25 Reasons Why Travel Nursing Is Worth It!
Written By: Donna Reese MSN, RN, CSN
Although the pandemic has caused travel nursing to be at the forefront of the healthcare industry of late, travel nurses have been around “officially” since the 1970s. Some may still recall the nursing shortage in the late 70s. Traveling Nurse Corps, the first travel nurse agency, was created in 1978 to help fill the gaps in nursing during that period. Now that the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, traveling nurses are still needed to help mitigate the aftermath of the fallout in the healthcare industry.
Travel nursing has been a fabulous career for many adventurous nurses in the past as well as the present. It is common to find “travelers” in any healthcare setting nowadays. These wandering nurses have become a staple of our industry. What is the draw of travel nursing? Besides the notorious excellent pay, some of you may ask, “Is travel nursing worth it?” I am here to tell you that travel nursing is a vibrant and exciting career choice. Travel nurses are needed in every state and locale, no matter your specialty. The options are extensive, and the work and lifestyle are immensely gratifying for numerous reasons. This article, “25 reasons why travel nursing is worth it”, will inform you about the benefits of this career and clarify some of your questions about the industry.
WHY IS TRAVEL NURSING WORTH IT?
(The following are the 25 reasons why travel nursing is worth it.)
Travel nurses can accept assignments in the US or abroad. Most choose to stay in the US; some even work a few miles from home, traveling to different local hospitals. Either way, traveling RNs chose this way of life for various reasons. The list below is just a sampling of why travel nursing is worth it.
REASON #1: The Money
Do you recall sensational headlines
in the past 3 years of astonishing wages for traveling nurses? We were impressed when reading stories about brave travel nurses signed up for stints working on covid units and covering “hot spots” during the pandemic. Travelers in the industry could command pay and sign-on bonuses that were unheard of in the history of nursing. It is no wonder that high pay is one of the top reasons travel nursing is worth it.
Now that the pandemic is over, the compensation for travelers has come down somewhat. However, nurses are still needed to fill in gaps everywhere, and you can expect excellent pay as a reward for your work in this specialty. The 2023 travel nurse salary
outlook boasts an above-average compensation of $117,490 annually for traveling RNs. With other perks thrown in, you can expect to live comfortably in this niche. For some travel nurses, money talks, and they follow the money to try and earn top dollar while on their travel adventures.
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REASON #2: Travel to New Locales
Another one of the biggest reasons travel nursing is worth it is the thrill of traveling to new locations. You can travel inexpensively and learn the area's culture while earning an excellent wage. It’s a win-win situation! Whether you want to explore exotic locales such as Hawaii, the California coast, or New Mexico, jobs must be filled nationwide by traveling nurses. You are free to pick and choose where you want to work. Some travelers try to see as much of the country as possible, moving around the US after each assignment.
What about making an extended visit to friends and family? Travel nursing can get you close to your parents or college roommates for a short or more extended travel assignment
, depending on your preference. Some agencies will even renew your contract if you want to extend your stay.
REASON #3: Ample Job Opportunities
It may be hard for some of us to imagine, but there are times when nurses cannot find a job due to their specialty or locale. If this is the case, travel nursing is worth it for some just to find a suitable position.
I recall instances when the competition was very stiff for specific nursing jobs. For example, someone had to retire first to find a job as a school nurse. And those nurses kept their jobs until they could barely work due to old age. When I applied for a school nurse job, there were many qualified applicants for one open position. Currently, schools can’t seem to fill all of the empty school nurse jobs. However, there still are rural or small towns where nurses cannot find work in general.
If you are having trouble landing a quality local nursing job, a career as a travel nurse will open doors to various fulfilling positions.
REASON #4: Lifestyle
Travel nursing is a totally different lifestyle than working in a permanent job close to home. While some RNs prefer the comfort of living and working in a settled job and environment, others may have solid reasons for choosing travel nursing. The travel nursing lifestyle may be a perfect fit for an RN whose spouse needs to move about for work. The 2 of you can pick up and move as necessary and still have a great job waiting for you at your new locale. Perhaps, you are not ready to settle down and have a family and need to itch the travel bug at this season of life. Others may enjoy living as a nomad, and the traveling lifestyle is precisely what you desire.
