The Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing
C. Mike Emery, RN
Many nurses wonder with excitement what it would be like being a travel nurse? Like any career choice, the decision to become a traveling nurse should be a decision made with care and consideration. The truth is that there are many great things that a travel nursing career offers. However, travel nursing does have a downside and is important that nurses know both the downsides and upsides before committing to an assignment. The purpose of this article is to expose the pros and cons of travel nursing.
The Pros of Travel Nursing
• 1) Hospital Politics. The typical travel assignment is for 13 weeks. Therefore, it is very difficult to get sucked into the politics that tend to unfortunately creep into many nursing units. There is probably not an experienced nurse anywhere that doesn’t understand the frustrations associated with the negative dynamics or “politics” that can take place between fellow nurses, managers, administration and physicians. Travel nurses have no obligation to stick around and deal with these dynamics.
• 2) A Working Vacation. Travel Nurses can truly see the country. If a nurse is tired of snow, cold and sleet then how about Florida, Arizona, California or Hawaii? On the other side if the nurse doesn’t care to work in the blazing summer heat in Arizona then how about Alaska or Maine? Travel nursing makes the nursing profession portable. Therefore travel nurses can vagabond across the country and have the luxury of having their job follow them.
• 3) More Money. Many nurses that become travel nurses enjoy a pay increase. There are contract completion bonuses, tax breaks, loyalty and referral bonuses. Most travel companies also pay weekly, with some offering daily pay.
• 4) Resume Enhancement. A travel nursing career can allow nurses to become part of a team and work side by side with some of the greatest healthcare minds in the world. Travel nurses can work on the cutting edge of medicine.
• 5) Relocation. We’ve all heard the old saying “try it before your buy it”. Well, travel nursing does just that. Nurses considering relocating can take short 13 week assignments in areas they are considering. Travel nursing gives these nurses a short stint of what it would actually be like living in the area.
The Cons of Travel Nursing
• 1) Advancement. Travel nursing careers tend to be more bedside, hands on clinical nursing. It is difficult to move up the corporate ladder as a travel nurse. If nursing management is your career goal, then that will be difficult to find as a travel nurse. However, travel nursing can provide a great skill set to help make nurses better mangers.
• 2) Cross Training. Travel nurses tend to work in their current area of specialty only. Nurses that wish to travel under a specialty that is different than their experience will be sorely disappointed. Hospitals expect travel nurses to be able to hit the floor running with minimal orientation and will not invest several weeks of orientation into a travel nurse with a desire to try a new clinical specialty. Some hospitals require one year current experience in a specialty, however, most require a minimum of two and prefer three or more year’s experience.
• 3) Experience. Travel nursing opportunities are rarely, if ever, available to new graduates or nurses with less than one year experience in their area of specialty. Most hospitals prefer two or more years. Nurses with less than one year experience should expect to put travel nursing on hold until the amount of experience is achieved.
• 4) Loneliness. Travel nurses that go it alone can become lonely or homesick. Many travel nurses bring their family or pet along with them to keep them company.