Things to Know Before Starting as Travel Nurse

Things to Know Before Starting as Travel Nurse

May 27, 2022

You’ve prepared your travel nurse resume, which means you’re ready to start applying for jobs in the hopes of securing your very first contract position. What an exciting time! Here you are, ready to make a difference doing what you love while imagining the possibilities of traveling to new locations around the country, or possibly around the world.

Before you act, you may want to consider the benefits and potential drawbacks of making such an important career choice. You will want to ensure you are fully informed about what a travel nurse does and what to expect as you take on new jobs in medical facilities such as hospitals, clinics, labs, or wherever else you want to work.

Here is some vital information you will want to know before beginning your travel nurse career.

Are You Fully Informed About Travel Nursing as a Career Choice?

If you have thought about becoming a travel nurse, you’ve probably read up on what to expect. For instance, you know that travel nurses help to fill gaps caused by staffing shortages, especially during busy seasons.

What you might not know is that travel nurses are not employed by hospitals, clinics, labs, or other medical facilities where they work. Rather, they are hired by a travel nurse staffing agency. This means the medical facility in question is spared from providing traditional employee expenses. These include health insurance, retirement benefits, paid time off, overtime, and recruitment and training costs, to name a few.

To work as a travel nurse, you will need to get hired by a travel nurse agency. The good news is that travel nurse agencies often make it easy to find applicable jobs for which you will be finely suited. You can travel to various locations, anywhere you want to work, and start immediately. Travel nurses even receive travel reimbursements and other perks, which puts more money in your pocket while you treat the patients in your care.

Before you begin working at a medical facility, you will usually sign a contract, which stipulates when you work, and the benefits you will receive.

The typical travel nurse contract lasts around 13 weeks, though some jobs may require contract lengths as little as 8 weeks and up to 52-weeks. Contracts can be renewed and extended, provided you do your best work, but you also have the opportunity to travel elsewhere to continue your travel nurse career.

As far as how much travel nurses make, the U.S. Bureau of Statistics states that the average salary for travel nurses is around $77,600, which is more than staffing nurses earn. Staffing nurses also do not get discounts and housing stipends like travel nurses, which puts even more money in your pocket for doing basically the same level of work.

This means you could find yourself traveling to your favorite states, cities, or countries to fill in-demand roles while making bank in the process.

Now that you know more about what a travel nurse does, here are five things to consider before submitting that application. 

Research Travel Nurse Staffing Firms and Recruiters

Signing up with a travel nurse staffing service is one of the best and easiest methods of getting started in travel nursing. The partnerships that agencies have with hospitals and other medical facilities are only one of the numerous reasons to pursue this path.

However, you know how all nurses are different. Well, the same goes for staffing firms. It would be wise to perform preliminary research on the agencies you are considering. Start by searching through their publicly accessible job posting sites for openings in the disciplines you are qualified for and areas where you wish to work. Read through the staffing agency’s website and look for statistics, reviews, or other information you find relevant.

When you find an agency you like, ask for an interview. When sitting down with one of the agency’s hiring managers, ask plenty of questions that allow you to determine if the agency is a good fit for you. This lets you assess the agency just as they are assessing you.

When you find a travel nurse staffing agency you like, conduct an interview with the recruiter. Some agencies call these people advocates instead. Whatever they like to be called, it’s critical you feel at ease with this person, as you’ll be working closely together throughout your travel nursing career. This is the individual who will help you find jobs, and also assist with interviews, contract negotiations, and even license procurement. 

Learn About Your Travel Nursing Taxes

Before starting your career as a travel nurse, brush up on tax laws as they may apply to you. Because travel nurses frequently work in several jurisdictions, each with its own set of tax laws, it's critical that you learn all about travel nurse taxes. For example, if you work mostly in one state, regardless of whether that state is your home state, you may be liable for that state's income tax.

For that reason, you’ll want to learn everything you can about "tax homes" and how to create your own. The Internal Revenue Service considers your primary location of residence and source of income to be your "tax home." If you need help with this, seek assistance from a tax professional. Taking care of these matters before you leave on your trip–and before you have to submit your taxes–will save you a lot of trouble in the future.