REASON #5: AdventureWebster’s Dictionary
defines adventure as “an exciting or noteworthy event that one experiences firsthand.” Some definitions add “travel” to that explanation. Well, travel nursing certainly fits the description of an adventure. Whether you choose travel nursing for the thrill, excellent pay, or to move with your husband’s job, you will find adventure along the way. You can make the situation what you want depending on where you choose to work or play. You can fulfill whatever you desire and follow your personality and needs to accomplish as much or little while you travel.
I recently had dinner with a travel nurse from a border town in Texas who told me about her experience while traveling to central Pennsylvania. Although I would not consider my modest small city exciting, she found the area enticing and vastly different from what she was used to. I offered to take her to nearby DC and NYC to explore the area further. She declined and said her main goal at each location was to shop and try different nail salons. She found joy in this simple activity in our area. What would have made my adventure more exciting would be to explore the surrounding area fully. But my friend’s idea of adventure was much simpler and suited her perfectly.
So, everyone’s adventure is unique, and you have the freedom to do what makes you happiest as you choose your assignment.
REASON #6: Explore Permanent Location Options
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in another area of the country? Perhaps you are a country mouse and would like to see if you would enjoy big city living? One reason I think that travel nursing is worth it is to have the opportunity to “try on” different locales to see if it is suitable for more permanent living.
I once wrote a travel article for nurses and had to research each state in the US. As I investigated facts and reasons why each state and its cities were livable, I became interested in numerous mid-US and southern states. I found these states compelling and suitable for my family and what makes us happy. I wondered what moving to one of these areas would be like. Of course, I did not move, but that research opened my eyes to cities and states I had not explored and would never have considered a place of interest to settle down.
As a travel nurse, you live long enough in a location to get a feel for the area. Although we all have different ideas of the best places to work and live
, you have the opportunity as a travel nurse to find out what suits you best. If you find a spot that feels right, perhaps, at some point in your life, you may want to return permanently.
REASON #7: Free Housing
One of the biggest reasons travel nursing is worth it is the free housing or stipend you receive towards rent. With the current cost of housing through the roof, you can save thousands of dollars each month as a travel nurse. Making top dollar in areas with high housing costs
, such as New York, CA, and Hawaii, you will surely get an exceptional deal as a traveler.
Travel nurse agencies each handle the housing stipend differently. So how do you find housing
? Some travel agencies have accommodations available to pick from. You work with one of their housing agents to choose where you want to live for a particular assignment. Furniture and all of the amenities are typically included. This option will make your transition less stressful.
Other organizations give you a stipend for housing, leaving you to find your own accommodation. This option may be a bit more complicated, but you have more flexibility to find a place that suits your needs better than prearranged housing.
The best of both worlds is a hybrid option. You receive the stipend to choose your place, but the travel nurse agency has a list of potential rental options. The agency then helps to negotiate the deal and rental agreements for you. I have numerous landlord friends who rent exclusively to travel nurses, and they work with local travel nurse agencies to find RNs as renters. They love this partnership as nurses typically are great tenants, and the stipend for rent is generous. The nurses find quality living arrangements, and my owner friends have met some pretty amazing nurses in the process.
REASON #8: Live Freely
Travel nursing is worth it if you seek less responsibility at work and home. You go to work, do your job and go home. You typically do not have to be on work committees, take on extra long-term responsibilities and deal with the ongoing demand of a permanent nursing job. You work your shift, and that is it.
The same goes for responsibilities and headaches associated with your housing. As a travel nurse, you rarely have to mow the lawn, repair a broken dishwasher or worry about how you will pay the rent. Your landlord and the travel agency bear all of this responsibility. All you must do is work; the rest of your life is stress-free. Your time outside of work is your own. You can rest, explore or recreate. If you want to live like a hermit and do nothing, that’s OK too. You are free to do whatever you choose.
REASON #9: Meet New People
Some of us enjoy meeting new people. It energizes us, and it is fun. If this sounds like you, you will enjoy travel nursing. It may be one of your top reasons travel nursing is worth it. Travelers often have an outgoing nature and aren’t intimidated when they are new in town and at work. Making friends and working with all kinds of different people can be stimulating. Having colleagues, friends, and acquaintances throughout the country can prove to be quite fulfilling. We can never have too many friends.
