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A Look At a Career in Travel Nursing

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 15% increase in the employment of registered nurses (RNs) between 2016 and 2026. While there are many opportunities for qualified nurses in healthcare, there are few that can compare to the flexibility and varied work experience available in travel nursing.


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How becoming a travel nurse can lead to an exciting profession with unique benefits.

What Is Travel Nursing?

A travel nurse is a registered nurse (RN) working on a contract basis – typically in 13-week blocks – to meet a hospital’s temporary staffing shortage. Travel nurses experience the excitement of visiting a new city and connecting with healthcare professionals from all walks of life.

Rising Demand and Typical Duties

Healthcare organizations hire travel nurses for numerous reasons. Some of the key reasons include handling immediate nurse shortages, fluctuations in patient demand, and cost-associated pressures. Travel nurses typically have the same responsibilities as registered nurses, such as patient care coordination, patient health observation, administration of medicine, using and monitoring medical equipment, and educating patients on illness or injury management.

Work Environments

Travel nurses work across a variety of healthcare settings. To gain contract employment, travel nurses turn to staffing agencies like AMN Healthcare Services and Cross Country Healthcare. Once this happens, there can be robust opportunities waiting. For instance, there is a high demand for travel nurses with experience in intensive care and emergency departments. Travel nurses can work in other specialties like adult critical care, oncology, orthoneurology, and with medical or surgical units.

Skills, Equipment, and Technology

Travel nurses must keep up with advancements in technology affecting their jobs. In addition, travel nurses should possess specific skills to excel in dynamic healthcare environments.

Required Skills for Travel Nurses

One of the core competencies travel nurses must possess is adaptability. Due to the nature of the profession, they need to be comfortable with frequent travel and changing work environments. They must also be flexible and able to adjust to the demands and expectations of their current employers, regardless of what they used to do in prior assignments. Strong communication skill is essential to success in the role, as travel nurses must be able to communicate with a variety of personalities in highly dynamic and fast-paced nursing environments. Additionally, travel nurses must have well-developed emotional intelligence competencies, which can help them be mindful of their strengths, weaknesses, and emotions and ultimately keep them committed to developing personally and professionally. Finally, travel nurses should have a curiosity streak that makes them willing to embrace new environments with positivity and a desire to learn.

Equipment and Technologies Used by Travel Nurses

There are several care-related tools that are essential to a travel nurse’s role. These include: Electronic health record (EHR) systems, real-time location systems, specialty-specific technologies like handheld biosensors and ultrasound technology, drug delivery systems, smart alarms, and patient-lifting technology.

Choosing to Become a Travel Nurse

Travel nursing appeals to RNs for numerous reasons. For example, the combination of travelling, meeting new people, and greater independence draws many to the profession. To become travel nurses, RNs must meet the licensing requirements of the state in which they would like to work.


There are several reasons why nurses would opt to pursue a travel nursing profession. Some of these reasons are practical, such as the chance to earn more money or learn new skills. Other reasons involve an active avoidance of work environment issues, such as workplace politics or burnout. Other key reasons are more personal and can sometime involve long-term growth. These reasons include having greater independence, having the chance to visit new places and meet new people, and exploring locations to move to someday.

Benefits of Working as a Travel Nurse

Travel nurses can receive numerous benefits, including a few unique ones. In addition to somewhat standard perks like health and dental insurance and 401(k) matching, travel nurses also can receive travel and license reimbursements as well as either a housing stipend or free private housing.

Education and Licensing Requirements for Travel Nurses

Because travel nurses are expected to jump into to contract positions with minimal training and work in specialized settings, it’s important to have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing. A BSN program may include useful courses such as nursing informatics, nursing research, and individual assessment. The program can also challenge students to develop leadership skills and interpersonal skills while it grows their knowledge in advanced healthcare technologies and providing care to an aging population.


Travel nurses must also be licensed in the state in which they’d like to work. The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) created by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, allows nurses to hold a multistate license and practice in participating states without having to apply for additional licenses or pay additional licensing fees. To be eligible for a compact license, a nurse must have a clean record with no disciplinary actions, primarily reside in a state participating in the NLC, meet continuing education requirements, and maintain their primary license. Travel nurses may also use temporary licenses for assignments that last six months or fewer.


Travel nursing can be an exciting option for qualified RNs. To begin pursuing a career in travel nursing, students and experienced RNs should take the time to learn more about state licensing requirements and develop the skills to excel in dynamic travel nursing work environments.

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