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8 Questions About How Travel Nursing Works

8 Questions About How Travel Nursing Works
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Are you a registered or licensed practical nurse? Do you have over a year of nursing experience? Do you love new challenges and adventures?

You may find that travel nursing can meet all these needs. Have you ever wondered, “how does travel nursing work?” Keep reading for answers to frequently asked questions all about travel nursing.

What Is Travel Nursing Like?

Travel nursing provides many unique opportunities for nurses. Specific healthcare agencies focus on placing nurses for short-term assignments across the country. This means you will have the chance to work in many different states and organizations.

Assignments may be short- or long-term. The average length is between 12 and 13 weeks. Since you’re filling gaps in staffing, you can work in many different types of nursing jobs.

Why Are Travel Nurses in Demand?

Did you know that, on average, it takes 49 days to hire new employees in the healthcare industry? The healthcare industry is one of the largest employers. Yet, they also have one of the highest turnover rates.

One study found that over half of registered nurses plan to leave their position within five years. Travel nursing fills these staffing holes for healthcare facilities. This career path is not going away anytime soon.

How Does Travel Nursing Work?

Traveling nurses may receive assignments to hospitals, clinics, or other types of medical facilities. These temporary jobs take nurses to many different states. You'll have the chance to work with different populations and see new procedures.

This offers a great opportunity for individuals who love to take on new challenges. Many people have questions about how a travel nursing career works. Continue reading to find answers to common questions.

1. What Are the Requirements to Be a Traveling Nurse?

Most agencies hire registered nurses who’ve completed their training and licensure. Some agencies also hire licensed professional nurses. Another common requirement is at least one year of experience in your area of specialty.

2. How Does Licensing Work for Traveling Nurses?

All nurses must hold a license to work in the assigned state. Some agencies help their nurses get licensed in new states before starting assignments. This may take place while you are working on a current contract in preparation for the next job.

Other companies don’t offer help with licensing. Don’t hesitate to ask the agency if they will assist you. They may decline and then it’s up to you to complete the requirements on your own.

If the agency helps you get your license, they may ask you to sign a contract addressing licensure. They may stipulate that you can only use those state licenses while working for them. If you get your license on your own, you aren’t restricted to how you use it.

For most license applications you must do the following:

  • Pay for an endorsement application
  • Pay for a background check
  • Get official fingerprints
  • Provide information for the NURSYS license verification
  • Order and pay for school transcripts

This is time-consuming and can cost over $100. The most efficient and least expensive approach is to get multiple state licenses.

Find out which states offer reciprocity with other states. This will allow you to expand your state licensure quicker.

3. What Reimbursement Does a Travelling Nurse Receive?

Travel nurses can often choose the city, state, or maybe even the country where they would like to work. They may also have a choice of the type of assignment. While traveling is great, it involves many expenses.

Travel nurse agencies often offer reimbursement packages as part of their benefits. They may pay for relocation costs including moving and living expenses. Your accommodations and transportation may also be covered.

It’s important to discuss this with the company before signing a contract. You may find that the agency pays a sign-on bonus intended to offset relocation costs. Yet other agencies’ benefit plans may include:

  • Health insurance
  • Provision or a stipend for housing
  • 401(k) plans
  • Travel reimbursement
  • Payment for continuing education
  • Tuition assistance to help you complete BSN or MSN programs
  • Reimbursement for certifications and licenses
  • Payment guarantees in the case of canceled shifts or assignments
  • Payment for Worker’s Compensation and/or Liability insurance

It’s important to understand that if you break the contract, you may have to pay back costs for benefits paid. Make sure that you understand the benefits they’re offering.

For example, is the health insurance widely accepted? What are your co-pay and deductible? Be sure to read the fine print and ask lots of questions before signing up.

4. Where Do You Live During a Travel Assignment?

Many nurses feel anxious about becoming a traveling nurse. This often stems from not knowing where they will live. Most agencies offer two options.

The housing options may vary depending on the location of your assignment. Some companies will help you secure an apartment, house, or hotel room. When the agency makes the arrangements, it decreases your worry about finding lodging.

You should feel comfortable that the place will be in a safe part of town. It will also be in good condition with the basic amenities.

Yet, some individuals prefer to find their own place to live. You may ask to make your own living arrangements.

Many agencies will offer a living expense stipend. If you find acceptable housing for less than the stipend, you can increase your income.

5. Can You Choose Part-Time Travel Nurse Jobs?

In general, travel nursing doesn’t offer part-time work. Yet, you can arrange your schedule so that you have time off during the year. For example, if you take 13-week assignments that have a few weeks between them, you get a break.

If you find that you need more money, you can ask for extra assignments. This adds some flexibility to your income.