REASON #10: Great Learning Environment
What better way to learn new skills and gain knowledge than from a variety of different learning environments? As a travel nurse, you must learn and adapt quickly to your new assignment. Thus, your learning curve is extensive and fast as a traveler.
As a new float nurse, I recall a similar feeling of urgency to soak up everything necessary to function on an unfamiliar unit. I took notes, asked loads of questions, and studied independently to blend in quickly and efficiently. Each nurse and physician I worked with helped me put the puzzle pieces of the unit and the skills needed to function efficiently. I learned so much from these professionals as they helped me along the way. When I accepted the float job, I was already a seasoned nurse and did not expect to need to learn much at that point in my career. I was totally wrong, as each day brought new challenges and learning opportunities. I learned more in my first year as a float nurse than in the past 15 years in my permanent job!
So, expect to be infused with new knowledge and skills as you navigate travel assignments. It will be life-changing and one of the biggest reasons travel nursing is worth it!
REASON #11: Great Way To Save Money
I have heard several travel nurses say they will keep traveling until they can pay off their student loans or have a down payment on a house. Working as a travel nurse is an excellent way to build your nest egg. With minimal expense and terrific pay, it is easy to save money
. Most travelers can boast an inflated bank account after an assignment. For these RNs, travel nursing is worth it to get them to the next financial goal in their lives.
Unless, of course, you are traveling primarily for fun. Then, by all means, play and recreate to your heart’s content! You should have the means to do so while working in this capacity.
REASON #12: Escape
I once knew a travel nurse who made this career choice to get away from her parents. She was 24 years old, and her parents still ran her life. She had never been outside her rural hometown except for college nearby and desperately needed to explore life independently. Working as a travel nurse was her legitimate answer to her unhappy life situation. This young nurse escaped for an adventure to find herself and become self-sufficient.
You may need to get away from your current situation for many reasons. With travel nursing, you can literally pick up your life and move it elsewhere with minimal stress.
REASON #13: Transportation Stipend
Almost all travel nurse agencies will reimburse or provide a stipend for travel expenses from your home to your assignment. The amount of the assistance may vary. Each agency and contract is a little different. The harder-to-place assignments may work out a more generous deal for travel expenses. Also, nurses picking expensive journeys to popular far-off lands, such as Hawaii, may have to pick up part of the travel expense for this prime position due to the high cost of travel.
Thus, travel RNs sometimes pick and choose which packages best suit their needs. If traveling to exotic locales and taking time off while there to recreate is your top priority, then you may be willing to pay a bit for your travel. However, if you are mainly working to make the most money possible, you might choose an assignment based on the best compensation overall.
REASON #14: Negotiable Compensation Package
Experienced travel nurses advise you to shop for the best travel nurse agency
to fit your needs. Once you have decided on an agency, be aware that there is still room to negotiate your compensation package. The pay may be standard, but there are many other perks that you can try to work into your contract. One of the travel nurse tips
offered is to try and negotiate a final agreement before signing.
Contract items to negotiate can be:
• Scrubs and nursing equipment
• Bus/Subway passes
• Utilities and cable
• CEUs, conference, and education expenses
Doing a little research on this topic before you finalize any agreements is a good idea so that you know what to bring to the contract discussions.
REASON #15: Variety
You should never be bored as a travel nurse. With a smorgasbord of offerings, you can vary each assignment to keep you on your toes and engaged. With new locales to explore, people to meet, and a variety of jobs galore, you can expect plenty of stimulation as a traveler.
As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life”. If you are a person who craves diversity, you will thrive in the travel nurse realm.
REASON #16: Try New Work Environments
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work in a completely different environment from what you are used to? Have you worked in both inpatient and ambulatory nursing? If not, why not try a new environment? You may find a new niche or passion that you never expected would excite you as a nurse.
In nursing school, I told my fellow students I would never want to work in oncology. And I never have. However, now that I am more seasoned and have had family members in hospice, I have a special interest in this field. Perhaps as a travel nurse, I might try my hand at hospice nursing. Travel nursing offers the opportunity to branch out and try new areas of nursing.
