How Hard is it to Become a Travel Nurse – (10 Biggest Challenges & Ways to Overcome)

Written By: Donna Reese MSN, RN, CSN

You may be wondering how hard is it to become a travel nurse? Some RNs are naturally inclined to shine as travel nurses. They are adventurous, willing to take risks, and can land on their feet in new or challenging situations. Successful travel nurses are adaptable, flexible, and learn quickly.

However, many travel nurses don’t check all these boxes and thus may worry that becoming a travel nurse is a bit difficult. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome the challenges sometimes associated with travel nursing.

In this article, “10 biggest challenges you will face to become a travel nurse and ways to overcome them”, I will show you how to master the main hurdles that may be holding you back from deciding to be a gypsy nurse traveler.

So, read on to help you take the leap to begin your travel nurse adventure. You will be at liberty to choose what you want to do with your career and where you want to go. It is a freeing and exhilarating feeling, and you will positively impact many lives along the way.



Becoming a travel nurse may be easier than you think. Deciding to become a travel nurse is the most challenging part of the journey. The process is surprisingly smooth once you choose to take on this fascinating role.

Change is scary, and many shy away from the challenge of an unknown job and locale. However, experienced travel nurses will tell you that becoming a travel nurse is not as hard as you may think.


(The following are the 10 biggest challenges you will face to become a travel nurse and ways to successfully overcome them.)

CHALLENGE #1: How do I even go about becoming a travel nurse?

About the Challenge:

You may think that becoming a travel nurse is hard because you have no idea how to break into the travel industry. You probably have more questions than answers about this career choice.

Typical questions may include:

• How long are the assignments?
• Which agency do I choose?
• What is the salary?
• Who can become a travel nurse?
• How do I sign up?

Essentially, you will want to know how the whole process of travel nursing works.

How to Overcome:

Typically, a travel nursing agency is very eager to bring you on board. Once you pick an agency, they make the application process as easy as possible for you. They know that a potential travel nurse may find this decision a bit nerve-wracking, so they support your journey for every step.

Your nursing interview should put you at ease once you are done. Here you can ask the recruiter all of your questions. They have been there in this industry and have plenty of tips to make the transition to travel nursing seamless.

Talking with traveler nurses at your work will also provide you with much-personalized insight you may not hear from your recruiter.

The idea of becoming a traveling nurse will seem more manageable once you know how to start in the industry.

CHALLENGE #2: I won’t know anyone

About the Challenge:

Starting over in a job and not knowing anyone can be daunting for many nurses.

Yes, there are some nurses who don’t care if friends or familiar colleagues surround them. Being the new guy may not concern this type of nurse.

I recall one nurse I worked with who was intelligent and a hard worker. But chit chat and making friends at work was not her style. Once, I asked if we could eat lunch together, and she told me it was fine. However, she warned me that she would not talk to me as we ate because she preferred to read in social situations. I was initially offended until other nurses told me she had told them the same.

Unlike my colleague, many of us feel more at ease with familiar and friendly faces surrounding us. We take comfort in talking about our work and daily lives with coworkers, friends, and family. This challenge may feel like it is doubly hard to become a travel nurse as you are new at work and in your community. Many enjoy having close connections to spend time with both on and off duty.

How to Overcome:

If you are uncomfortable being the new person in town and at work, consider an assignment near friends or family. Traveling is a great reason to visit those you love in faraway places. Do you have any nurse college friends that are short-staffed at their jobs? Working alongside some of your besties in new locales may be fun.

Another way to meet new people is through local meet-up groups or online nurse support sites. A favorite travel nurse social network is Code Happy, where you can seek support from other travel nurses locally or nationwide.

A travel nurse I know makes friends with her neighbors and sometimes landlords while on assignment. On her last assignment, she rented from a young woman her age, and they hung out socially. She even met her landlord’s family and spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with them.

Of course, you may find friends along the way at work. Don’t wait for social invites. Instead, ask them to join you for coffee or a social event to feed the friendship. You will be surprised at how many nurses welcome your friendship.

CHALLENGE #3: I won’t know the job

About the Challenge:

Starting a new job can be filled with surprising challenges. The fear of the unknown and being lost at work may make it hard to become a travel nurse.

