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Travel Nursing: An Insider Look at Being a Travel Nurse

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travel nursing insider

As of July 2021, the unemployment rate in the United States has increased to 5.9 percent as millions of workers are struggling to find the jobs they want. Additionally, the latest trends in employment reveal that people are looking for more flexibility in their career that gives them more control over when, and sometimes even where, they work.

Moreover, nurses are seeing an even lower unemployment rate of just 1.2 percent, according to U.S. News and World Report. As the most trusted professionals in America, nurses are in high demand and will be for years to come. This means hospitals in smaller U.S. cities are fighting to fill nursing positions so they can offer patients the quality care they need. Nurses looking for flexible work are in luck, as the exciting field of travel nursing is primed to help meet the employment shortages in hospitals across the country.

According to Patrick Dotts, a managing director at Soliant, “the company has absolutely seen the demand for travel healthcare professionals soar over the last few years. It’s become very beneficial for healthcare professionals to enter the travel staffing niche due to advantages such as higher compensation, greater flexibility, increased energy and renewed mindset, along with the ability to focus on short-term goals that have visible benefits on the facility.”

What Is A Travel Nurse?

Travel nurses are registered nurses who go to hospitals where they are needed most across the country. They fulfill 13-week contracts before moving on to a new hospital in a new area. With travel nursing comes relocation, often several times per year. While this constant change may seem stressful, the truth is often quite the opposite because a travel nurse rarely has to question if they’ll have a job at the end of their contract—the demand is high and not slowing down any time soon.

Why Travel Nurses Are In Demand

While more nurses are graduating every year and entering the workforce, the U.S. is still not keeping up with the demand for nurses.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 400,000 registered nurse positions will be created between 2016 and 2026, bringing the total number of RNs in the nation to almost 3.4 million. This growth is fueled by higher demand for nursing care by aging baby boomers, higher rates of chronic conditions, and a focus on preventive care.

In addition to those 400,000 jobs, more than 1 million nurses are expected to retire in the next 10 to 15 years. Given that nursing schools have only seen a 3.6 percent increase in enrollment, we simply aren’t meeting the demand for all the open positions in the U.S.

Travel nurse positions will grow faster than others in nursing—20 percent expected growth compared to 15 percent projected growth for RN positions overall. This increased demand will mean more opportunities for travel nursing jobs, and more control over when and where you work, and how much money you can make.

“It’s become so beneficial from a financial standpoint to be a travel nurse given your ability to pick and choose destinations based on specific needs,” Dotts says. “There are instances where travel nurses can earn as much in nine months as a permanent employee can in 12 months, sometimes even more so.”

Changes in value-based healthcare also increases the need for nurses. Value-based healthcare involves reimbursing hospitals for results, instead of just services delivered. The goal is to bring costs down while improving the quality of care. In its current state, the U.S. healthcare industry costs 2.5 times more than other developed nations, but it doesn’t have a similar increase in quality or patient outcomes.

Better patient outcomes rely heavily on nurses who spend more time with patients and coordinate care among many members of the care team. Nurses have long practiced patient-centered care with a focus on holistically supporting a patient and their family’s needs. Nurses do not just administer medicine; they improve comfort, provide support, and connect patients to other resources they need.

As the rest of the healthcare industry shifts to more patient-centered care, nurses will often be the members of the team leading the way, the ones with the proper experience to embrace this change. That’s why hospitals will continue to have a high demand for nurses. They’ll need people who understand how to deliver the level of care now required by the government and many insurance companies.

Travel nurses are uniquely positioned to deal with changing patient demographics. As the U.S. continues to diversify in terms of race, culture, and religion, travel nurses are better equipped to accommodate patients from all walks of life. By having more experience with different cultures, a nurse can be a better fit for a patient’s needs and lifestyle. Studies even show that patients have better outcomes if they are treated by nurses who are either from the same cultural background or have had a lot of exposure to their culture.

Between the nursing shortage and the demand for value-based care, travel nurses are uniquely positioned to help hospitals across the country meet quality standards and improve patient outcomes. Everywhere you go, you not only learn, but you teach others. This sharing of knowledge and experience helps hospitals provide better care for each patient that needs their services.