REASON #17: Rekindle Your Passion
At times, most of us have disliked our jobs and considered leaving our position or even the profession altogether. Many nurses hang on far too long in a bad job and trudge to work each day with a sense of dread. Is that you? To avoid burnout
and keep your passion for nursing alive, taking on a fresh role with little responsibility as a travel nurse may solve your miserable situation.
I was in a job several years ago, where my workload kept getting heavier and heavier. To make matters worse, I was paired with another nurse who seemed to try to make my work life unbearable. After virtually working myself sick, I finally left my position. When I resigned and accepted another job, I felt like the weight of the world had lifted from my shoulders. I was once again excited to go to work at my new position each day. I talked positively about nursing again and felt rejuvenated about nursing and life in general. For those whose story is similar, you may find that one of the top reasons that travel nursing is worth it is that it may help you to love your career again.
REASON #18: Tax-Free Living
As a travel nurse, you enjoy some tax breaks exclusive to this lifestyle. Certain expenses are tax-free, and others that are tax-deductible. Travel agencies advertise this perk as a “tax advantage plan
”. This alluring incentive can save nurses a lot of money in the long run.
Although it is advisable to seek the specifics of these tax breaks from a professional
, you can expect to save on the following:
• Travel expenses to and from work
• Some meals
• Licensing fees
• And much more
REASON #19: Flexibility
You would be hard-pressed to find any other type of high-paying nursing job
that offers the flexibility of a travel nurse. For some, this freedom to live your life as you choose is one of the top reasons why travel nursing is worth it. Most travel nurses ensure that they build time between assignments to allow for vacation. Experienced travel nurses
relay stories of why they love travel nursing—and having the time to vacation as they please is one of their career highlights. They no longer need to beg for time off from an understaffed employer and feel guilty about it. Long luxurious time to recreate, explore and relax between assignments can be enjoyed without any pressure from work.
REASON #20: Job Security
For many, job security is one of the top reasons why travel nursing is worth it. There are plenty of travel nurse jobs available at present. The US Burau of Labor and Statistics
projects that the demand for nurses will continue to increase through this decade with opportunity for growth at 9%. That translates to a continued work shortage in nursing, with gaps to be filled by travel nurses.
You can expect an even higher demand for travel nurses in certain specialties
• ICU, including PICU and NICU
• Cardiac Intensive Care
• Labor and Delivery
In addition, certain states, cities, and rural areas have a higher demand than others. Many travel RNs hire a recruiter
to help them find the best assignments for their needs. These high-demand areas will most likely be at the top of their list.
REASON #21: Build Your Resume
Travel nursing is worth it for newer nurses as it will build an impressive resume. What better way to quickly add new skills and experience in a variety of settings than traveling as an RN? Your resume
will be extraordinary, filled with accomplishments and unique points that are sure to help you land a future job. As a supervisor who has hired many nurses, I would be highly interested in interviewing
a travel nurse. You bring much expertise to the job. Also, the soft skills
you have honed as a travel nurse, such as flexibility and learning to adapt and learn quickly, are valuable assets to any employer.
REASON #22: Avoid Work Drama
If you are anything like me, I really dislike work drama. I have found that most places where I have worked had some negative undercurrent buzzing around at all times. Even when you try to stay out of it, there are times that you get sucked in, especially if you are in a managerial position. Since travel nurses are only temporary workers, they may not sense the drama and can avoid the worst of it. There is some benefit to just showing up at work, doing your job, and going home. Travel nurses are typically so busy learning the ropes and adapting that they do not have time (or the inclination) to become embroiled in gossip, petty bickering, and backstabbing. Thankfully, you glide along the surface of the inner workings of a unit, never reaching the nasty inner core.
REASON #23: Learn New Life Skills
It is nearly impossible to walk away from a travel nurse assignment and not gain new life skills. Travel nursing is worth it personally as you take on new roles and travel to different lands.
Some of the many life skills that you can master as a travel nurse might be:
• Overcome fear of the unknown
• Stimulate creativity
• Get to know yourself better
• Become more self-sufficient
• Budgeting skills
• Become a seasoned traveler
• Learn to adapt better
• Learn to make new friends
• Become proficient at cooking
• Learn new technical skills
• Improved communication
• Safety awareness and measures
• Map reading
• Basic etiquette
This list of new areas of proficiency can go on and on.
