for professionals to explore different parts of the country or even the world while honing their skills in diverse clinical environments. It provides a chance to broaden one’s clinical experience, enhance skills, and adapt to varied healthcare settings and cultures.

The demand for travel nurses has been steadily increasing in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue. Healthcare facilities often face staffing shortages or require additional support during peak seasons, making travel nurses a valuable resource. These nurses can step in swiftly to address these gaps, ensuring that patients receive the care they need without compromising on quality. The flexibility, competitive compensation, potential for career advancement, and the adventure of exploring new places make travel nursing an exciting and fulfilling career option for those in the nursing profession.

This article covers the duties, skills, and educational requirements for becoming a travel nurse, as well as salary* and job outlook. Learn how to become a Registered Nurse and explore the highest-paid nursing jobs to see if nursing is right for you.

Travel Nurse Definition

What is a Travel Nurse?

A travel nurse is a registered nurse who takes on temporary assignments at various healthcare facilities, moving from one location to another based on the needs of the healthcare system. These assignments can range from a few weeks to several months, and travel nurses are deployed to fill in gaps in staffing, especially during peak demand or shortages. They play a crucial role in ensuring that patient care standards are maintained, regardless of fluctuations in staff availability or unexpected events such as seasonal outbreaks or natural disasters.

The role of a travel nurse in the healthcare system is multifaceted. Firstly, they provide essential care to patients, performing a wide array of nursing duties in different clinical settings. This can range from providing direct patient care, administering medications, and monitoring vital signs to assisting with medical procedures and educating patients about their health conditions. Travel nurses are trained to quickly adapt to new environments and integrate into healthcare teams, ensuring a seamless continuation of care.

Moreover, travel nurses serve as a flexible workforce, enabling healthcare facilities to respond to changing patient demands or staffing challenges effectively. They contribute to maintaining the quality and continuity of care within the healthcare system, preventing disruptions that could potentially compromise patient outcomes. The ability of travel nurses to swiftly acclimate to diverse settings and work collaboratively with existing healthcare teams makes them an invaluable asset to the healthcare industry, ensuring the delivery of high-quality patient care across various locations.

Travel Nurse: Job Description

What Does a Travel Nurse Do?

A travel nurse is tasked with a range of critical duties and responsibilities that are essential to the healthcare system. Their role encompasses providing comprehensive patient care, often across diverse clinical settings. In the context of cardiovascular diseases, travel nurses play a significant role in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of these conditions. One primary responsibility of a travel nurse is to monitor patient vital signs closely. This includes measuring and tracking metrics such as blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation. By consistently monitoring these vital signs, travel nurses can promptly identify any irregularities or changes in a patient’s condition, especially crucial in the case of cardiovascular patients.

Administering medications and performing prescribed treatments are also fundamental tasks for travel nurses. In the context of cardiovascular diseases, they may administer medications to regulate blood pressure, manage arrhythmias, or support heart function. Travel nurses also play a crucial role in performing diagnostic tests such as electrocardiograms (EKG or ECG) and echocardiograms. These tests help in diagnosing heart conditions, assessing heart function, and determining appropriate treatment plans.

Patient education and support form a vital aspect of a travel nurse’s role. Travel nurses educate patients and their families on cardiovascular conditions, explaining treatment plans, medications, lifestyle modifications, and necessary follow-up care. They ensure patients understand their condition, enabling them to actively participate in their healthcare journey and make informed decisions regarding their health. Emotional and psychological support is equally essential, offering reassurance, empathy, and guidance to help patients cope with the challenges associated with cardiovascular diseases.

Female nurse escorting a man in a wheelchair at an airport

Travel Nurse Duties

Here are some of the day-to-day responsibilities of a travel nurse:

  • Monitor and record patient vital signs (e.g., blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, oxygen saturation).
  • Administer medications as per prescribed dosages and schedules.
  • Provide direct patient care, including wound care, injections, and catheterization.
  • Collaborate with healthcare teams to plan, implement, and evaluate patient care plans.
  • Educate patients and their families about medical conditions, treatment plans, and self-care techniques.
  • Assist in medical procedures and surgeries, ensuring a sterile and safe environment.
  • Document patient information, medical histories, and treatment outcomes accurately.
  • Adhere to infection control protocols and maintain a clean and organized patient care environment.
  • Respond to emergencies and provide immediate care and interventions as needed.
  • Communicate with healthcare providers and update them on patient progress and changes in condition.
  • Monitor and interpret diagnostic tests (e.g., lab results, X-rays, EKGs, echocardiograms) to aid in diagnosis and treatment planning.
  • Collaborate with other healthcare professionals to coordinate patient care and optimize outcomes.
  • Provide emotional support and reassurance to patients and their families during challenging times.
  • Evaluate and reassess patient conditions, adjusting care plans and interventions as necessary.

