what is a travel nurse

Everything About Being a Travel Nurse

Finding Adventure and Opportunity

The notion of seeing the world while practicing your profession, helping people to heal while experiencing other cultures and enjoying foreign sights and sounds while being paid is certainly appealing! For registered nurses, this is entirely possible as a traveling nurse.

There are numerous opportunities to practice nursing at home, across the country or anywhere in the world. First, however, it's essential to understand what being a travel nurse entails and if there are any downsides. Being a successful travel nurse requires you to research and enter this growing field with as much information as possible.

What Exactly is a Travel Nurse? provides a wealth of information on all things related to being a travel nurse. This agency describes a travel nurse as being a care provider that:

  • Fill gaps in staffing needs for hospitals and facilities nationwide for specific periods. These staffing needs may be due to a shortage of registered nurses for a variety of reasons such as an unexpected leave of absence, seasonal population fluctuations or planned absences, such as maternity leave.

Another leading American nursing organization,, describes a travel nurse as being:

  • RNs from various clinical backgrounds who work for independent staffing agencies. They are assigned to different care areas temporarily to fill in short-term employment gaps.

The opportunities are seemingly endless, and many registered nurses are attracted to becoming travel nurses because of the higher-than-average pay, the chance to help where help is desperately needed and to see the world. Providing healthcare to those in need, wherever they are, is a challenging but rewarding way to apply nursing skills.

Where do Travel Nurses Go?

Where and how far you go as a travel nurse depends on licensing requirements, your nursing qualifications and where the demand is. Your desire will also drive the location; where you want to provide your skills and dedication will determine the location. Many domestic and international nursing opportunities exist, so the sky is the limit! Check out the following resources for helpful guidance on your journey to becoming a traveling nurse:

Many locations and situations requiring a traveling nurse include rural areas poorly served by medical centers and facilities. In addition, just-in-time care is needed in countries that have suffered natural disasters such as floods, famines, earthquakes and drought.

What Type of Health Care Services are Provided?

The type of care provided by a travel nurse will be guided by the employer's need and the nurse's qualifications. explains that the needed health care services are numerous:

Travel nurses have a broad range of responsibilities and duties, and specific tasks depend on the specialty in which the nurse is trained.

The duties and responsibilities of a travel nurse are similar and, in many cases, identical to those they will provide in their local practice. These duties may include care plans, collaborating with physicians and nurse practitioners, administering medications and overseeing patient care, meeting the psychosocial needs of patients and reviewing and interpreting diagnostic tests. Other roles for travel nurses include education, providing resources and learning alternative care systems.

Some of the more in-demand nursing specialties include emergency and operating room nursing. Other needed specialties are telemetry, intensive care unit and progressive care unit. As a nurse, this may be an incredible opportunity to broaden your understanding of nursing and share your expertise with other healthcare professionals.

Where do Nurses Practice?

A travel nurse may provide care within the hospital setting, a medical clinic, in-home care or on the front lines of disaster alongside aid agencies such as the International Red Cross, the World Health Organization or the United Nations. Some travel nurses may work in private or semi-private settings as well.

In disaster settings, travel nurses may be called to triage victims and provide immediate medical care to those impacted. The length of contracts ranges widely, with local and in-state assignments offering deployments of several weeks. International agreements may range from a few months to over a year.

Consider the Positives and the Negatives

There are many pros to becoming a travel nurse, including travel and meeting new people in locales that interest you, but there may also be challenges you did not anticipate. Sure, you can avoid office politics by always being the ‘new guy,’ and the pay might be lucrative. However, you may not get the most desirable shifts, and being far from home and away from your support system may be a drawback.

Images of your destination may include beaches, historical sites and fantastic food, but where will you live? Housing is often a barrier, with low availability and high rent. Consider consulting an accounting expert, as earning a foreign income may have tax implications. Trying a new specialty with leading healthcare providers and making lifelong friends may be just what you are looking for to advance your nursing career!