Lots of uncertainty can follow when deciding on a new experience, such as a profession that involves travel. Most people grow weary of the unknown, especially when it involves their career or livelihood. Still, for every travel nursing horror story you’ve probably heard, there’s a handful of amazing professional experiences to be had in this field. In fact, there are more than 3.8 million nurses in the U.S. So, it’s probably not the worst gig you can find — we’d even wager it’s one of the better ways to expand your nursing career!
Three Common Misconceptions About Travel Nursing
Beyond just being able to meet new professionals and strengthen your network and resume, working in unique locations means you’ll see how healthcare varies throughout the country to gain a new perspective of a bigger picture. What’s so bad about that? If you're considering bringing your nursing skills on the road for the first time but don’t know what to expect, we’ll breakdown some of the common misconceptions about travel nursing to help you find your ideal travel assignment.
Misconception #1: You have to move every 13 weeks
While many nurses do choose shorter assignments, you don’t necessarily have to move once your contract expires. In fact, by working closely with your recruiter, it’s often possible to line up several assignments in your desired geographical range! Additionally, there are often assignments that that will run for even longer than 13 weeks with an extended travel contract.
Charlotte Bumb, RN, fell in love with her North Carolina assignment and wasn’t ready to leave at the end of 13 weeks.
“Originally I really liked the floor I was working on and I just wasn’t ready to leave,” Charlotte said.
Janel Townsend, RN, found herself in a similar situation during her Los Angeles assignment.
“I felt like it went by really fast and I needed more time,” Janel said. “I liked my unit and it was different. I got the opportunity for new experience and wanted to get more out of it.”
Because of her extension, Janel had the chance to try something new and work as an ICU nurse in the emergency room. Many travel nurses like extensions because they can gain experience, training, and new skills.
Some assignments could even turn into a permanent position if that’s the direction you’d like to take. When and where you move is all up to you — it just takes some coordination with your recruiter and a bit of networking finesse at times.
Misconception #2: Travel nursing isn’t for established professionals
Sure, a sense of wanderlust is commonly associated with younger adults seeking adventure; however, past polls have found that the average age of registered nurses in the U.S. is 51 years old. Older adults may have established their careers in one location and that makes them some of the most valuable candidates for traveling positions given their breadth of experience.
Traveling ICU nurse, Peggy Patterson, is in her mid-fifties and has worked in 15 states coast to coast with a total of 29 completed assignments with 10 extensions in 26 cities. Her goal is to cross off all the items on her bucket list—travel through all 50 states, then take a couple assignments a year until she’s ready to fully retire.
While younger nursing professionals may have more flexibility in their ability to travel, there’s no age that’s best for travel nursing. Even some retirement-age nurses have hit the road to slowly transition out of the profession while enjoying some much-needed sightseeing.
In fact, Peggy’s most memorable moment as a travel nurse is being present for the birth of her first grandchild. “Until you experience it, you have no idea what becoming a grandma feels like,” Peggy said. “It was the best day of my life and being able to be there was all due to me being a travel nurse.”
Misconception #3: Travel nursing doesn’t provide stable income
While it might get conflated with the idea of a traveling salesmen or some artsy vagabond-type, travel nursing is a completely sustainable career choice with the right planning and thought. According to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nursing is projected to see a 19 percent job growth rate from now until 2022 and projects the need for 1.1 million new nurses. This means travel nursing jobs will become more available than ever. For example, there is an urgent need in many hospitals because they are dealing with understaffing issues and over the past year, the surge of coronavirus.
Additionally, the travel nursing profession may offer increased pay because of tax-free stipends, travel reimbursements, and other unique benefits. While assignments can fall through at times, having backup positions available can ensure you’ll stay doing what you love without worrying about money.
Like anything that becomes routine, there are benefits and drawbacks of travel nursing. Yet travel nursing is something that can continually bring you new experiences and opportunities for growth. Even when the pay is what you need, many will tell you that the true value comes from meeting new people and really gaining a unique perspective about nursing and healthcare in general. All it takes is finding a recruiter you connect with, setting your career goals, and working to find opportunities that allow you to grow as a nursing professional.
It can be a bit scary to travel to a new job and location, but that sense of adventure may be just the thing to really jump-start your career for the better.
Editor's note: This article was re-shared from it's originally written format in August 2018.