What IS a travel nurse anyway?

I usually got two types of responses when I tell people I’m a travel nurse.

“What’s a travel nurse?”


“Oh! My (insert family member/friend/distant cousin) is a travel nurse!”

First, let me state, explain, the obvious here. A travel nurse is quite literally a nurse who travels. Think of me as a temp worker only way nicer pay and I pick where I want to end up.

To further clear things up, there are specialities in nursing so not every nurse does the same thing even if we are all in the business of caring for people.

Traveling aside, you have your pick in this profession. Want to work with the older population? There’s a speciality for that. Like really sick and preterm infants? There’s a specialty for that. Like caring for kids? There’s a speciality for that. Like surgery, emergency, orthopedic, outpatient, clinic care? Oh, yea, there’s a speciality for those also.

There’s a lot of freedom in it and that’s part of why I like nursing. I started as an oncology or cancer nurse and am now an obstetrics nurse (have been for 7.5 years of my career). So what makes traveling nursing what it is?

Uh… The travel part, duh.

It’s taking what I do – facilitating and helping in the safe care of mothers in labor and the delivery of their infants – and going on the road with it.

Back to the temp part… I go with a company and work through a recruiter. I fill out a bevy of paperwork detailing my clinical experience and what I feel comfortable with in a hospital setting. I look at areas of the country I’d like to visit and their licensing process, and then I tell my recruiter I’d like to be in this state. The hospital in that certain state has a need, I work with my company who makes me aware of that need, I interview with the manager on that floor and see if their need matches my level of expertise, I sign a detailed contract stating I’ll work there.

Things that are typical for a contract: length of assignment, dates I want off, shifts, hours you’ll work, specific pay, and housing details.

The thing I love about it is it’s short. No politics! I’m not at a hospital long enough to worry about who dislikes whom. Don’t care. I’m only there for 3 to 6 months, long enough to enjoy the area and not spend crazy money doing it.

Another thing I love is it keeps me sharp. You have to stay on top of your skills. Every hospital does it different so I can’t get complacent. I have to know my best practice, ask questions, stay vigilant, and be open to learning. I’m evolving into a much better nurse because I travel.

I was a bit rusty on my clinical skills when I started traveling because I was teaching instead of working full-time, but I feel much more confident in my nursing abilities again. I know the right answers and I’m getting comfortable in my skin.

The best part of what I do? Seeing some place I wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise. I’ve lived in Boston, Monterey/Salinas, and tiny (but busy) Nantucket. All vastly different places, with different things to do. I’ve also gotten to meet cool people in and out of work. And the food!! Seafood and other delicious food I may not get again.

It appeals to the wayward traveler in me, seeing someplace new. I’ve always gotten ants in my pants after 3 months and now I can just go without worrying about what I’m leaving behind.

It sounds awesome, and it usually is. I’ll just save the not so fun parts for a different post, eh? The take away is I’d advise you to do travel nursing if you can. It’s worth it.


Traveling, too? Comment away

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