I recall unforeseen hurdles that threw me for a loop when I started my last job. Even though I worked in a field where I had much experience, there were still different rules, equipment, environments, and people. It took some extra effort to feel comfortable in this fresh role.

How to Overcome:

If you have ever been a float nurse, you know that there are some basics to most nursing positions. You can rely on this well-honed knowledge and experience to get you started on a fresh assignment. Make sure that you are well-oriented to the unit. Most travelers have an orientation of 1-3 days. If you feel like you have been shortchanged on orientation, ask for another day and explain what areas you still feel uncomfortable.

Find out ahead of time who you can go to for questions. Hopefully, your placement provides preceptors to their travel nurses.

It is a good idea to ask questions about your orientation before taking an assignment.

You will have questions once you begin work, so don’t be afraid to go to other nurses for direction. They will likely teach you new tips and tricks to add to your array of nursing knowledge.

CHALLENGE #4: Need RN license for different states

About the Challenge:

You may ask, “How can I work in a different state with my current license?” You indeed need to be licensed as an RN in the states where you practice. However, there are some easy answers to this dilemma.

How to Overcome:

To be licensed to practice in the state where you want to work, you must be properly licensed. There are 3 options for licensure for a travel nurse (depending on the state where you are licensed and work).

Here is a brief breakdown. Your recruiter will be able to give you more details and help walk you through this step.

1. eNLC or Compact License-
Certain states are compact states with a reciprocal agreement to work in each other’s territories with just one license. Fortunately, over half of the country is involved in compact state agreements, with many more coming on board quickly.
2. Temporary Licensure-
Travel nurses can apply for temporary licensure while awaiting their permanent license to be finalized.
3. State-Specific License-
You apply for a license in the state where you wish to work. This may take a few months and is typically used as a last resort for states that do not fit into either of the above categories.

Some agencies offer a license valet program where they handle all of the legwork to get you adequately licensed quickly and without any effort on your end.

CHALLENGE #5: Need to figure out new jobs every few months

About the Challenge:

By its nature, travel jobs end just when you are getting familiar with the area and settled in a job.

How to Overcome:

If you are not thrilled about choosing a different assignment every few months, there are still options for you. One is to accept jobs with longer assignment terms. Although the average travel nurse assignment is 13 weeks, some can last up to 6 months.

Also, if you are enjoying your current position, ask to extend your term. Unless you are staffing for a specific person (i.e., on maternity leave), there is a good chance that the facility will welcome trained travel nurses to renew their contract.

If you want to stay in the same area, your travel nurse agency may find you a new assignment in a nearby facility. Thus, you can seamlessly continue working and exploring the area without relocating and finding new housing.

CHALLENGE #6: What about my belongings that I leave behind?

About the Challenge:

If you plan to pick up and travel for an extended time, you may wonder what to do with your stuff.

Although it is possible to pack up and use a moving van from assignment to assignment, you will likely travel lightly. Most traveling nurse housing comes fully furnished. Many even supply kitchenware, etc. It is similar to moving into an Airbnb or VRBO rental. You really only need to bring your personal belongings. If so, you must decide what to do with the items you do not take.

How to Overcome:

Some may fret about this obstacle and think that becoming a travel nurse is hard because of the headache of what to do with their belongings that are not needed to travel. But don’t worry. There are simple solutions to every obstacle in this career.

A small percentage of travel nurses keep their homes intact and do not have this concern. They may have a family at home while they travel, or they are not seeking this way of life for an extended period.

One traveler in my area goes home every weekend to her family while she works 45 minutes from her home. Although she could commute, her agency pays for housing close to her assignment. This convenient arrangement works well for her as she works to make extra money.

However, others may need help with the dilemma of what to do with their stuff. The following examples are ideas of what some travel RNs do when they leave home to work around the country.

• Rent a storage unit for more long-term assignments
• Purchase a pod
• Find a friend/family member to store your stuff
• Purge and sell furniture and anything else you can

CHALLENGE #7: What if I get homesick?

About the Challenge:

Most jobs have pros and cons. For many travel nurses, locating to a new environment is a plus. However, for others, being away from home is a challenge. It is possible that you may get homesick.

