Introduction: America's Nursing Shortage
Travel nursing is one of America's answers to the national long-term shortage of nurses. The national population is steadily growing without sufficient numbers of nurses to adequately serve the people. Further, many nurses retire early because of the results of stress they experience on the job. Others retire at the usual age and both stages of retirements leave an additional shortage of nurses unfilled by the limited number of new nurses entering the American workforce yearly, according to US Department of Labor forecasts.
Twelve-hour shifts for nurses are commonplace in many US hospitals, taking a toll on these professionals, physically and psychologically. This can result in an increase in the frequency and length of illnesses among nursing staff, professional burnout, the early retirement already mentioned, and even disability retirement. The latter condition further strains the nursing profession by removing individuals from the health care industry and placing them into the already overly large patient population. This doubly strains the remaining medical staff. Fortunately, because travel nursing reduces stressors while significantly increasing benefits and enjoyment, some nurses that would otherwise quit or retire continue to work productively through traveling.
This severe shortage of nurses is forecast by the Department of Labor to continue in the USA, because of the steady increase in numbers of the general population and immigrants and the increase in the number of older adults and their inherent medical needs related to aging. Contingent nurses, working as needed, are partially filling the gap, earning lucrative pay and benefits. One arm of the contingency nursing sector is the Travel Nurse, the Traveling Nurse, or simply the Traveler. This nurse travels around the country, most often in contracts of 13 weeks (one fiscal quarter) in order to serve regions that are most in need of nurses.
The traveling nurse program has begun to take toot in the UK and Australia as well as in America and is beginning to operate in other countries where nursing shortages exist. Travel nurses have served across America, including in New Orleans and other location in the South during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and overseas during the War in Iraq. This brand of nursing can actually be traced back to the US Navy Hospital Ship nurses of WWII. The US Navy instituted the use of medical ships to take much-needed health care to the European and Pacific theaters, rather than to wait on the slower transport of the injured back to the States.
Travel nurses work for companies that are called travel companies or traveling health care professional agencies. Most of these companies employ nurses between the ages of 23 to 65 that have worked in nursing for at least a year and have chosen a traveling health care profession for any number of reasons. Once largely employing solely Registered Nurses (RNs), they now include RNs, LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses) and Nursing Techs, such as surgical technicians. These professionals can enjoy greater freedom in traveling than in working in site-bound nursing and can expect higher wages and greater benefits as well.
Advantages of Travel Nursing
Some in the traveling health care professions become travel nurses in order to visit different parts of the country several times a year, rather than to spend money on vacations. This is a convenient way to enjoy more exotic locales without additional expenses. Aside from exciting travel opportunities, benefits of travel nursing most often include reimbursed or free advanced travel arrangement, free housing, free insurance, some retirement benefits, bonuses, and a higher wage scale than other segments of the nursing profession. A well paid travel nurse has the opportunity to visit Hawaii or almost any other state in the union at little or no personal expense for a short a time as four weeks or as long as a year.
Proper licensing is critical to success as a traveler. Nurse licensing varies from state to state in America, with many states offering a temporary license valid anywhere from 90 days to a year, depending on the state. The process of obtaining a temporary license varies among the states as well and a travel company recruiter will usually help the traveling nurse to navigate this system successfully and act as a coach and advocate. Some states require only a 7-12 day processing period, while others require up to 3 months; however, an experienced and skillful recruiter can often help to reduce this time requirement. Some companies will also reimburse the cost of these licensing fees after the nurse works for them for a standard time period, often 6 consecutive months. Thus, there are very few out-of-pocket expenses for the traveling nurse.
Professional Development and Cultural Competency
The traveling health care profession can provide a chance for health care workers such as RNs, LPN, Techs, physicians, dentists, and others to explore an additional dimension of their professions. Rather than to stay in one location or at one facility, traveling professionals can take advantage of this type of working travel opportunity to see America coast to coast, to strengthen their health care and medical skills by working with diverse populations in a variety of facilities, and to gain new life experiences, professional and personal. In fact, traveling in the health care profession can be an ideal way of increasing one's cultural competency among diverse populations and broadening one's range of contacts and friends.
