Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing

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Consider the pros and cons of travel nursing before deciding whether it's right for you. Advantages of travel nursing include valuable experience, ability to travel, a flexible lifestyle, competitive pay, and benefits like housing stipends. Disadvantages of travel nursing include having to move frequently, short-term friendships, and family challenges.

A travel nurse placing a suitcase in the plane.

Do you wonder whether a career in travel nursing is right for you? There are many factors to consider, so it’s worth taking time to weigh the pros and cons of travel nursing before you decide on the specialty. After all, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), travel nursing is just one of countless specialties you can choose from.

The Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at Averett University is committed to helping our students achieve their nursing goals, whether that’s becoming a travel nurse or another type of nurse. The ABSN program accelerates your timeline so you can earn a degree in as few as 16 months, making it possible for you to start your travel nursing career sooner than you may have expected.

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Wondering how to become a nurse? Follow these eight steps to earn a BSN and start your nursing career.

What is Travel Nursing?

Travel nursing is a role where nurses can work short-term at healthcare facilities across the country. Travel nurses fill in temporarily when hospitals need additional nursing staff. For example, if a facility is at high patient capacity or a nurse retires, a travel nurse may be hired to help out. Travel nurses work through a travel nursing agency to set up each of their assignments, rather than directly with the healthcare organization.

Ideally, travel nurses have a BSN degree and a couple of years of clinical nursing experience before entering the field.

Why is a BSN in nursing important? See the reasons why earning your bachelor's degree is worthwhile for your career.

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You’ll find travel nurses in a variety of specialties, working alongside staff nurses to care for patients. In-demand specialties where travel nurses work include:

  • Critical care/ICU nursing
  • Emergency nursing
  • Labor and delivery nursing
  • NICU nursing
  • Medical/surgical nursing

Now that you know what travel nursing is, let’s discuss a few of the top pros and cons of travel nursing so you can decide whether it’s right for you.

Pros of Travel Nursing

Many nurses have been drawn to travel nursing in recent years with good reason. Travel nursing has several qualities that make it a smart career to pursue.

1. Valuable Experience

Travel nursing offers excellent work experience for nurses. Rather than just working in one facility, travel nurses work in multiple facilities over time, and each one works differently. This gives travel nurses a broad perspective on how to succeed in diverse environments. Travel nurses gain insight from seeing how procedures and care strategies differ at each facility.

Travel nurses are in a prime position to advance into future roles. Because travel nursing is a challenging field, your experience will show future employers that you are responsible and skilled.

2. Ability to Travel the Country

Are you a traveler at heart? One of the greatest advantages of travel nursing is the ability to see the country and explore new places while earning a living. Travel nurses can apply for assignments in any city that has openings. If you enjoy a flexible lifestyle and you want to explore new cities without committing to a particular place, travel nursing may be ideal for you.

nurse packing the back of her car

3. Flexible Lifestyle

Do you crave variety in your life? If you prefer to not be tied down to one city or one employer, travel nursing offers much-needed flexibility. As a travel nurse, you could choose to take shorter contracts and move more often, or you could opt for contracts that last several months or a year. You can make your career your own and adjust your work based on your lifestyle needs.

4. Competitive Pay

Travel nurses earn competitive compensation, especially when you are specialized in an in-demand area like critical care or emergency nursing. On average, travel nurses earn $118,400 yearly in the U.S., according to ZipRecruiter (as of September 2022). This is well above the national average salary for RNs in the U.S., which is $77,600 yearly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While salary is not the primary reason to choose a career field, the high pay often seen with travel nursing does provide an added benefit.

5. Added Benefits Like Housing

Another unique advantage of travel nursing is that in addition to the competitive pay, travel nurses generally receive extra benefits. Expect to receive a travel stipend to cover moving costs as well as a housing stipend to cover your rental costs. The travel nursing agency you’re working with will also likely offer comprehensive health insurance, a retirement plan like a 401(k) and education assistance should you want to advance your career.

Cons of Travel Nursing

While there are many reasons to consider travel nursing, the field is not for everyone. Consider these disadvantages of travel nursing to help you answer the question, “Is travel nursing worth it for me?”

1. Short-Term Friendships

When you’re moving frequently and only at a healthcare facility for a few weeks or months, forming long-term friendships is challenging. You’ll need to meet new people at each facility, and you may not have time to form meaningful connections with your coworkers. If you’re someone who values camaraderie and supportive relationships with other nurses, the social dynamics of travel nursing may pose a challenge for you.

2. Unfamiliar Environments

Because you will be moving to new roles often as a travel nurse, you’ll need to learn quickly. You’ll have to learn how to navigate the facility and how to use the charting system. You’ll also need to grasp the procedures and processes that are unique to that facility.

Adjusting to unfamiliar environments swiftly for each new role can be overwhelming, but it also offers an opportunity to refine your nursing skills. This is one of the reasons travel nursing is so valuable for your resume. It takes hard work, and succeeding as a travel nurse means you’re adaptable and understand your responsibilities.

nurse standing by the side of the road, holding her phone

3. Challenging for Family

If you have children or you’re supporting elderly family members, travel nursing may add a layer of difficulty. Family can tie you down to your location if you need to be physically present. With school-aged children, moving frequently can disrupt their social ties and cause stress, so in these situations, it may be better to seek a permanent nursing role in your hometown.

4. Uneasiness of Where to Go Next

An element of anxiety can accompany a career as a travel nurse. With such a fluid lifestyle, you may not know where you’re going to be located in a month, six months or a year. This lack of knowing may elevate your anxiety as you try to plan your future and balance work with the other areas of your life.

5. Tax and Licensing Challenges

When you’re working in multiple states, paying state income tax can get complicated. Additionally, nursing licenses are issued by the state where you’re practicing, but when you work in various states, this can complicate the licensing process. Thankfully, most states are a part of the Nurse Licensure Compact, which means your license is valid in any of the states that are a part of that agreement. Bear in mind that your agent with the travel nursing agency should be able to guide you and manage any licensing concerns as you move from one state to another.

Is Travel Nursing Worth It?

As you consider the pros and cons of travel nursing, you may wonder if travel nursing is worth it for you. It’s important to consider all sides of the career and have a clear view on your career goals and lifestyle preferences. Knowing this will help you make a wise decision aligned with your values.

Ask yourself whether the pros we’ve listed outweigh the cons in your mind. How important is stability? Do you feel the need to build long-term friendships with coworkers? Does not knowing what the future holds make you anxious? Do you have family that would make it hard to move frequently?

Depending on how you answer these questions, you’ll gain perspective on whether travel nursing is the right path for you. Remember that with a BSN from a school like Averett, you’ll be eligible for a wide variety of nursing careers. You can always try travel nursing for a year or two and then make a change to a more permanent role back home. Make your career your own, and tailor your path to what’s important in your life.

Start Your Career with a BSN from Averett

Whether you want to be a travel nurse or some other type of nurse, the first step is to earn your BSN. You can get your degree in less time through choosing an accelerated program like Averett’s ABSN program. You can also choose between three program start dates every year.

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Is an accelerated nursing program worth it? See how choosing an ABSN program can jumpstart a rewarding career.

Available for students with a prior non-nursing bachelor’s degree or at least 60 college credits, the ABSN program allows you to leverage your past education and earn a degree in as few as 16 months. Our innovative curriculum combines interactive online courses with in-person nursing labs and clinical rotations, ensuring you graduate with the skills to succeed as a registered nurse.

To learn more about the ABSN program and to see whether it’s a fit for you, reach out to our admissions counselors by filling out our online form. We’ll help you make your dream of becoming a nurse come true.