REASON #24: Increase Your Likelihood of Advancement
In the long run, one of the top reasons that travel nursing is worth it is that it will make you more valuable as a nurse. Most nurses want to advance in their careers. Remaining stagnant on the job can become tedious and even demoralizing. The nursing and life skills you learn as a travel nurse will provide a rich background and depth of character that will serve you well as you strive for success in your career.
Sometimes skipping from one job to the next is taken as a negative factor when applying for a new position. However, as a travel nurse, you can stay fresh by working a variety of jobs and still rank as a top contender for nursing positions. Experience as a travel nurse is perceived as a plus on your resume. Thus, you will be a well-rounded and capable candidate for advancement up the nursing career ladder.
REASON #25: Stretch Yourself
Travel nurses, in general, are adventurous and self-sufficient. However, even the most flexible RN must work and live outside their comfort zone as travel nurses. Sometimes listed as a con to travel nursing, adapting to a new life does come with some uncomfortable moments. Making new friends in a strange city can be a challenge. However, these life tests and lessons can prove exhilarating. Travel nurses are doing important work. They need to forge forward in their new life bravely. Growing as a person and nurse makes you a more resilient, compassionate, and astute RN.
Once you have accomplished your first travel assignment, you can be proud that you accomplished a vital mission many nurses would be too intimidated to try.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
After reading this article, how would you answer the question, “Is travel nursing worth it? I think we can agree that there are tremendous benefits to choosing a career as a travel nurse. Even if you just want to take a quick breather from your present work and life, a brief travel assignment may be the answer to your current needs and desires.
This article, 25 reasons why travel nursing is worth it, should have you excited to embark on new adventures and gain an array of valuable knowledge. All you need is a little self-confidence and drive to step out of your comfort zone, and you’re on your way. Bon Voyage!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED
1. Do I Need Work Experience To Become A Travel Nurse? New grad RNs
can become travel nurses, but most agencies require 1-2 years of nursing experience.
2. Can Travel Nurses Have A Life?
One of the perks of being a travel nurse is having a work-life balance that fits their lifestyle. However, some travel nurses want to make as much money as possible on assignments, so they work many hours weekly. Some choose to work long hours for their job and then take off extended periods between assignments. How you want to balance your life and work as a travel nurse is up to you.
3. Will I Ever Regret Becoming A Travel Nurse?
Most travel nurses never regret their decision to travel for their career. For most, it is a highlight that they never forget. However, every circumstance is different.
4. Are Travel Nurses Happy With Their Jobs?
It depends on the job and the nurse. As with all jobs, some positions are better than others. However, as a travel nurse, you can move on to another assignment as soon as your contract ends.
5. How Much Does A Travel Nurse Make Per Hour?
Although the hourly pay for an assignment varies according to facility and specialty, the average travel nurse makes $60.89 per hour.
6. How Much Does A Travel Nurse Make Per Week?
A travel nurse makes an average of $2436 weekly.
7. How Much Does A Travel Nurse Make Per Month?
Travel nurses make $10,550 per month on average.
8. How Much Does A Travel Nurse Make Per Year?
On average, a travel nurse makes $126,655 per year. If you add in bonuses, you can make even more in some instances.
9. Will Travel Nurses Be Paid Less In The Future?
It is true that the excessive (pandemic) travel nurse pay may be over. There had even been some talk about putting a ceiling on the rising costs for hospitals to pay travel nurse contracts. However, the pay for travel nurses post-pandemic seems to have settled and should remain about the same in the future (as they are still in demand).
10. Can A Travel Nurse Become Rich?
The word rich has different meanings for each of us. However, travel nurses make an excellent wage. Add in bonuses and the benefit of few expenses, and a travel nurse can save an impressive amount of money over time.
11.Are All Travel Nurses Successful?
You hear many success stories about and from travel nurses. In general, most travel nurses are pleased with their travel nursing experience. However, there are exceptions to every scenario, travel nursing included. Some RNs may find they are not a good fit for this lifestyle. Fortunately, once their contract ends, they are free to do as they choose with their career.
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.