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10 Pros & Cons of Travel Nursing

Jul 14, 2022
Katherina Davidson BSN, MSN, RN

If you are reading this article, chances are you are thinking about starting your first travel assignment. Travel nursing has been around for several years. It has become more popular in the past two years due to the COVID pandemic. Even with the recent influx of nurses, there is still a vast need due to national nursing shortages. Here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider when making this career shift.

Pros

The Pay is Lucrative (Supply and Demand)

Attractive pay rates are often why staff nurses contemplate seeking a travel assignment. Supply and demand principles are what shape compensation for these positions. When there is a need for staffing but not enough staff, rates of pay increase. One of the benefits of travel nursing that doesn’t apply to regular staff nurses are stipends. Stipends are a game-changer for nurses because they are non-taxable income and often influence how to select a travel assignment. Stipends contribute to the net pay you receive after you control the cost of living. You need to calculate your net pay after taxable and non-taxable earnings.Limiting your expenses like meals, housing, and transportation can be vital to maximizing revenue.

Getting Stamps on Your Passport

Site-seeing is one of the best activities on travel assignment off days. A day spent visiting a new beach, amusement park, nightclub, local cuisine, or a national monument can be a good way to spend your day off. These moments allow nurses to appreciate the benefits of each unique geographical setting. It also allows nurses to create memories with new friends in new places. 

You Have More Control Over Your Career

Traveling can open up new career opportunities especially if you feel stuck in a specialty or at a particular organization. Traveling can help you gain financial and professional flexibility. The increase in income and the short-term nature of each job allows you to decide when and where you want to work. 

Can Take Your Vacation/Break When You Want

As a permanent employee at an organization, you don’t have much control over your schedule. Often, vacation date requests need to be made weeks to months in advance with the hope that management will approve it. With travel nursing, you apply for contracts within a certain contractual period. You can schedule your vacation outside of those times or negotiate specific days off in your contract. 

Meeting New People and Learning New Things

Connecting with colleagues you would not have otherwise met is a bonus of traveling. New friendships and professional relationships may help you cope with some of the feelings that come with travel nursing especially with work-related issues. It also opens you up to new possibilities and perspectives. Although specialties do not generally differ, specific skills that you use may vary. A job at a new organization may aid in diversifying your skill set within your specialty. 

Some pros and cons of travel nursing

Cons

Getting Accustomed to a New Facility and Policies in a Short Time Frame

This skill is unique to experienced travel nurses and takes time to acquire. Orientation for travel assignments is short-maybe only two days. Crisis assignments are usually an all-hands-on-deck type of situation. You may be briefly guided and then expected to get to work in a crisis job. There are ways to reduce your befuddlement during this time. Take notes on how to contact your unit’s resource person, and how to locate policies and procedures. Ask questions to other staff on a continuous basis. Adopt a watch-learn-do approach within your orientation timeframe. Watch and learn how your mentor performs specific procedures. Then, demonstrate those skills to your mentor to ensure that you execute these procedures according to policy. 

Uncontrolled Patient Ratios and Limited Resources

Without national staffing mandates, staffing ratios differ from organization to organization. Travel assignments tend to amplify these imbalances. This is due to pre-existing shortages and limited resources. Additionally, the traveler cannot negotiate ratios in the contractual agreement in many cases. Ask your recruiter about seeking positions in states that endorse adequate nurse-to-patient ratios. 

Unwelcoming Staff 

Unfriendly staff in travel nursing is common. The animosity from permanent employees tends to be due to the difference in pay for the same job duties, but this varies from facility to facility. To circumvent this, aim to make a great first impression with staff. Bringing goodies and coffee on the first day of orientation or on your first shift. Help staff with their patient assignment when you have spare time. Putting your best foot forward goes a long way to ease tensions. 

Loneliness

Being in a new place can be both exciting and scary. It also can be lonely when you are used to living with family/friends at home. There are a few things that you can do to try and mitigate the sting of loneliness. Take a travel job with another nursing friend, or make new friends at the facility. If the staff is not friendly, try to befriend other travel nurses. Also, see if family or friends can travel to your location on off days. Talk to your loved ones daily utilizing facetime calls.

Companies Can Cancel Contracts at any Moment 

Unfortunately, when you sign a contract with a facility you are not guaranteed work. The facility reserves the right to cancel or propose a reduced rate at any point during your term. Prevent this by asking your recruiter questions, and reading your entire contract. Be punctual and present for all shifts when possible. You may not be able to control this so ensure that you have money saved in case you have to leave mid-assignment.

Is Travel Right for You

Just like most things in life, travel nursing has its pros and cons. These are a few of each, but it's worth considering each aspect of your own wants and needs before diving into the travel nurse life.

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