Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing
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The Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing
When deciding if travel nursing is right for you, weighing out the pros and cons of travel nursing is a good way find out if you want to take that leap. Being a travel nurse can be equal parts exciting, stressful and challenging. You may be moving to a new hospital as often as every thirteen weeks. While this isn’t required, there is a chance you might not be extended by the facility you are currently on contract with. If that happens, you would need to notify family and friends of your return home or you can move to another contract/facility. That entails meeting new nurses, potentially travelling across the country (if the contract you take requires travel), even re-learning where each unit stocks medications, supplies and crash carts. The allure of travel nursing often presents the wonderful and difficult all in one.
Pros of Travel Nursing
How cool would it be to travel and live in places that normally you would only have vacationed or dreamed of going? For example, Hawaii is a highly sought-after location that travel nurses adore working in. The fact that one can work in their specialty at a new hospital and then hop on a surfboard or go to a luau after the workday is payment in of itself.
As a travel nurse, you have the ability to take a contract anywhere your recruiter can find you a job at. Depending on your specialty and the time of year, you could be looking over many jobs in the area of your exact choosing, or you might be able to land that job ten to forty miles from that specific location. Which isn’t bad at all.
Depending on location, the travel nurse salary is usually the main reason a nurse first looks into travel nursing. A job can pay as much as double what a staff nurse makes. Hospitals that are experiencing bedside nursing shortages often reach out to agencies that contract nurses to work on the unit. Between tax-exempt housing stipends, relocation pay, sign-on bonuses and meal & incidental reimbursement stipend, there are major salary benefits for a travel nurse.
This is a feature of travel nursing that isn’t commonly talked about. There is an old saying that your “network is your net-worth”. In travel nursing this is especially true. There are times when jobs are either lower for your specialty or there isn’t an assignment in the location you’d like to go. You might need a job so you decide to call your past manager that you loved and completed a contract for last year. It turns out, they would love to have you come back for a contract. This is a very valuable tool to a nurse that is trying to make the jump from casual travel nurse to making it a career.
Also, while travelling and taking contracts, at each job you will meet.. guess what… More Travel Nurses! Typically they are like minded people that are going through things you are. Often these nurses can become a companion to spend time with during your assignment or even a travel partner you decide to work with across the country.
Time Off – Vacationing
Time off refers to periods of time you request while applying for assignments. This time off must be agreed upon by the nursing manager and often must be approved. A travel nurse experience with time off is something that can be a positive or negative depending on who you ask. When it comes to taking time off during a contract. If you and your recruiter are organized and have it on your contract, you should have no issue getting a break in between or after a contract for a much needed vacation. After encountering some of the pros and cons to nursing as a traveler, a week in Cabo might be exactly what the doctor ordered. Not only does this allow you even more time to travel beyond the country, but recharges you to come and finish your contract or begin a new one. I recommend taking at least 1 week off ever 6 to 9 months of contract nurse work.
Cons of Travel Nursing
Travel (oddly enough)
As a nurse who is constantly working in different hospitals and facilities around the country, building up seniority and rapport becomes difficult. It can be almost impossible unless an extension at your hospital is an option. Doctors often don’t know a travel nurses’ experience and the ability to grow within the hospital and climb the clinical ladder isn’t possible. This also plays a large part when it comes to the scheduled days travel nurses will work while on assignment. The travel nurse often picks up the shifts that management needs coverage on and this can mean having days spread out throughout the week rather than coupled together like many nurses like to work. Make sure that if there is time off needed during a contract that it is asked for ahead of time and it is also a good idea to have it in writing.
As a contracted worker one does not qualify for the benefits that full-time staff experience. This means you can sign on for a plan through your agency or pay for a plan yourself. Different agencies offer difference benefit packages. What is right for you, is a personal decision, but commonly these benefits are much less desirable than a full time staff employee would receive. There can be a wait period for when your benefits will start and they will end when your contract ends or at the end of that month. Factoring your benefits and how to stay covered is a worry you should factor into your travel nursing career.
As fun as moving to new locations may seem every few months, the challenges of finding housing can be overwhelming. Depending on your recruiter, they may take an active role in helping you find housing. More often though, this is something you will be responsible for finding. The first place to look is Travel Nursing Direct’s Housing Page. There are a list of housing sources, groups and strategies that will no doubt land you a place to live during your contract. Make sure to do research on an area before applying and signing a contract. There are some cities with low short-term housing inventory and that will directly impact one’s experience in any new city.
In addition to finding a housing resource a travel nurse should factor in the cost of that housing. Short term housing can be much more expensive than a regular lease. You can expect to pay sometimes 1.5 to 2 times what the normal cost of living is for that area. So when you are taking a look at all the great money you are going to be making, subtract your housing costs and see what your real take home pay is. Ways to reduce this are to request a 26 week (6 month) contract as this length of housing is much easier to find. A trick some travel nurses try, is to take an assignment, sign up for a 6 month lease and then simply extend as soon as possible while on assignment.
Expenses – Housing, Moving, Etc.
Travel nursing is extremely lucrative. You can make upwards of $10,000 NET pay each month. Yes, that wasn’t a type, that is NET pay but this is for highly sought after specialties in certain states. While pay the pay can be awesome another thing to factor in that pay is what is expected to be paid by you while working the assignment. There are a plethora of expenses that can arise. Travel costs to get to an assignment can include car needs like gas and repairs, air fair, or moving fees for your personal belongings. These are expenses that your recruiter might not prepare you for.
Travel nursing jobs open up daily around the country. Being confident in one’s specific nursing specialty and maintaining a willingness to learn on the fly will help launch any contracted traveler into a career enriched with excitement. An openness to change and a positive attitude is imperative to being a successful travel nurse. Adventure is out there, now go enjoy this big, beautiful world! Thanks for reading our blog on travel nursing pros and cons!
Whether you’re an established nurse looking to shake things up or you’re just starting a career as an RN, Travelnursingdirect.com is here to help. Join our community of future and current travel nurses by clicking HERE
Katherine Reagan has been a nurse for 5 years. Her site www.onehappynurse.com shares tips and tricks on what it takes to be a successful Travel and Staff Nurse. If you are a nursing student, she will help you prepare with real life examples and ways to thrive mentally, emotionally and physically while you are still in school.