Curious About Travel Nursing? Ask a travel nurse - the common questions answered

Rick Martinez RN

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Travel nursing isn’t new.

It’s actually been around for a while. And even so, there are still some basic curiosities about being a travel RN. And even to this day, there are many tall tales and misunderstandings about travel nurse pay rates, how a traveler is treated at different facilities, and of course, the lifestyle that comes with being a nomadic RN.

So to lend some clarity, we thought we’d share some of the most common questions here.

1. Do travel nurses get the lousiest assignments?

As a travel RN myself, I have to say that I haven’t been given the worst.

Sure, at some facilities the core staff may look at your side-eyed at first, but eventually, y’all get along. And even then, to be honest, I’ve not really had issues with meshing with the staff RNs. They’ve always been so glad to have the help!

Plus, a lot of this will also depend on your work area.

As an ER nurse, I have been dealt a pretty fair hand as a travel nurse. The flipside of that is that I have been the one to float more often than others. But I’m ok with that.

I think what we have to understand is that we have so many positives to focus on as a traveler.

Things like working in cool places, knowing our assignment is only 13-weeks long, and of course, better pay.

2. Does your agency pay for everything?

Every company is different.

While the basics should be covered, it would be wise to check BEFORE you sign a contract precisely what the company is covering.

As an example: your company will almost always pay for or at least cover the expenses for your housing. That should also include the furniture and utilities. If you seek bennies like high-speed internet or valet parking, that will almost always be on your dime.

Your best bet is to make sure you and your recruiter have hashed out the details of your living arrangements.

You may also choose to accept the housing allowance and stay in your own apartment. If you select this path, all living expenses are on you.

A final option is what I had on my last gig.

I was placed in a hotel for the duration of the contract. I frankly loved it. Daily housekeeping, hot breakfast, and all my “utilities” were part of my package.

3. Am I allowed to travel with my furry friends?

This is almost always NOT the decision of the agency.

This means that, yes, of course, you can travel with Oscar the lab. But the question is, will the apartment complex allow pets? How about your extended stay hotel? Is there someone to watch Oscar or walk him while on shift?

The bottom line is it’s going to be up to you to assure that where you’ll be living allows pets.

I have known lots of travel nurses who hit the road with Oscar. Just be sure to let your recruiter and the housing folks know.

It may require a pet deposit, and/or there could be weight restrictions on the pet, so check in advance.

4. Travel nurses don’t have benefits, right?

The short answer is yes, and no.

These days, more and more travel nurse companies are offering benefits for various reasons.

One reason is to be more competitive with traditional staff RN jobs.

Another is to minimize the amount of time a nurse might take between contracts. The rationale is that many travel nurses will take extended breaks between gigs, which could null and void any benefits. So by offering benefits, a company might compel an RN to start the next contract sooner rather than later.

Smart tactics, if you ask me.

One of the drawbacks is that you likely are not eligible for any type of ‘PTO’ as a traveler. If you take time off, it’s on you. To take it one step further, if you are injured on the job, you may need supplemental income insurance to cover any lost wages.

5. What’s the most challenging part about being a traveler?

The caveat to this question is you’ll get a different answer depending on who you ask. So here are my two cents on this.

The hardest part of travel nursing was being apart from my family. As a travel RN, I realize that you can take them along, but with my wife’s job and the kids being in school, we chose to have two homes.

The travel home, where I was working.

And home, home. Where we lived and raised the kiddos.

Some travel RNs may share that it was the packing up and moving every 13-weeks. That wasn’t hard for me. I travel light and love the adventure.

Other nurses may say it was the “not knowing.” Will my contract get extended, or will I be canceled? It can play with your mind, but I never had a bad experience in all my years as a travel nurse.

The final word

There are many questions that potential travel nurses may have. It is important to ask the right questions to make an informed decision.

The more informed you are, the better off you’ll be. Just remember to not let the negative feedback make the decision for you. There are way more positives to being a travel RN than negatives, in my experience.

Some nurses embrace change, while others let it drag them down.

I encourage you to face your fears head-on and experience the wonderful world of travel nursing for yourself.

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I'm a freelance writer and a decades-long travel nurse. Writing about the travel nurse industry and healthcare.

San Antonio, TX
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