There's a big wide world of opportunities out there for anyone thinking about becoming a travel nurse, but it's important to first consider all of the pros and cons of travel nursing. This can help you make an informed decision about whether or not this is the right career for you.
Here are 14 of the most important pros and cons of travel nursing to think about before leaving your permanent position.👍Travel nurses make more money
👎Taxes are more complicated for travel nurses
👍Traveling nurses choose where they take contracts
👎You could experience travel nurse homesickness
👍Travel nurses aren't permanently stuck in jobs they dislike
👎Frequent job searching is a fact of life for traveling registered nurses (RNs)
👍New environments mean more opportunities to learn new skills
👎It's even more essential to stay up-to-date with nursing licenses and credentials
👍Hospital politics are only for one contract
👎Travel nurses must intentionally forge personal connections
👍Temporary assignments allow finding the right fit of travel nurse staffing agencies and recruiters
👎As the industry changes, the dream travel nursing positions you're expecting may not exist
👍Travel nurse work-life balance thrives when you can choose your own schedule
👎Work-life balance is harder to manage in an unfamiliar environment
Consider These 10 Travel Nursing Pros and Cons Before Starting
👍 Pro: travel nurses make more money
One of the biggest benefits of being a travel nurse is the potential to make significantly more money than a staff nurse. Travel nursing is often more lucrative because of the nature of the job (and the nationwide nursing shortage).
As a travel nurse, you're expected to have a high level of skill and flexibility in your job duties. Travel nurses are often the first to be asked to do an extra shift, take on a heavier workload, or be available at a moment's notice to fill in where needed. In exchange for your hard work, travel nursing agencies often pay their nurses more than they would make in a traditional nursing job.
There are varying pay rates based on location, specialty and experience, but travel nurses tend to earn a significantly higher take home salary than staff nurses, especially when considering the impact of tax free money.
Total compensation packages offer even more with many travel nursing agencies offering a range of perks like a benefits package, health insurance coverage, a housing stipend, bonuses, incentives, reimbursements for travel expenses, and even retirement benefits to their employees, which can make travel nursing an appealing career option.
👎 Con: taxes are more complicated for travel nurses
One of the potential cons of travel nursing is that taxes can be more complicated. Travel nurses face unique tax challenges, including having to file taxes in multiple states or even countries, due to their frequent movements across hospital locations. This can make tax preparation and filing more complex than it would be for many nurses in permanent positions.
Additionally, travel nurses may be classified as independent contractors, which means they are responsible for paying their own taxes, as well as other items such as insurance and other benefits. As independent contractors, they are also responsible for keeping track of their expenses, which can be challenging if they have multiple hospital locations. Whether they opt to work with an accountant or handle taxes themselves can also impact the complexity of filing taxes as a travel nurse.
Thankfully, there are resources available to help travel nurses navigate these issues and ensure they are accurately filing their taxes to avoid any penalties or legal issues. When considering a new contract, make sure you ask the right questions so you know what you're getting into.
👍 Pro: traveling nurses choose where they take contracts
Another one of the greatest pros of travel nursing is the opportunity to travel to new places. As a travel nurse, you'll work in different healthcare settings across the country. This allows you to experience different cultures, foods, and other unique aspects of each location.
You'll be able to explore cities, towns, and natural landscapes on travel nursing jobs that you wouldn't get to see otherwise. Although, it's important to keep in mind that you might not get to choose your exact location depending on the current demand for travelers there.
As you travel, you'll also get to meet and make new friends and possibly make lifelong connections with colleagues or even patients. Travel nursing allows for an exciting and dynamic lifestyle that can be very fulfilling for adventurous registered nurses who enjoy exploring new places.
👎 Con: you could experience travel nurse homesickness
While this field offers many pros, one of the cons of travel nursing is that moving around frequently can lead to feelings of homesickness. While each assignment may be exciting, having to adapt to new surroundings, coworkers, and procedures can be mentally and emotionally taxing while waiting out a travel nursing contract. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can set in, making it difficult to establish a sense of belonging in any particular place.
Travel nurses may also find it challenging to keep up with hobbies or activities they enjoy while constantly being on the move, even if they choose their own housing. Fortunately, with the support of friends, family, and colleagues, travel nurses can overcome homesickness and make the most out of their adventures in each new location. Some travel nursing agencies offer additional resources to help with the transition between assignments, including counseling services or mentorship programs.
