Top 10 Pros And (Cons) Of International Travel Nursing
Written By: Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA
Are you a nurse who wants to see the world? Do you wish you could visit other countries but know you need to work? What if I told you that you can make your dream of worldwide travel possible while still earning an excellent income? You can make that happen as an international travel nurse.
Perhaps you have heard of international travel nursing but wonder if it is right for you. You may wonder, "What are the pros and cons of international travel nursing?” In this article, I will answer that question by sharing the top 10 pros and cons of working as an international travel nurse. When you finish reading this article, you will have enough information to help you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of international travel nursing and decide if this is a career path you wish to pursue.
WHAT ARE THE TOP CONS OF INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL NURSING?
(The following are the top 10 cons of working as an international travel nurse.)
CON #1: International Travel Nurse Contracts Are Usually Long
Although there are benefits to this type of nursing, one of the top cons of international travel nursing is that contracts typically last at least six months. Some contracts last one to two years or longer. If you have a family who is unable to travel with you, you may feel disadvantaged as an international travel nurse.
RECOMMENDED ONLINE RN TO BSN PROGRAMS
CON #2: Pay Rates May Vary from One Job to the Next
While you can earn a good income as an international travel nurse, the pay may vary from one assignment to another. If you work with a travel nursing agent, be sure to discuss the money you need to make, as their job is to try and help you find appropriate assignments that meet the criteria for the assignment you want. Also, if you create a budget
, you can prepare for the money that you expect to make and the expenses you have.
CON #3: Being Homesick is No Joke!!
Another one of the top cons of working as an international travel nurse is that you can become homesick. Although I have never traveled internationally for a nursing job, I have friends who have, and one of the hardest things they tell me they must deal with is missing family and friends. Unlike domestic travel nursing, international travel nursing assignments are longer and so far away that it makes being homesick even worse. Luckily, there are options for video calls or chats to keep you in touch with loved ones while you are away.
CON #4: Your Contract May Get Cancelled
It is bad enough to be working at home and have your hours cut, but working internationally and having a contract cut short or having it canceled before you even arrive can be a nightmare. It takes time to set up international nursing assignments. So, if your contract gets canceled
for any reason, you may be left waiting for the next assignment to become available, which can be frustrating.
CON #5: You Are Always the “Newbie”
Although it can be exciting to be in new places and meet new people, always being the new guy can leave
you feeling like a fish out of water. In fact, feeling out of place on new assignments is one of the biggest disadvantages of international travel nursing cited by many nurses. The best way to overcome this disadvantage is to take every opportunity to meet your new coworkers and try to forge new friendships. One of my friends did some international travel nursing. She and another friend worked with the same travel nursing agent, who got them as many assignments together as possible, which she said always made the transition to a new place easier.
CON #6: You May Need to Know a Second Language
Depending on where you go to work as an international travel nurse, you may need to learn another language. If you are not fluent in another language, you will probably be expected to at least have a working knowledge of the language before being offered an international travel nursing position. Even if you do not know a second language, do not let the language barrier
cause you to set aside the dream of international travel nursing altogether. You can take a foreign language class, get language guides and dictionaries, and use online learning resources.
CON #7: You May Not Earn Sick or Annual Paid Time Off
One of the biggest disadvantages of working as an international travel nurse compared to having a regular, domestic nursing job is that you may not have the benefit of earning sick or annual paid leave. While some travel nursing agencies offer full-time benefits to nurses, all do not. Therefore, you must prepare for time off by budgeting for the days when you will not be working. Although it may be frustrating, it is possible to overcome this disadvantage with careful planning.
CON #8: You May Get Stuck with the Less-Favorable Shifts
If you have ever worked prn shifts, you know it is common for the on-call or prn nurse to get the shift that no one shows up to work. International travel nurses fill vacancies in nursing staff where they are most needed, which means you may not have the first pick of the schedule you want. Do not give up, though! Some nurses end up getting extended contracts and may be offered different shifts once they establish a relationship with leaders in the host facility.
CON #9: Every Facility Is Different
Another of the cons of international travel nursing is that every facility is different. Unlike working in the same facility or setting as a regular nursing job, each international travel nursing job comes with a new facility. Depending on the size of the facility, it may take some time to learn your way around. You must find the right department, the medication room, the supply room, and the cafeteria. A good travel nurse agent will arrange for you to have proper orientation to your new site, so be sure to ask what you can expect upon arrival as far as learning your way around.
