Like everything in life, travel nursing also has pros and cons despite what your favorite travel nurse influencer’s Instagram may lead you to think. I am here to tell you the truth. Here are the pros & cons of being a travel nurse:
Pay: Typically, travel nurses make much more than staff nurses because they are compensated for their “travel” in tax-free stipends. For example, having worked in New York as a staff nurse, I am now making close to triple in California in comparison. Yes, there are other factors, but for the most part, travel nursing is more lucrative than staff nursing.
Schedule: You are almost your own boss. It is up to you when you want to work a contract. Contracts are typically 13 weeks, and if you plan your life, finances, and schedule accordingly, say goodbye to that mandatory work three major holiday nonsense. Plan accordingly, and you will never have to work your birthday, Christmas, or Black Friday ever again.
Traveling: I mean, that is a given right! You get paid to go to the destinations of your choice, and you can even go beyond the United States. Yes, travel assignments are available abroad as well!
New Friends: Every 13 weeks or less, you have the opportunity to meet a ton of new people and become friends. You get to learn from their experiences in nursing and get advice or share margaritas on Taco Tuesday. I have met some amazing people on my journey, and so can you!
Benefits: (Or lack thereof) Typically, the benefits offered by travel agencies are not as good as staff benefits but don’t panic just yet. You can explore private insurance options but remember to budget for it. This may be important for any potential travel nurses with a chronic condition or expecting a baby, just something to keep in mind!
Housing: Yes, you can opt for the agency provided housing if you are okay with an extended stay type of situation, but you may not receive as many weekly pay benefits. Housing can be challenging to find. You may find yourself constantly looking on Furnished Finder, AirBnB, and Craigslist. For some people, this is fun and part of the adventure; for others, this is absolute misery and can lead to some horror stories! Buyer beware!
Not being Staff: The dreaded “oh you’re a traveler” greeting you might receive when you first walk onto the unit, and you think to yourself, “Well, Good Morning to you too, Nurse Miserable”. The rumors are true; there can be some unfair treatment as a traveler: getting the heavier assignments, floating, first to get an admission, the list goes on… You just have to remind yourself that you are only there for 13 weeks or 39 shifts or 468 hours but who’s counting lol. You will survive, I promise. Do not let one miserable nurse ruin your experience or dream of being a travel nurse.
Loneliness: I have yet to experience this personally because I have always traveled with someone else, but it is an important thing to consider before traveling. Are you okay with going to a new city knowing no one for 13 weeks at a time? Some people love that idea, and others start having a nervous breakdown, just thinking about it. There are many ways to attack this one: travel to places where you know people (even if they aren’t nurses), travel with a friend, or use this time for personal growth and development.
These are just some pros and cons. Of course, this list could be longer, but if you are thinking about becoming a travel nurse, you do not have time to keep reading pros and cons because there are probably HealthStreams or modules that you should be completing for your next assignment instead.
Happy Nursing & Happy Travels!
Renard Walker, RN