There are a lot of upsides to travel nursing, but unfortunately—as with anything in this life—there are also some downsides. While some of the negatives are solvable (at least to an extent), some are simply the reality of an unconventional career. Here are some of the most common downsides of travel nursing to keep in mind.
No one likes doing taxes, but just wait until you get to travel nurse taxes. Non-taxable income sounds great, and it is, but the combination of taxable and non-taxable pay can be confusing for new travelers. You’ll need to be able to identify your tax home, file with correct deductions and withholding, and ensure you’re paying the right amount to the right state.
There’s a lot. You’ll need to prepare everything from skills checklists, professional and personal references, certifications, medical records, receipts for reimbursement, and more. Unfortunately, bureaucracy is a pretty unavoidable aspect of the travel nursing experience, and—if you’re working with a traditional travel nursing agency—you can expect to be going through a lengthy paperwork process for each new assignment you take.
Occasionally, whether for financial reasons or logistical ones, a facility will cancel a contract on you. This can happen while you’re on the plane there or midway though your contract; either way, it’s not fun. This can be a worry for some travelers, but is unfortunately the flip side of the flexibility that comes along with travel nursing.
Finding housing in the right area, for the right price, and for the right length of time can be hard. Searching for the right situation for a 13-week contract can be tough, as many landlords would prefer either very short or very long tenant stays. It’s an awkward middle ground, but these days, more options are available—from Airbnb to RVs to rooming with other travelers.
Typically, your travel nurse agency will provide you with basic medical insurance for the duration of your contract. However, if you switch between agencies from contract to contract, you’ll lose your coverage and have to put it into place again (potentially leaving gaps in coverage and breaks in continuity of care).
There are a few things you can do to avoid these negative coverage outcomes on your own, but one thing we’ve committed to at Trusted is providing a month of coverage in between your contracts with us, allowing you to worry a little less about the awkward gaps between jobs.
PTO (or lack thereof)
While it’s easy to schedule time off work in between travel nursing assignments, scheduling vacation time or PTO during an assignment is nearly impossible. Remember, you’re there because the facility is short staffed, so the chances of you now abandoning your post, even for a couple days, are fairly slim. If anything, you’ll be asked to actually pick up additional shifts pending the facility’s need.
And lastly, homesickness. For those of us not used to spending extended periods of time away from our homes, friends, and family, leaving for six to thirteen weeks at a time can be tough, especially if you’re going to a new city in a new state where you have no existing contacts. This part of traveling can be tough, but don’t let it dissuade you from giving it a try! You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll find in your new setting!
Don't worry though—there's also a huge upside to travel nursing!