Travel Nurse Skills

Travel nurses need a diverse set of skills and qualities to thrive in their dynamic and ever-changing roles. Here’s an exploration of these essential attributes:

  1. Adaptability and Flexibility: Travel nurses must quickly adapt to new environments, hospital protocols, and care routines, showcasing resilience in the face of changing circumstances.
  2. Strong Communication Skills: Effective communication with patients, fellow healthcare professionals, and interdisciplinary teams is crucial for delivering optimal care and ensuring patient safety.
  3. Clinical Experience and Familiarity with Medical Equipment: Experience in various clinical settings equips travel nurses to seamlessly integrate into different healthcare environments and operate a wide array of medical equipment and technology.
  4. Tech Savviness: Proficiency with healthcare technologies and electronic health records (EHRs) is essential for efficiently managing patient data and accessing crucial medical information.
  5. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Travel nurses frequently encounter unique patient care situations that demand quick thinking and sound decision-making. Strong critical thinking skills enable them to assess and address challenges effectively.
  6. Empathy and Compassion: Compassion towards patients and their families is vital for providing emotional support and fostering a caring environment, especially during difficult times.
  7. Professionalism and Ethical Practice: Upholding high standards of professionalism and adhering to ethical guidelines is essential for maintaining the trust and respect of patients and colleagues alike.
  8. Organization and Time Management: Travel nurses often manage a fast-paced workload with multiple responsibilities. Being well-organized and efficient with time is imperative for delivering quality patient care.
  9. Cultural Competence and Diversity Awareness: Travel nurses work in various regions and with diverse patient populations. Understanding and respecting different cultures and backgrounds is crucial for providing patient-centered care.
  10. Stress Management: Given the demanding nature of healthcare, travel nurses must effectively manage stress to maintain their own well-being and provide the best possible care to patients.

Close up of a laptop, stethoscope, and miniature globe

Where Do Travel Nurses Work?

Travel nurses have the opportunity to work in a variety of healthcare facilities and diverse locations, offering a wide range of experiences and professional growth. Here’s an overview:

Hospitals: General hospitals providing a wide spectrum of healthcare services, including specialized departments like emergency, critical care, surgery, maternity, and more.

Clinics: Outpatient facilities, often specializing in specific medical services such as primary care, specialty clinics (e.g., cardiology, dermatology), or urgent care centers.

Long-Term Care Facilities: Facilities providing extended care for individuals with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or elderly residents, including nursing homes, assisted living, and rehabilitation centers.

Rehabilitation Centers: Centers focused on providing rehabilitative services for patients recovering from surgeries, injuries, or disabilities, aiming to restore functionality and improve quality of life.

Home Healthcare: Providing healthcare services to patients in their homes, often for those requiring ongoing medical care, assistance, or monitoring.

Psychiatric Facilities: Facilities catering to patients with mental health conditions, including inpatient and outpatient psychiatric hospitals, behavioral health centers, and addiction treatment centers.

Schools and Educational Institutions: Working in school health programs, providing healthcare services to students, and promoting health and wellness within educational settings.

Moreover, travel nurses can work in a multitude of different locations and settings. For example, they can work in high-density, metropolitan locations with a plethora of healthcare facilities and diverse patient populations. They can work in rural areas that are less populated, often with a scarcity of healthcare resources, providing unique challenges and experiences in underserved communities. Lastly, they can travel to international locations, providing their expertise and care in various countries, and experiencing different healthcare systems and cultures.

Conducting thorough research on potential assignments and healthcare facilities is crucial for travel nurses to ensure a good fit with their career goals and preferences. Research helps match assignments with career objectives, whether it’s gaining specific experience, exploring new environments, or advancing in a particular specialty. Learning about the facility’s culture, patient demographics, technology, and workload expectations ensures a smoother transition and a more successful assignment. Researching compensation packages, benefits, housing arrangements, and other perks enables travel nurses to negotiate effectively and make informed decisions. Understanding the location’s cost of living, safety, amenities, and lifestyle helps travel nurses choose assignments that align with their personal preferences and needs.

Travel Nurse Schooling & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Travel Nurse?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Travel Nurse?

Here are the educational and certification requirements for becoming a travel nurse:

  • Earn a Nursing Degree: Obtain a diploma, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). A BSN is often preferred and may enhance job opportunities.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam: Successfully complete the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), a standardized test to obtain a nursing license.
  • Gain Clinical Experience: Acquire experience in various clinical settings, honing skills and building a solid foundation in nursing practice. Many travel nursing positions require a minimum amount of experience, often around 1-2 years.
  • Obtain State Licensure: Obtain a nursing license in the state where you wish to practice. Licensing requirements vary by state, so research and fulfill the specific requirements for the desired location.
  • Develop Specialized Skills: Gain experience and specialized skills in areas of interest, as certain travel nursing assignments may require particular expertise or certifications in specific specialties.