6. Which States Are Looking at Nursing Shortages?

Nursing supply and demand vary by state. The Health Resources and Services Administration looked at the need for nurses by 2030. They compiled a list of the states that will have a surplus and those looking at a deficit.

The following states are expected to experience a nursing shortage by 2030.


The estimated nursing supply is 343,400 and the demand is 387,900. This leaves a deficit of 44,500 positions.


They expect to have 253,400 nurses with a demand of 269,300. This means a difference of 15,900 nurses.

New Jersey

The studies reported an expected availability of 90,800 nurses with a demand of 102,200. This leaves the state short 11,400 nurses.

South Carolina

They should have about 52,100 nurses and need 62,500. This means they will be short 10,400 nurses.


Alaska is estimated to have 18,400 nurses and need 23,800. Their deficit will be 5,400 nurses.


They will have about 98,800 nurses and need 101,000. This leaves them with a shortage of 2,200 nurses.

South Dakota

South Dakota expects to have 11,700 nurses, but they will need 13,600. This means they will be short by 1,900 nurses.

7. Which Specialties Are in High Demand for Travel Nurses?

Traveling nurses may work on general Med/Surg units or in clinics based on staffing needs. There are several specialty areas that often request travel nurses. These specialties include the following.

Labor and Delivery Nurses

Nurses working in labor and delivery provide coaching and comfort to the patient. They often care for the patient when she is laboring until after delivery.

After the baby's birth, the nurse administers postpartum care. This specialty also cares for the mother, baby, and family.

These nurses must have expertise in labor management, assisting with birth, and postpartum care. You will need to be CPR, ACLS, and PALS certified to manage critical situations. The nurse should also have experience is with breastfeeding coaching, mother-baby bonding, and more.

Telemetry Nurses

Telemetry units track the patient's heart rhythm, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood oxygen levels. This means that the nurse should be proficient in reading EKG rhythm strips. This specialty also requires certification in CPR and ACLS.

The nurse should feel confident in caring for patients with potential cardiovascular problems. It’s also important to understand the pharmacologic agents used for these patients.

ICU Nurses

ICU nurses care for patients with complex medical issues. The nurse must be proficient in cardiac, respiratory, GI, neurologic, and orthopedic care. They should also have experience with adults, pediatrics, and neonatal patients.

The nurse will need to have CPR, ACLS, and PALS certifications. CCRN certification will increase your assignment opportunities and show your level of expertise.

Perioperative and Operating Room Nurses

Few nurses have experience working in pre-op, as a scrub or circulating nurse, or the recovery room. This nursing specialty is essential for the surgical process.

These nurses understand sterile technique and are familiar with many different surgical instruments. During surgery, the nurse is expected to hand equipment and assist without delays. They must have the ability to anticipate the surgeon’s and patient’s needs.

This elite specialty in nursing is aging as a group. Many plan to retire in the next few years. This means there will be a general shortage of nurses with this skill set.

Neonatal Nurses

Neonatal nurses provide care to infants during their first 28 days of life. Some premature babies need even longer care.

These nurses must understand basic neonatal care, monitor their vital signs, and know the normal ranges. They also care for infants with birth defects that need extra care.

These nurses must have CPR and PALS certifications. This provides the knowledge needed to respond in emergency situations.

Emergency Room Nurses

Nurses who work in the emergency room must be prepared for everything. They care for patients of all ages with all types of injuries and illnesses. The nurse may work triage and have the responsibility of deciding who receives treatment first.

These nurses work closely with physicians and other healthcare workers to provide a range of care. Certifications in CPR, ACLS, and PALS are essential for all emergency room nurses.

8. Is Travel Nursing a Good Choice for You?

While travel nursing offers a myriad of opportunities both professionally and personally, it’s not for everyone. You must have the ability to leave home for months at a time. Some assignments are offered with little notice.

If you have family or pet responsibilities, you need to think about how you will manage this. If you own a home, how will you ensure that the home/lawn care is covered? Can you pay all your bills online?

For nurses that will struggle with issues such as these, travel nursing may not be the best fit. You don’t want to launch into a career that will cause increased life stress.

If you don’t feel tied down and love to experience new adventures, travel nursing offers a great choice. You may often work 12-hour shifts which will give you days off during the week. You can take that time to visit the area and learn about the culture.

Are You Interested in Taking a New Career Path?

After reading this article, do you have the urge to pack up and go? You have learned the answer to, “how does travel nursing work?” If you’re ready to make a change, Hospital Careers is here to help you get started.

We are healthcare’s premier career platform for connecting healthcare professionals and employers. Providing the highest quality of care to health facilities is our prime objective. We also value our employees and seek to help them find great opportunities.

Advance your career. Change your life. - HospitalCareers