By developing new routines, finding local social groups or online connections, and taking time to appreciate the unique features of each assignment, travel nurses can build a sense of home wherever they go.
👍 Pro: travel nurses aren't permanently stuck in jobs they dislike
A travel nursing career is a great way to explore new work environments and expand your skill set, without the commitment of a permanent contract. The very nature of temporary positions like travel nurse jobs means they aren't stuck in a job they dislike for an extended period of time. Contracts are usually around 13 weeks long, which provides an opportunity for travel nurses to gain experience, life skills, and benefit from professional growth.
Nurses who don't enjoy a particular facility or setting can look forward to completing their current contract and moving on to their next assignment. By taking on a temporary position, travel nurses can enjoy the flexibility to work in different locations and can avoid the feeling of being stuck in one position for an extended period of time.
👎 Con: frequent job searching is a fact of life for traveling RNs
One of the challenges of being a travel nurse is the constant need to find new assignments. If they aren't used to it, the constant need for frequent job searches can be one of the cons of travel nursing for healthcare professionals. A travel nurse must be willing to engage in a new job search with each assignment, which requires a constant effort to find new positions, complete applications, and go through interview processes.
Travel nursing also involves a level of uncertainty, as job availability fluctuates depending on the location and timing of each contract. Additionally, given the competitive nature of the field, it's important for travel nurses to build connections (especially with recruiters) in order to secure the best job opportunities.
However, for many travel nurses, the benefits of seeing new parts of the country while gaining valuable work experience (and earning those lucrative travel nursing pay packages) make up for it.
👍 Pro: new environments means more opportunities to learn new skills
Being a travel nurse means working at various hospitals, clinics, and healthcare facilities, where you'll have the chance to work with different doctors, nurses, and specialists. This can help you expand your skill set and stay up-to-date with the latest technologies, procedures, and protocols in top ranked hospitals.
In contrast, a travel nurse eager to make the most of every opportunity they're handed can end up packing tips and tricks into their repertoire from tenures at small rural hospitals, where most nurses work to get creative (and efficient) with techniques.
A travel nurse can also take advantage of the various resources, training opportunities, and continuing education programs offered by their travel nursing agency. By taking on diverse assignments, travel nurses can snag professional networking opportunities and further their career development, all while making a positive impact on the healthcare industry.
👎 Con: it's even more essential to stay up-to-date with nursing licenses and credentials
Travel nurses must be diligent in keeping up with their state licensing and credentials. State licensure is necessary for travel nurses to practice nursing in each state where they take on an assignment. Each state has different licensing requirements, and it's crucial for travel nurses to understand and comply with each state's regulations.
Additionally, travel nurses must keep up with their professional credentials, such as certifications and continuing education credits, in order to stay current and competitive in the field. At the same time, staff nurses also need to maintain their credentials, but may not realize what the process looks like as a travel nurse.
By maintaining their state licensure and credentials, travel nurses can demonstrate their expertise and commitment to the profession, which can lead to more job security, higher pay rates, and an overall successful career.
Failure to maintain proper licensure and credentials could prevent travel nurses from being able to work in certain high demand locations. Therefore, travel nurses must be diligent in order to continue practicing and thriving in their roles.
👍 Pro: hospital politics are only for one contract
Travel nursing offers the opportunity to meet new people and make valuable connections in the healthcare industry without getting entrenched in interpersonal conflict at facilities.
Unlike staff nurses who may work at the same hospital for several years, travel assignments offer a dynamic and diverse work environment — which also offers fewer opportunities for getting caught up in the hospital's inner politics. Travel nurses may work in a variety of hospitals, clinics, and healthcare facilities, but ultimately they are there to focus on providing high-quality patient care.
This being said, thick skin and a positive attitude will help many nurses enjoy their time on assignment. There's always the possibility that a registered nurse on contract will get sucked into the drama, sometimes specifically because they're on a travel nursing job. Stay sharp to make sure that if the workplace is toxic, your ability to leave for something better stays one of the pros of travel nursing.
👎 Con: travel nurses must intentionally forge personal connections
Travel nursing can be an exciting and rewarding career, but it can also be lonely at times. Many travel nurses have to intentionally curate their support systems to avoid feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Being on the move frequently can make it difficult to maintain relationships with friends and family back home. It's important for travel nurses to develop new support systems in their current location. They can join a local professional network or nursing organizations, make time for exercise or hobbies, take advantage of virtual communication tools, and actively seek out new social connections with their coworkers, neighbors, or other local members of the community.
