Concordia University, St. Paul Online, July 18, 2019
It's fair to say that travel nursing takes a special kind of person. The benefits are compelling, but if you are going to thrive in an environment that is marked by constant change, you have to be ready. You'll need to embrace both the pros and cons of travel nursing to make the most of the opportunity.
Some nurses don’t have a good understanding of what travel nursing offers and requires. The following sections outline the pros and cons of travel nursing to give you a better picture of what’s involved in this unique, rewarding field.
Examining the Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing
Before you start highlighting your favorite destinations, take a look at the pros and cons of travel nursing to make sure this environment is right for you.
Pros of Travel Nursing
Higher Pay Rates
Travel nurses earn a considerable pay increase than their counterparts in permanent staff positions. According to a travel nurse like Kelly Sturm, who has 36 years of experience and specializes in progressive care unit nursing, she has seen salary approximately double of what nurses typically make. It’s not uncommon to hear anecdotes like that.
The specifics are a little hard to pinpoint, however. Information on how much travel nurses earn is generally limited. Based on real-time data from PayScale, travel nurses earn $33.84 per hour on average, compared with $29.33 per hour for all registered nurses, which is roughly a 15% difference. According to information from Indeed, travel nurses make approximately 20% more than all registered nurses (RNs).
Ability to See the Country
Have an adventurous side? Some of the best places for travel nursing illustrate just what can happen when you embark upon this exciting career. Not only can you earn more money than you might in a staff position, but you get to explore new places in the process. Those are easily the top two benefits of becoming a travel nurse.
Valuable Experience for Your Career
Whether you work as a travel nurse for two or three assignments or continue in the field for several decades, you’ll be exposed to powerful professional development opportunities. What you’ll be able to learn in those assignments is arguably better than what many nurses will have.
Why? It’s related to the simple fact that you’re exposed to different hospitals and professionals. As you get an inside look at how different medical environments are run, and as you learn from a large number of different doctors and nurses, you’ll expedite your growth as a nurse. Having that type of exposure will certainly look good on your nursing resume, too.
Avoid the Office Politics and Drama
Management issues and coworkers can be difficult. That’s true of every position, but nursing can get stressful, given the hours, high-pressure situations, and constant interactions with people. If you walk into the wrong environment as a staff nurse, then that’s a major problem, but the stakes are lowered in a travel nursing assignment.
For starters, you’re only there for 13 weeks, which is the typical assignment length. As a result, you probably don’t have enough time to become affected by any office politics and drama. If it does happen to become problematic, it’s only temporary as you’ll be leaving soon. Still, chances are you’ll be too focused on patient care to get pulled into anything.
Trying Out New Specialties
Not all hospitals are the best for learning certain specialties. As a travel nurse, though, you’ll increase your odds of being in a position where you can get your foot in the door for a certain specialty. Getting exposed to different specialties can enhance your resume and it may just lead to something you want to focus on.
Cons of Travel Nursing
Time Away From Family and Friends
It can be difficult to be away from your family and friends. As a result, for some people, this is a deal-breaker to pursuing travel nursing. However, there are a couple of ways that this doesn’t have to be something that stops you from getting involved in this environment.
You’re in a period of life when traveling doesn’t undermine your family/social life: Sturm mentioned how some of her friends have embraced exploring exciting places like California. They didn’t have children in school or partners with jobs that required a permanent address, so moving around a lot wasn’t a drawback to their careers. If traveling wouldn’t undermine your personal life, then maybe now is the time to enjoy new places and adventures.
You’re prepared to make it work: You can obtain assignments that are a comfortable drive’s away from home. In that case, you can go home for your few days’ off. There are other steps you can take to minimize your time away, such as having some time off to spend time with family and friends in the midst of those 13 weeks.
Having to move around a lot can make it feel like you don’t have a home. Of course, this can be a benefit too, if you embrace exploring new places and you get accustomed to moving. It’s a different lifestyle, but one that can be rewarding, personally, professionally, and financially. Plus, you might be surprised how easy it is to pack after you get used to it!
Lack of Seniority
You may not be able to pick up certain shifts as a travel nurse, and you might have to float quite a bit; that’s actually pretty common. But if you accept those realities, then you’ll know what you expect. Something like floating can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be. Floating allows you to gain valuable experience as a nurse. Plus, no two days are the same, and once again, you’ll get to focus on patient care.
Lots of Paperwork
There’s no way to sugarcoat the amount of paperwork that travel nursing can involve. There is, however, an easy solution: take note when you’re choosing a travel nursing agency. Find the agencies or recruiters who streamline the process and take care of the paperwork for you. A great agency or recruiter can make certain parts of travel nursing — like finding assignments and negotiating pay to doing paperwork — a breeze.
Resentful Feelings from Staff Nurses
You may encounter nurses who aren’t as welcoming as they should be. “When you go to another hospital, or any hospital, sometimes travel nurses are met with the fact that the regular staff at the hospital is kind of resentful that you’re there,” she said. “I guess they look at it like ‘. . . you’re getting paid double what I’m getting paid to do the same job.’” Sturm typically points out how they could be doing what she’s doing.
That’s certainly not the norm, but it can happen, especially in those environments when office politics and drama is higher than normal. If you encounter staff nurses who seem resentful, try talking to them or offer to help with their workload and stress. Of course, if the problem persists, the positive side is that it’s only temporary. The nature of short contracts means you don’t have to stay there long if you don’t want to.
Getting Started in Travel Nursing
If the pros and cons of travel nursing sound like something you’d like to explore, you can get started the in-demand, lucrative field.
There’s plenty of competition for the best assignments, and most hospitals won’t consider you without a bachelor’s degree. Thankfully, with an online RN to BSN, you can get the credential you need in a convenient learning environment. Concordia, St. Paul’s program is offered 100% online with six starts per year. Experience an innovative curriculum that is responsive, relevant, and real to your nursing practice.