Close up of a medical mask, passports, and a syringe

Certifications for Travel Nurses:

  • Certified Travel Nurse (CTN): Offered by the Travel Nursing Certification Board (TNCB), the CTN credential signifies a travel nurse’s dedication to the travel nursing industry and demonstrates their commitment to maintaining high standards of practice. It may enhance job prospects and earning potential.
  • Certifications in Specialties: Obtain certifications in specialized areas such as critical care (CCRN), emergency nursing (CEN), or medical-surgical nursing (CMSRN) to demonstrate expertise and increase competitiveness for assignments in those specific specialties.

The healthcare industry is constantly evolving, with new technologies, treatment modalities, and best practices emerging. Continuing education ensures travel nurses remain current and proficient in the latest advancements. Many states and certifying bodies require continuing education to renew licenses and certifications. Continuing education ensures travel nurses are well-informed about updated regulations, compliance standards, and legal requirements.

Travel Nurse Salary

How Much Do Travel Nurses Make?

Although the BLS doesn’t report salary* data specifically for Travel Nurses, we can reference data for Registered Nurses (RNs) to provide a general understanding of the average salaries. In 2022, the average annual wage for registered nurses was approximately $89,000 per year.

Salaries for travel nurses can vary significantly based on the location of the assignment. Areas with a higher cost of living or in-demand healthcare facilities may offer higher pay to attract travel nurses. Experience also plays a crucial role in determining a travel nurse’s pay. Seasoned travel nurses or those with specialized skills and certifications often command higher wages compared to those just starting in the field. Moreover, travel nurses with certifications in specific specialties, such as critical care or operating room nursing, may receive higher pay due to their expertise and the demand for specialized skills in certain assignments.

Additional Benefits for Travel Nurses:

  • Travel nurses often receive a stipend or allowance for housing expenses. This financial support helps offset the cost of temporary accommodation during assignments.
  • Travel nurses typically receive reimbursements for travel to and from their assignment locations. This includes expenses like flights, gas, or public transportation costs.
  • Travel nursing agencies offer healthcare benefits and retirement plans to their nurses.
  • Travel nurses may receive sign-on bonuses, completion bonuses, or referral bonuses, incentivizing them to take on assignments.
  • Travel nursing often allows for greater flexibility in work schedules, enabling nurses to choose assignments that align with their lifestyle and preferences.

Travel Nurse Job Outlook

What is the Job Outlook for Neonatal Nurse Practitioners?

Although the BLS doesn’t report job outlook data for Travel Nurses, we can refer to the projected job growth for Registered Nurses (RNs) to provide insights into the growing demand for travel nurses. The BLS anticipates a 6% growth in employment for RNs from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations, driven by an increased emphasis on preventive care and growing rates of chronic conditions among the aging population.

The aging population in the United States is contributing to a higher demand for healthcare services. As more individuals require medical care, the need for healthcare professionals, including travel nurses, continues to rise. Rural and underserved areas often face healthcare staff shortages. Travel nurses help address this gap by providing temporary assistance in regions with limited healthcare resources. Seasonal fluctuations and unexpected events like the COVID-19 pandemic require a surge in healthcare staffing.

Resources for Finding Travel Nurse Assignments:

  1. Travel Nursing Agencies: Travel nursing agencies play a central role in matching travel nurses with suitable assignments. These agencies have extensive networks and partnerships with healthcare facilities nationwide.
  2. Job Boards and Websites: Numerous online platforms and job boards specifically cater to travel nursing. Nurses can browse these websites to explore various assignments, read reviews, and connect with potential employers.
  3. Professional Associations: Joining nursing associations like the American Travel Health Nurses Association (ATHNA) can provide valuable resources, job listings, and networking opportunities for travel nurses.
  4. Hospital Websites and Direct Applications: Travel nurses can directly explore career opportunities by visiting hospital websites, where job openings and travel nursing positions may be posted.

Smiling nurse in scrubs looking at her phone

Your Journey into Nursing Starts Here!

In summary, this article sheds light on the exciting career path of a travel nurse, a profession in high demand due to factors like an aging population, healthcare disparities, and the need for flexible staffing solutions. Travel nurses have the chance to work in various healthcare settings, from hospitals to clinics, gaining a wide range of experiences and enhancing their skills. With the ability to choose assignments and locations, travel nurses enjoy a flexible work-life balance, allowing them to explore new places while advancing their careers. Travel nurses often receive higher salaries, housing allowances, travel reimbursements, bonuses, and healthcare benefits, making it a financially rewarding career choice.

Prospective travel nurses are encouraged to research potential assignments, consider joining professional associations, and explore opportunities on job boards and with travel nursing agencies to kickstart an exciting career as a travel nurse. By embracing this path, aspiring travel nurses can embark on a fulfilling journey of adventure, professional growth, and impactful patient care. Interested in the highest-paid nursing jobs? Brookline College offers tailored programs to help you transition into the healthcare field and become a nurse in a shorter duration. Start by learning how to become a Registered Nurse and explore the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge needed for a successful nursing career. You can also explore the educational pathways to kickstart your career in nursing by exploring options for a second degree in nursing.