There have been a lot of misconceptions about being a travel nurse, from even travel nurses themselves! It’s a world where you’re constantly learning, growing, and having to be flexible with the process that is often a sensitive transition. At the same time, it’s one of the most rewarding career choices you could make. If you’re new to travel nursing or are considering it, you probably have questions lingering in the back of your head. We wanted to debunk a few of the common misconceptions about being a travel nurse, so you can make an informed decision with the support of other travel nurses who once thought just like you.
Let’s get started:
Travel Nurses Aren’t Treated as Well as Staff Nurses
Generally, there’s no reason for travel nurses to be treated poorly by staff nurses. One of the main reasons for a travel nurse to come on board is because a hospital is short-staffed and they need extra help. This keeps the ratio down and helps everybody out at the end of the day. If you remain optimistic, learn quickly, and help where you’re needed, it’ll go a long way. Most of the time, travelers find some of their closest friends during an assignment and find it difficult to part ways at the end.
Travel Contracts are Only 13 Weeks Long
While a standard contract is typically 13 weeks long, the length can often times vary depending on a few things. Some contracts can be as short as four weeks, and some can be extended by request. Sometimes, it can go by so fast when you really enjoying where you’re at. Falling in love with the location, hospital, and the people can change our view on the location. If you find that you’d like to extend your contract, it’s pretty common. It’s also common to be asked about an extension without even asking for one. The important thing is to speak with your manager about your interest to extend before it’s too late. This way, your recruiter can set up a new contract for you. The earlier you decide to extend, the better. If you really love where you’re at, let your manager know.
The Income of a Travel Nurse isn’t Steady
On the contrary, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Travel nurse pay is higher because of economics and tax-free stipends. Travel nurse pay is one of the biggest reasons why staff nurses become travel nurses every single day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the BLS, Registered Nurses made an average of $70,000 per year. It’s well documented that travel nurse pay is over $90,000 per year and sometimes $100,000 per year. You can read more about Travel Nurse Pay here and the 12 Highest Paying Travel Nursing Cities here.
Travel Nursing is For Younger Nurses
While it is common that young nurses choose to take the route of travel nursing, it’s not just for them. Maybe the kids have left the nest and it’s time for some travel again. Or you’d like to travel with your spouse that has the flexibility, or even a friend. You can take one assignment and then take time off. The ease of travel nursing can sometimes be just what you need at a later stage in life. Not to mention, your housing will be taken care of, and you should have no problem traveling with children, if that’s the case too.
Travel Nurses Have to Float
While it might be possible to have to be prepared to float, this is not the case for all assignments. The benefit of floating is that there may be more opportunities, but it’s not mandatory. The subject of floating should be communicated with a recruiter during the interview process. Maybe it’s a case-by-case evaluation on what type of assignment you’re going for, and if it’d guarantee you more hours to float. Otherwise, state that this is not something you want at the time.
If that wasn’t enough, we asked a few travelers their take on misconceptions they’ve experienced so far. Read through their different takes on travel nursing and a little encouragement to you whether you’re starting, or even a seasoned traveler:
“Often hospital staff can portray us as individuals who are just there to get a paycheck and get out the door to start exploring our new city, but that’s far from it. No nurse gets into nursing without having a strong desire to help people and travel nursing is no different. It’s quite the opposite actually! As travelers, we have very high expectations to rapidly absorb the amount of facility information and policies usually in just 1-2 weeks time. Remember back to nursing school? We worked incredibly hard to get our nursing licenses and we want to make sure we keep them by providing the safest possible patient care – which means focusing and implementing the new policies we are responsible for with each new contract (but no pressure right?)
So a shorter version of that is, travel nurses work incredibly hard to protect themselves and their patients! This isn’t a process we’d repeat every 3 months or so if we didn’t have passion and work ethic for what we do.”
– Travel RN, Anna Lamberson
“Do you ever work?” – a question I get asked daily.
The assumption that my life is easy and I just travel carefree constantly is so false. I have to laugh a little every time I am accused of not working hard for this lifestyle. As a Registered Nurse, I work over 36 hours crammed into 3 days. I try to schedule my shifts back to back to have as many days off in a row as possible, so that I can take trips & experience the places around my current location. I work hard, so I can play hard. Anyone who has ever traveled with me knows they won’t be getting much sleep and their bodies will be crazy sore afterwards (mine included), but we will have some amazing experiences! I started this job to see as many places as possible and I make that a priority. If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
– Travel RN, Summer Steakley
Well in my experience the biggest misconception is that you’re living this dream life where everything is so amazing. While yes, I do a lot of fun things and I do have some amazing days, it’s really hard whenever you start a new assignment no matter how many you’ve done or where your assignment is. New surroundings, new co-workers, new systems– you have to adapt quickly and it can be very challenging and very lonely as well. I feel like we don’t always talk about these feelings of loneliness that come with having this job. But in return, you have this amazing travel community that supports and understands you that I love so much.
– Travel RN, Vicky Caulderon Kuehn
I think what I’ve learned is that it is glorified with social media. Although it’s the most amazing opportunity, there is a lot of research and prep that needs to be put into travel nursing. I think a common misconception is that you can go wherever you want, anytime you want. But if there’s no job, the price isn’t right, the agency or recruiter you’re working with doesn’t have assignments in the hospital in the area you’re looking for, or however many other factors into getting an assignment, going where you want to go can be different than what you expected. I think taking initiative in not waiting for jobs and being flexible is super important.
– Travel RN, Em Cheng
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