What Is A Travel Nurse?

Every day, more nurses are choosing to expand their personal and career aspirations by pursuing travel nursing jobs. Before making the leap, gathering as much information about what this means is important, starting with the most important question: what is a travel nurse?

You don’t have to be a travel nurse newbie to wonder. Many seasoned travel nurses need to be reminded every once in a while of what their role is, and why it adds value to the healthcare continuum of care.

What is a travel nurse?

A travel nurse is a qualified registered nurse who is placed on short-term assignments, typically 13 weeks long, at hospitals in need of supplemental staffing. Assignments range in length, and can be extended if a nurse gets an offer to stay at their current location.

Travel nurses can work in any department that a permanent staff nurse would work, such as the emergency room, ICU, L&D, or any other unit corresponding to their work experience, even management positions. Typically, travel nurses need two or more years of experience as a permanent staff nurse in a hospital setting within the specialty they are looking to travel. With only a short number of weeks at each assignment, there’s very little time for training and orientation, so being able to hit the ground running is important for travelers to succeed.

Travel nurses do not work for hospitals directly, but are employed by a staffing agency of their choice.

What is a travel nursing company?

Travel nurses are employed by a staffing agency, who maintains relationships with hospital hiring managers and MSPs across the nation to post and fill their open travel positions. Travel nurses work with a recruiter at their chosen travel nurse company.

A recruiter is a traveler’s advocate from start to finish: navigating to find a travel nursing job and making professional recommendations to the traveler for submitting their resume, helping them secure an interview and offer, travel nurses salary, coordinating payroll and health benefits, providing any necessary housing assistance, handling reimbursements and credentialing requirements, and so much more. A positive recruiter relationship built on trust and proven integrity is vital to a travel nurse’s success and job fulfillment.

Travel nurses should be sure to select an agency certified by the Joint Commission, which provides oversight and quality standards to the healthcare industry for both staffing agencies and healthcare facilities alike.

Travel nurses choose a recruiter who listens to their goals and work as a partner in this travel adventure, helping them accomplish what is most important to them.

Why do hospitals hire travel nurses?

Hospitals often provide a high traveling nurse salary because their staffing needs are urgent. Every hospital or health system may have different reasons for hiring travel nurses, but usually it is one (or a combination of) the following:

Seasonal increases in patient population meriting more nurses on the floor – this could be during flu season, or surges of tourism in a region (busy season)

  • Support during implementation of EMR or new charting
  • Augmenting staff with travel clinicians is the solution for many hospitals to keep costs low while maintaining high quality healthcare
  • Filling a position quickly between full-time hires
  • Maternity leave temporary replacement
  • Consistently staffing a job in a specialty that is difficult to fill such as dialysis, cardiovascular and case management RNs
  • Travel nurses are an asset to every hospital they enter.

Who is a travel nurse?

Now that you know what a travel nurse is on paper, let’s talk about who travel nurses are to their core. Here are five of the many attributes we see in our travelers:

A travel nurse is resilient. In other words, travel nurses don’t sweat the small stuff. They know how to cope well with difficult situations because they have exceptional long-term perspective. That’s not to say a travel nurse never has a bad day, but they handle themselves and their responsibilities gracefully in the midst of bad days.

A travel nurse is wise. Gaining the letters “RN” behind your name indicates you’re smart, but what makes travel nurses special is their wisdom. It takes a special kind of foresight and ambition to choose this career path for themselves.

A travel nurse can think on their feet in every facet of life and work. Problem with a credentialing document? Unforeseen patient circumstance? Flat tire? A travel nurse knows how to bounce back and find solutions.

A travel nurse is adaptable. Maybe that’s part of the charm of traveling, but learning new processes, new people, new facilities, and new cities is a lifestyle. And it keeps things exciting.

A travel nurse is driven. It’s not necessarily the adventure aspect that motivates all travel nurses – for some it’s the financial gain, or the opportunity to work cases in large teaching hospitals. Whatever the case, a travel nurse knows what they want and they’re not afraid to go out and get it.