Figure Out How Compensation Packages Work

It's possible that you were drawn to travel nursing because of the high wages that travel nurses can earn. The fact that travel nurses can earn a good income does not take away from the importance of understanding how their compensation is structured. Stipends, per diems, and other benefits are frequently included in the calculation of "total compensation." Please be aware that, depending on the agency you work for, expenses such as insurance premiums and housing fees may be deducted from your overall pay. Please keep this in mind before getting too excited about all the money you can make as a travel nursing professional.

During your interviews with travel nurse agencies, ask direct and specific questions about how their pay packages are organized. This is a major consideration when determining if a particular agency–and this career–is a good fit for you.


Photo by Laura James from Pexels

Make A Decision on Where You Want to Work

While there are no assurances that you'll receive your first choice of travel nurse jobs straight away, you do have some control over where you end up.

One approach is to seek places where travel nurses are in great demand. You'll have a better chance of getting the job you want if you do this. If you have specialist credentials, such as NICU or telemetry, you may have an even better chance of landing the right job in the right area.

Keep in mind that, while the location is important, many less-appealing locations may offer greater salaries and benefits for travel nurses. The lesson here is not to outright dismiss areas that don’t sound as thrilling upfront. Just because a facility isn’t in Hawaii or Southern California doesn’t mean it won’t make for a lucrative travel nurse opportunity. You never know when an unappealing job may have hidden jewels simply waiting to be unearthed. Travel nursing is an adventure, after all; why not make the most of it however you can?

Recognize The Impact of Travel Nursing on Your Lifestyle

We’ve mentioned that most travel nurse jobs last roughly 13 weeks. That means if you decide to become a travel nurse, you may find yourself away from home for a few months at a time. Prepare accordingly. First, you should take the time to learn all about what a travel nurse does. We’ve covered the basics but do a deeper dive so you’re certain about your future career choice.

You also have to consider others who may be traveling alongside you. Do you have a partner or a spouse? What about the kids? What effect will your travel nursing have on your family and friends? If you're married, have an open and honest discussion with your partner about how your absence will affect them. If you have children, think about their ages and who else in your life might be able to help you care for them.

Check with your travel nurse staffing service to see if they can assist you in locating lodging that meets your family's needs. Also, if you're single, don't overlook your romantic future. Your absence will have an impact on your friends, parents, siblings, and other relationships. Make a list of what your trip will entail!

Consider your pets and plants, as well as the care and maintenance of your permanent home. Is there anyone who could help you with your responsibilities? You could find a high school or college student who could pet and/or plant sit, collect mail, and assist with other details.

As you can see, there are both pros and cons to becoming a Travel Nurse. Let’s recap, shall we?

As a travel nurse, you will be making a difference in patients’ lives and you’ll get to travel to new and exciting locales, wherever you want to go.

You’ll make more money than you would as a staffing nurse, and you often get housing benefits, as well as agency perks like 401k retirement benefits, flexible contracts, overtime, and travel reimbursements.

However, there are some drawbacks, such as considerations for family and friends. At times, you may find yourself lonely as a travel nurse, but this is different for everyone. You’ll have to deal with travel logistics, which can grow tiresome if you’re not used to roaming as part of your job.

If those drawbacks don’t sound that bad to you, travel nursing can be a satisfying and lucrative career choice, especially if it is undertaken with thorough research and planning. Doing your study and planning ahead of time can further ensure your time traveling is as enjoyable as possible.

Now you are ready to submit your application and begin your first travel nursing job. When you’re ready, apply to Prolink. We offer exclusive job listings, first-in-line resume assistance, and important benefits like retirement, housing stipends, travel reimbursements, and much more. The best part is that your travel nurse recruiter will remain in your corner, helping you make the best of this exciting career choice. Are you ready to be a travel nurse? Get started now. We make applying easy, the way it should be when beginning your career as a travel nurse.

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