By being proactive and open-minded in creating a support system and seeking new friends, travel RNs can enjoy the job without feeling lonely or disconnected from their colleagues and environments.
👍 Pro: temporary assignments allow finding the right fit of travel nurse staffing agencies and recruiters
One of the benefits of being a travel nurse is the ability to choose from a variety of agencies and recruiters to work with. Because travel nursing is such a competitive industry, many different agencies and recruiters are looking to bring on new talent. This gives a travel nurse the advantage of being able to shop around and find a recruiter or agency that works well with their personality and job preferences.
With so many different options to choose from, travel nurses don't need to feel stuck with a recruiter or agency that isn't the right fit for them. They can take their time and do their research to find the agency and recruiter that best aligns with their personal and professional goals. This benefits both the travel nurse and the agency/recruiter, as it allows for a more productive and harmonious working relationship.
Overall, the availability of multiple agencies and recruiters is a significant advantage for travel nurses, as it provides flexibility in terms of finding the right fit for their needs and preferences.
👎 Con: as the industry changes, the dream travel nursing positions you're expecting may not exist
In the last several years, the travel nursing industry has gone through some major upheavals.
First, travelers were incredibly in demand, with facilities in major cities offering great packages at some of the best locations for travel nursing. That availability was one of the major pros of travel nursing for newcomers, and attracted lots of new registered nurses to the field. But as things have progressed, travel nurses find themselves in a different position.
Hospitals that were previously desperate to hire travel nurses are no longer offering the equivalent of overtime pay for regular shifts now that the intensive care unit and emergency room have a little extra breathing room. Many hospitals are comparatively prioritizing the decision to save money, which means travel nursing pay has decreased overall.
In addition, factors ranging from budget cuts to changes in staffing needs means that another risk to watch out for is having a travel nurse contract canceled unexpectedly. When this occurs, travel nurses may feel overwhelmed by the sudden change and uncertainty of their work-life.
However, it's important to remember that cancellations are part of the job and there are steps that can be taken to lessen the stressors associated with these changes.
- Try to remain calm and level-headed.
- Reach out to your recruiter or agency, as they are often able to help provide support.
- Contact and collect any references from the current assignment to maintain professional relationships.
- Consider applying for unemployment benefits if applicable.
- If necessary, look into other options such as picking up temporary shifts at local hospitals.
Ultimately, no matter how challenging the situation may seem dealing with canceled contracts is part of being a travel nurse and it can be managed through proper preparation and proactive communication.
👍 Pro: travel nurse work-life balance thrives when you can choose your own schedule
Another benefit of being a travel nurse is the ability to find a balance between work and life. For those who seek to explore new places, travel nursing provides the perfect opportunity to do that and still maintain a career in medicine. Nurses can take on extra assignments when they want more hours, or turn down ones they don't feel are right for them.
This flexibility allows for travel nurses to pick and choose their hours around personal commitments, such as family time or leisure activities. Whether you're looking for weekend shifts, evenings only, or strictly 12 hour shifts, there's a little more wiggle room.
Not only can this give travel nurses a sense of control over their career but it also gives them the freedom to enjoy other aspects of life while they are working. With all these advantages, travel nurses can achieve a healthy work-life harmony without having to sacrifice one over the other.
👎 Con: work-life balance is harder to manage in an unfamiliar environment
The difficulty and ease of maintaining work-life balance on contract is actually both one of the pros and cons of travel nursing.
Travel nurses often find themselves having to work long hours in different and unfamiliar settings, which can lead to burnout and exhaustion. And when a travel nurse has finished a long shift, they come home to temporary housing, which may not feel like home. Because they are constantly on the move, travel nurses may also find themselves with less time or resources available for self-care activities or even quality time with family and friends.
When all these factors are taken into account, maintaining a healthy work-life balance can become increasingly difficult for travel nurses. They must prioritize self-care and adapt their schedules in order to find a balance that works for them.
While there can be some challenges associated with travel nursing, it also offers numerous benefits such as the opportunity to develop a broad skill set, get paid well, and achieve work-life balance.
The advantages of travel nursing should not be underestimated – there are many perks that make RN travel jobs ideal for nurses who want to broaden their skill set and explore the country. With a little bit of preparation and research, travel nurses can enjoy the benefits of this unique career while avoiding some of its challenges.