I recall working several summers as a camp nurse. As I rested at night in my lonely private cabin, I missed my family. Although people surrounded me throughout the week, I felt sad and isolated. Nurses who are homebodies like me may find that becoming a travel nurse is hard as they prefer to be near their family.

How to Overcome:

For nurses accustomed to having their tribes nearby, it may be wise to consider short travel assignments. If you have any qualms about leaving home, choose a position close to home. Some travelers find work in the next town and do not need to relocate at all. Others work in a locale where they can visit home on the weekends.

Nothing is worse than a holiday without your loved ones. Consider how you would feel about this scenario before choosing an assignment across the country over the holidays.

Think of being on your own away from family as a growth experience. It is temporary, but you will mature and grow as a person in more ways than you can predict.

CHALLENGE #8: I may hate my job

About the Challenge:

There is a possibility that you are not happy with your current travel nursing assignment. Are there any options available?

How to Overcome:

This challenge may be why most travel nurses opt for shorter assignments. Working 2-13 weeks in a job you hate is no fun, but you can usually bear it.

But what if you can’t take another day or your dreadful assignment is more long-term? Besides using your charm and personality to try and fix the challenge, you can turn to your recruiter.

The true test of an excellent travel nurse agency is if they have your back in less-than-ideal circumstances. There are testimonies of exceptional recruiters who jump in to save the day for travelers when they want to quit their job. So, if your recruiter is not up to snuff when you need help, consider switching agencies with fantastic reviews in this area.

But please only quit with the guidance of your travel nurse agency. You may be stuck paying fees if you break your contract. Your recruiter may be able to smooth out the current situation or relocate you to another assignment in the same organization to avoid penalties.

CHALLENGE #9: Where am I going to live?

About the Challenge:

Worries about housing while on assignment and all the logistics accompanying it can be a headache. Due to housing concerns, some may worry that becoming a travel nurse is hard.

How to Overcome:

Travel nurse agencies take the stress away from nurses by having housing details worked out for their travelers. You can investigate each agency’s housing options to find out what suits your needs. Do this when interviewing travel nursing agencies for the best fit.

Agencies may offer the following housing possibilities:

• Travel nurse housing is pre-established and all set up for travelers. The agency handles all the details. You just need to move in. This process is similar to moving into a college dorm with your parents handling all the details.
• The travel agency has a list of nearby housing that rents to travelers. You receive a travel stipend for the rent. You then contact the landlord of your choice from the list and handle the agreement as any renter would. The travel agency may or may not directly pay the landlord.
• You find your own housing without the help of the travel nurse agency. You receive a stipend from your agency. You then pay the landlord directly and handle all the details.

CHALLENGE #10: Tax challenges

About the Challenge:

Although making a great wage as a travel nurse makes it worth it, you may have many questions when it comes to tax time. Travel nurses receive some beneficial tax breaks. However, figuring out how to take full advantage of these incentives can take time and effort. When doing your taxes, you must know the rules to reap the full benefit of these incentives.

How to Overcome:

Talk with your recruiter about the tax breaks for being a travel nurse. Also, do your research. There are numerous publications on this topic.

In addition, don’t try to do your own taxes (at least for the first year). Find a tax advisor who is familiar with travel nursing. There are online options for experts in tax preparation for travel nurses. Taking this headache off your plate will be worth your time and money.


Now that I have answered the question, “how hard is it to become a travel nurse?” I hope you feel more at ease about this fascinating career choice. As you can see, this article, the 10 biggest challenges you will face to become a travel nurse and ways to overcome them, illustrates that working as a travel nurse is not that hard. The vast benefits of being a gypsy nurse far outweigh the few challenges that you may face.

So don’t let your fears stop you from signing up for this nursing adventure. Once you become a traveler, you will pat yourself on the back for all you have accomplished and experienced on this life-changing career journey.

Donna Reese MSN, RN, CSN
Donna Reese is a freelance nurse health content writer with 37 years nursing experience. She has worked as a Family Nurse Practitioner in her local community clinic and as an RN in home health, rehabilitation, hospital, and school nursing.