Travel nursing presents professional that choose this option with greater control over their own destiny than if they worked in a single facility long-term. Once a travel nurse signs on with a reputable travel health professionals agency, he or she can choose the location in which their will work, specific shifts and a flexible schedules, a particular vacation schedule, and even living conditions. The latter can be a critical choice.
Some nurses live and work in areas that see an abundance of gunshot and stab wounds in their ERs and trauma surgery schedules. These and other nurses may be required to work double shits and standard 12-hour days in some locations in America because of a nursing shortage that will last well into the mid 21st century. These conditions can lead to untenable stress over the long term that results in mental and physical breakdown among nursing staff. This can result in lost time from work, early retirement and even permanent disability that cuts one's work years short. Travel nursing offers the opportunity to change working conditions by changing locale. Becoming a travel nurse, then, can provide a safer location, less stress, a more flexible schedule, and a richer personal life free of the worry of high-crime areas and high death rates among one's patients. For many nurses, it is a realized dream.
What is Required to Become a Successful Travel Nurse?
The travel nurse requires basic nursing skill sets, possibly specity skills, and a "work personality" or temperament that will allow the nurse to adapt to and become successful in new environments. These are critical to the success of the traveler as he or she is called in the industry. The traveling nurse has generally been required to possess an earned Register Nursing license and at least one year of clinical experience.
While travel nursing was solely the realm of RNs in the past, this field has largely expanded in the 21st century -- Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), Nursing Techs, and Medical Techs and allied health professionals are also placed by agencies that specialize in the traveling health care professions. The field of traveling health care has expanded under circumstances of war and disaster to permanently include physicians, dentists, veterinarians and vet techs. This expansion was necessitated by such events as the Gulf War, the War in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, starvation in Sudan, war in Somlia, horrific SE Asian Tsumanis, and other disasters in the United States and globally. However, traveling nurses in America are the most highly in demand of all traveling health care professionals.
- Advantages of Transport and Flight Nursing
Flight and transport nursing are becoming more important in recent years, given the development of high-tech treatment centers requiring air travel. Another change is the increase in aerospace work under the umbrella of Google in LunarX technologies
NurseTV - Travel Nurses at Sea on the USNS Mercy
American Mobile Travel Nursing
Practical Advice on Travel Nursing
Practical Advice on Travel Nursing - New Graduates
Becoming a Travel Nurse
As an interested RN, LPN or Tech, you can search the Internet websites of agencies that hire and represent travel nurses and determine if each company uses only RNs or includes LPNs, Techs and other professionals in traveling health care service. In this manner, a nurse or other health care professional may select the most appropriate company or companies. Local nursing schools and nursing licensing boards also maintain lists of local travel companies that hire nurses and these schools and boards are listed in local telephone directories and in directories available on the Internet.
Once an appropriate travel company is selected, you will next fill out an application online or request an information packet to be sent by mail. You will then complete the application and submit it specifically according to directions, so double credit it twice for accuracy and completeness before submitting it. You will usually include at least three locations in the United States as your personal preferences for locales in which to work
After the application is received and accepted by a travel company, a company recruiter will usually contact you over the phone or by email to talk about your destination preferences and the availability of work in those specific locations. Your start date, your licensing, and the available benefits will also be discussed at this point. A completed nursing qualifications and experience profile of you will next be submitted to hospitals in your preference locations and the recruiter will set up interviews between those entities and yourself.
You will likely have a telephone interview with an HR representative from the hospitals in your chosen locations that will last up to 30 minutes. It is important to ask questions during this interview in order to make sure this is the location you want.
Destination Wage Scales and Payment
Wages will be based on you work location, education, and professional experience, as well as on the length of service you have established with a particular travel company. Travelers are employed by the travel company itself, which issues regular paychecks, most likely through direct deposit into your chosen bank account. The travel company will also issue a W-2 from at the end of the year. Wages range from around $20 to over $40 per hour in a new location. Additionally, these nurses will often receive free housing, free insurance, travel money, a free phone card, and other benefits, depending on the location. If a travel nurse wishes to provide his or her own housing, the travel company will usually provide housing and insurance subsidies, and sometimes a higher hourly wage.