The Benefits of Travel Nursing

Travel nursing does much more than expand your knowledge of different cultures and hospitals; it offers unique benefits not available to nurses in permanent positions. For instance, having increased flexibility, travel opportunities, reduced living expenses, competitive salary, career growth opportunities, and having the possibility of finding your nursing niche.

Increased Flexibility

As a travel nurse, you sign on for your 13-week contract with the schedule of your choice and that’s all you’re required to complete. After your contract finishes, you can take some time off to spend with family, travel, or go straight into your next assignment.

For instance, if your contract ends in November, you could take the month of December off to spend the holidays with your family. Most permanently placed nurses, on the other hand, would only get a day or two off for the holiday before having to return to work. With traveling nursing, your schedule is in your hands. 

Travel Opportunities

Traveling from place to place lets you see parts of the country you may have never seen before. Travel nursing positions are available in virtually all 50 states, so you could land a contract anywhere from your home state to a location on the other side of the country.

Being in new places pushes you out of your comfort zone, and helps you learn more about yourself as a travel nurse.

“Every hospital, every city does things differently,” says Dotts. “Travel nurses get to learn new skills, new procedures, and get to be exposed to different cultures – the more places they go, the easier it becomes to adapt and seamlessly integrate into any facility.”

Reduced Living Expenses

Another perk of being a travel nurse is having reduced living expenses due to tax-free money like stipends. Stipends allow you to receive a Travel Nurse tax-free reimbursement to cover housing, meals, incidentals, and other work-related expenses which comprise a significant percentage of travel nursing pay.

Competitive Nurse Salary

Travel nurses often receive higher pay than nurses in permanent full-time positions. While you are travel nursing, the better compensation gives you the flexibility to explore the area you are in, pay off student loans faster, or save for your future.

Additionally, you don’t have to hunt down contracts on your own as a travel nurse, because staffing agencies or travel nursing agencies will do that for you. They may also cover your travel expenses, provide access to low-cost housing, or even help pay for your utilities. This makes traveling less stressful and helps retain more money in your paycheck. By partnering with certain companies like Soliant, you may also be eligible for substantial sign-on bonuses.

Career Growth Opportunities

When you’re traveling, you’ll meet and begin relationships with people at hospitals you’ve likely never been to. As a result, your network will expand greatly and potentially open the doors for finding a permanent location if you decide to go that route in the future. Also, it can even open the doors for exploring different career paths within nursing as you can try out different nursing niches. 

Finding Your Nursing Niche

As a traveling nurse, you’ll inevitably end up working in many types of hospitals or departments. This will help you determine which type of nursing you love most, whether it is labor and delivery at a community hospital or ICU at a Level 1 trauma center

Highest Paying Travel Nursing Jobs

Travel nurses are needed in virtually every hospital department and each healthcare specialty, but some travel nurse specialities are in even higher demand. If you have experience in the following specialties, your protected job outlook is even more promising:

Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurses

ICU nurses help patients that are critically ill or unstable following an extensive injury, surgery, or life-threatening disease. Being so, ICU nurses have a broad set of skills that help them deal with many different types of patients. Hospitals need nurses with this great experience to assist others and help lead their staff nationwide. However, ICU nursing can also be stressful, which makes it more difficult for hospitals to fill permanent positions.

Operating Room Nurses

Operating Room nurses care for patients at all stages of operative care from before, during, and after surgery. Each year, more surgeries are being performed in hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers in the U.S. Hospitals across the country are expanding operating suites, placing a higher demand for nurses who know how to keep an OR running smoothly. You may be even more in demand if you have experience in specialized surgeries, such as STEMI care or interventional radiology.

Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)/Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Nurses

The PICU unit cares for infants and patients that are up to 30 days old while the NICU unit cares for patients up to 6 months old. Children and infants require highly specialized care from experienced nurses. They need nurses who understand how to talk to parents, keep children calm, and care for conditions that rarely appear in older populations. This kind of experience can be hard to find, making PICU and NICU nurses an in-demand specialty for travel nurses.

Jumpstart Your Career as a Travel Nurse

If you are ready to start your travel nurse adventure, you can start applying online for positions today. Soliant has travel nursing positions all across the U.S. available now.

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