CON #10: You Must Find Somewhere to Live
Some international travel nursing agencies offer free housing or housing placement assistance to traveling nurses. However, some do not, which means you may have to find and secure your own housing in an unfamiliar country. You can prepare for this disadvantage of international travel nursing by asking the travel nursing agency or hiring facility where travel nurses in that area typically stay. Even if your agency does not offer housing placement assistance, they may be able to point you in the right direction of where to go to find the best lodging.
WHAT ARE THE TOP PROS OF INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL NURSING?
(The following are the top 10 pros of working as an international travel nurse.)
PRO #1: You Can Make an Excellent Income!
One of the top pros of international travel nursing is that the income potential is great! In fact, as per Ziprecruiter.com some of the top earners among international travel nurses earn an average of $154,500 annually, which is equal to $12,875 per month!
PRO #2: You Can See the World!
Whoever said you cannot make a living while seeing the world probably never heard of international travel nursing. There are travel nursing opportunities in countries worldwide, which means you can choose the places you want to see and travel the world while still earning a great living.
PRO #3: You Will Have Extensive Learning Opportunities
As a nurse and healthcare educator, I love learning. One of the top pros of working as an international travel nurse is that you will learn new ways of treating illnesses and diseases that you may not learn in your native country. This opportunity is possible because best practices vary by nurse, facility, and country. The extensive learning opportunities that come with international travel nursing mean you will learn new skills and abilities and can broaden your approach to patient care.
PRO #4: You Will Develop a Greater Understanding of Cultural CompetenceCultural competence in nursing
is essential if we wish to provide quality care to all patients. By definition, cultural competence is the ability of one person to respect and understand the values, beliefs, and attitudes of others from diverse backgrounds. As an international travel nurse, you will experience the importance of cultural competence firsthand, as you not only learn to care for patients from different cultures but also work with nurses and other healthcare professionals from those cultures and see how they respond to you.
PRO #5: You May Learn About Diseases or Illnesses that Are Not Prevalent in the U.S.
Some countries, especially those that are medically underserved, have higher cases of illnesses and diseases that are not as common in the United States. While it is not our desire to see people ill or suffering from diseases, one of the benefits of international travel nursing is that you will have opportunities to learn about these illnesses and diseases firsthand, which can prepare you to handle challenges in nursing, no matter where you work.
PRO #6: You Can Help Alleviate Nursing Shortage on a Broader Scale
While it is no secret that the United States is facing a critical nursing shortage, the shortage is not limited to our borders. In fact, there is a worldwide shortage of nurses
, which means international travel nurses are in big demand. One of the biggest advantages of international travel nursing is that you can contribute to the solution for the nursing shortage on a broad scale, perhaps in more than one country.
PRO #7: You Can Expand Your Professional Network on a Global Level!
Another one of the biggest advantages of working as an international travel nurse is that your professional network will grow tremendously. Depending on how many countries you work in, you could grow your professional network to include healthcare professionals in several countries worldwide! Imagine what having professional references from other countries can do for your resume!
PRO #8: You Could Be Compensated for Work-Related and Living Expenses
International travel nurses are typically reimbursed for things, including travel and housing expenses. Also, many travel nursing agencies offer reimbursement for license expenses, uniforms, and other legally required documents that make international travel possible. If you have to pay for those things anyway, would not getting reimbursed be a big plus?
PRO #9: You Will Make Friends in Different Countries
Another of the pros of international travel nursing is that you have the opportunity to meet friends in as many countries as you wish to travel. Whether you visit those countries again or simply keep in touch with your new friends as you move on to new places, some friendships can last a lifetime.
PRO #10: You Can Care for Patients in Underserved Countries
Another awesome thing about becoming an international travel nurse is you can travel to countries and work in areas that lack sufficient healthcare services. Providing nursing care in underserved countries means you can significantly impact the health outcomes of individuals and communities in areas that may otherwise not have the care they desperately need.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Any career comes with advantages and disadvantages. If you are thinking of becoming an international travel nurse, you may have wondered, “What are the pros and cons of international travel nursing?” In this article, I shared the top 10 pros and cons of working as an international travel nurse to give you insight into what this type of nursing offers. By comparing the pros and cons, you can now make a more informed decision about whether this is the right career move for you.
Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).