Travel Assignment Lengths
Assignments can run anywhere from four weeks to one year on average, although some travel nurses have been in one location for two years or longer. Some full-time nurses at some hospitals around the USA have even quit their positions and returned to the same facility as travel nurses, working the same hours but receiving higher rates of pay and greater numbers and sizes of benefits. This is actually a benefit to the hospital, because insurances and other high expenses of a full-time employee are carried by the travel company instead of the hospital.
Destination Living Arrangements
You will arrive at your destination to a well prepared one- or two-bedroom furnished apartment near your new work-site. This can be either with a roommate or private and this should be clarified in your initial discussions with the travel company recruiter. Utilities are free and should be on. The recruiter should help you arrange telephone, cable TV, and Internet access. These are likely at your own cost, but could be paid by some travel companies. It is important to ask about this. If nurses choose to provide their own housing, travel companies often provide a housing subsidy up to $2,000 per month, in line with the local cost of living. Some housing subsidies are tax-free reimbursements.
Many travel nurses drive their own vehicles to their new work locations. Many others prefer to fly. Regardless of the means of transportation chosen, a travel reimbursement should be made by the travel company to you as the traveler. If flying, your tickets may even be purchased for you in advance by the travel company.
Working at the New Hospital or Clinic
Your initial activity at your new hospital or clinic will consist of a thorough orientation. Afterward, you will begin your agreed-upon work schedule that includes your chosen work shifts. This should have been established during your telephone interview with the health care facility and clearly laid out in your work contract. If there are any surprise changes in this schedule, notify your travel company recruiter immediately for remedy.
Some travel companies provide travel nurses that cover for other nurses that have gone on strike, but some companies do not provide this service. If nurses at the destination site go on strike after you arrive, you often have the choice to either work or not work. Check with your recruiter about strike work before you accept any assignment.
Travel Nursing Market
Good Places To Find Nurse's Jobs
- Nurses in Partnership
This agency offers nursing jobs to RNs in the USA, in Canada, and internationally. An incentive program and a referral bonus program are presented, as well as the opportunity to search all of the 50 US states individually for travel positions. A Comp
- Travel Nurse Across America.
This excellent travel nurse company offer free online "Nurse TV" that broadcasts actual expereinces of nurse travelers and travel treams of health care professional, often in multi-part series. An application and job search are available online, with
- Success In Business As An Independent RN Contractor
This small business website provides instructions and a step-by-step plan for establishing one’s own nursing or travel nursing business as either an Independent Nurse Contractor or a nursing agency.
- Travel Nursing Careers and Employment for RNs | American Mobile Healthcare
Travel nurse jobs and staffing. Advance your nursing career with exclusive nursing employment opportunities from American Mobile Healthcare, the travel nurse staffing leader.
- Travel Nursing Jobs & Nurse Employment with Just 1 Easy Application
Comprehensive Travel Nursing jobs site offers openings with several travel nursing companies. The site provides complete background & rationale for travel nursing, plus resources for those considering such assignments. Service free to applicants.
Medical Tourism and Travel Nursing
- Allied VIP Travel Nursing
A great site for travelers in nursing and other health and allied health related occupations.
- Nurse's Forum
This website lists reources for numerous nursing associations in the USA, Canada, and elsewhere, along with a variety of forums for information. One of these forums is dedicated to travel nursing and travel nursing jobs available. The site offers a v
- Nursing Center
Nursing Center is a gathering of journal articles, event announcements, surveys, online publications, a mentor forum, and other related reources and links. This site also offers access opportunities for Continuing Education Credits.
- Nursing Sites Blog
The Nursing Sites Blog provides several links for travel nurses and other healthcare professionals. These sites include employment vacancies, tips, news, best practices, and archives.
This comprehensive website includes the professional journal, "Travel Nursing Today", profiles of a number of travel nurse companies, blogs, job search areas, classified ads, and a Question of the Month, plus additional features.
- RN-VIP: Treating Travel Nurses Like VIPs
This is a comprehensive travel nursing site that offers openings with 15 top travel nursing companies and the complete background and rationale for travel nursing. A referral bonus and incentive program is also offered.
© 2007 Patty Inglish
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