Travel nursing offers registered nurses opportunities to visit new places and meet new people. They also enjoy flexible schedules. Healthcare industry experts comment on the specialty’s high pay and array of benefits, which often include health insurance, retirement benefits, free housing and professional training. As the nursing shortage intensifies, travel nurses will continue to be in high demand.
What Is Travel Nursing?
Travel nursing agencies emerged during the 1980s to help fill workplace gaps caused by nursing shortages, according to TravelNursing.org, a specialty career portal and placement program. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) says this shortage is expected to intensify. As such, travel nurses will continue to be in high demand.
Travel nurses work temporarily at hospitals and other healthcare facilities across the United States. According to an article in American Nurse Today, employers hire travel nurses for assorted reasons: to fill staffing shortages, facilitate unique staffing needs, maintain morale, provide appropriate nurse-patient ratios and ensure a consistent level of patient care.
Nurses have the option of finding their own employment or working through a travel nurse agency, which is not to be confused with a nurse staffing agency. Traditional agency nurses are locally-based and may fill in for a few days. Travel nurses usually work at the same facilities for an average of 13 weeks and are scheduled at least two months in advance. Employers rely on travel nurses for more specific needs, such as taking the place of those on maternity, sick leave or vacation.
What Are the Degree and Education Requirements for Travel Nurses?
At the minimum, a travel nurse must have an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree and at least one year of clinical experience in a hospital setting, according to TravelNursing.org. The American Nurse Today article notes that most travel nurses are likely to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
Having a BSN or advanced nursing degree is essential for certain leadership and management positions, and in fact, many employers now require it. A 2014 AACN survey states that 79.6 percent of hospitals and healthcare facilities surveyed indicated a strong preference for BSN-prepared nurses, and 45.1 percent say they required it. The criteria and degree requirements are the same for travel nurses as they are for their traditional counterparts.
In addition to obtaining the proper education and licenses, TravelNursing.org says RNs who want a travel nursing job should be certified in American Heart Association CPR/AED and basic life support (BLS). Depending on the specialty, additional certification may be required. For instance, the American Nurses Credentialing Center certifies RNs in a variety of specialties such as Medical-Surgical Nursing and Community Health Nursing.
How to Know if Travel Nursing Is Right for You
There are numerous benefits associated with travel nursing, according to the American Nurse Today article. It offers adventure and flexibility, giving nurses the option of when and where to work. Many travel nurses find positions at prestigious institutions. In addition, nurse travel firms tend to offer high pay and attractive benefits, which may include health and dental insurance, retirement benefits, free housing and paid tuition.
While many RNs may perceive these as positive factors, being a travel nurse is not for everyone. If you are considering a travel nurse work option, ask yourself these key questions.
- Do you like the certainty of a permanent job? Although travel nurses are in demand, work is not guaranteed.
- Would you enjoy being away from home for weeks at a time or do you have responsibilities that require you to stay local?
- Do you find it easy to meet new people and adapt to new situations and environments?
If the idea of visiting new places, meeting new people and gaining exposure to diverse healthcare facilities seems attractive, becoming a travel nurse is a great option. In return for providing much-needed services, you may be rewarded with a higher salary and valuable benefits. Consider all the aspects of travel nursing and weigh the pros and cons before making a commitment.
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