Travel nursing is in high demand across the country. Travel nurses get to make a difference in patients’ lives while seeing the world and earning terrific salaries along the way. With so many benefits to travel nursing, it’s no wonder this role is expected to grow faster than all other occupations through 2026.
However, the job of travel nursing is not perfect. Travel nursing has downsides that should be weighed carefully against the benefits before making a change that could impact the future of your career.
The following pros and cons of travel nursing should give you enough quality information to answer the all-important question: Is travel nursing right for you?
Benefits of Travel Nursing
The Ability to Travel!
Imagine being able to jet set around the country as part of your job. While other nurses are left working in the same facilities, you get to explore new cities. You get to live in each new location as opposed to just passing through. This means you’ll be meeting new people, and sometimes becoming their neighbors, at least for a short while. Traveling and seeing the world is a benefit non-traveling nurses aren’t normally privy to, which makes this career choice fun and exciting.
Travel nurses sometimes get tax-free money that can be used to pay for meals, lodging, and moving expenses. This lets you pocket more earnings that would normally go toward payroll taxes. The tax-free earnings, along with traveling, are two of the most often hailed benefits of travel nursing. To qualify for this tax-free income, you must maintain a “tax home.” Your tax home is your home base of operations. It’s the place where you permanently lay your head and collect mail. Once you have a tax home, your moving expenses, such as rental homes, apartments, and moving trucks, can be paid for with tax-free stipends from your employer, along with other traveling expenses.
No Workplace Politics
Travel nurses have the benefit of regularly meeting new co-workers, which means they’re never around long enough to become embroiled in hospital politics. Management issues, gossip, and quarrels between staff can be avoided entirely by the travel nurse. Not dealing with all the drama can contribute to greater job satisfaction and less stress in your working environment.
Travel nurses are exposed to knowledge and experiences that can be used to further your career. You get to work in new healthcare environments, which exposes you to a variety of different systems for managing medications, performing medical procedures, and operating EMR software. Each new location enriches your skills, making you more well-rounded and employable, opening more career doors for you than ever before.
Networking Opportunities Abound
Travel nurses are always expanding their professional networks. Each new person they meet presents an opportunity for friendship and career development. You may find yourself meeting hospital administrators, fellow nurses, and travel nurse recruiters who can all contribute to your growing career. You never know when one of those contacts may prove fruitful in the future, leading to greater employment opportunities, chances for higher learning, and other career benefits.
Visit Locations before You Settle
Travel nursing gives you the ability to try-out new cities before calling them home. Have you always dreamed of living in historic New Orleans or near the beaches of Miami? Instead of blindly making that permanent move, dip your toes in the water with travel nursing. See how the traffic is in your prospective destination and experience the culture by living as a local for a limited time. Travel nursing puts you in charge of your future, even when it comes to staking out a new home.
Get Hired Fast
Travel nurses have the benefit of being in high demand. The more flexible you are, the faster you’ll be able to land a job. The nursing shortage isn’t only caused by COVID-19. Things like booming technology, an aging population, and nurse burnout have all contributed to the need for skilled nursing staff. Use this to your advantage to quickly secure employment in a state, city, and facility that needs you most.
Enjoy Flexibility between Travel Nurse Assignments
Nursing contracts last between eight weeks and six months, and are sometimes longer. While it’s sometimes difficult to schedule time off while you’re working, between contracts is a different story. You can take as much time as you want. Of course, you won’t earn any money while you’re not working, but sometimes a break is necessary. As a travel nurse, you have the advantage of being able to take between-contract breaks whenever the need arises.
The Reward of Touching Patients’ Lives
The most rewarding aspect of travel nursing is the ability to show compassion when patients need a caring hand. As a travel nurse, you get to help the less fortunate in healthcare facilities around the country. Hospitals, doctor offices, and other facilities that need nurses may be understaffed, which can affect patient care quality. By contributing to improved patient care, you get to help patients feel better during what can be, at times, their darkest and scariest moments.
Drawbacks of Travel Nursing
Always Working Away from Home
As a travel nurse, you will have to get used to being separated from the support of family and friends. When you need help moving or settling in, you’ll have to manage on your own. This might force you to make friends with neighbors and temporary co-workers, but that can seem like torture for introverts. Whether you’re introverted or outgoing, if you are someone who loves keeping their near and dears close, travel nursing may not be for you.
You Might Feel Lonely Sometimes
Travel nurses get to treat their entire careers like continuous vacations, which is good unless you are prone to homesickness. Homebodies do not make good travel nurses, because you are always forced to leave your comfort zone. You might find yourself dining out at restaurants all by your lonesome, and sight-seeing without a companion. If you always like to be part of a group, travel nursing could make you feel downright lonely.
Sure, you get to see all new locales as a travel nurse, but do you really want to move every few months? Some may love the chance to enrich their lives with new travel experiences. But if you dislike searching for housing and packing your bags after every contract, travel nursing may prove to be tedious instead of the adventure you expected.
Some travel nurse destinations can be reached by car, as opposed to flying. While this saves you on airfare, you might have to spend hours in the car. This can add mileage and wear and tear to your vehicle. Some travel nurses may decide to mitigate damage to their vehicles by booking a rental, which adds to your expense. Either way, you’ll be paying for your own vehicle and transportation out of your payroll package.
Always on the Job Hunt
Travel nurses may get to experience the thrill of working in new facilities regularly, but they also have to constantly search for work. With the average nursing contract lasting a matter of months, travel nurses need to book frequent contracts, unless they manage to secure a contract extension. This can add job stress for anyone who would rather have employment stability.
Lots of Paperwork
Travel nurses are always filling out paperwork. New job applications need to be filled out, contracts need to be signed, and authorizations need to be given for background checks and drug screenings. It seems that travel nurses are always saving documents, reading them, or sending them out. If you’re someone who hates paperwork, travel nursing may prove more hectic than it’s worth.
Constantly Changing Pay Packages
Travel nursing contracts come with varying compensation packages. A hospital may have a different bill rate than a trauma center, for instance. If you prefer more consistency with your payroll, travel nursing might give you headaches. You’ll have to calculate new bill rates and benefits packages with every new contract you sign, which also makes it hard to budget.
No One Likes Travel Nursing Cancellations
Travel nursing can be frustrating when contracts get canceled. In some cases, your contract can be canceled after you’ve already traversed to the destination. That means you may be at a loss to cover the expense of moving on your own. Some nurses go their entire careers without experiencing a single cancellation but be prepared because this is an unfortunate reality of the travel nurse occupation.
The Need to Obtain Multiple State Licenses
Travel nurses can jump from state to state to find work, but licensure is required. You can mitigate the limitations on your employment by obtaining a multi-state license. This gives you access to facilities in 25 states (and counting). Obtaining multiple state licenses can get expensive, which is another travel nursing drawback that could put further strain on your earnings.
Establishing a tax home is a rule established by the Internal Revenue Service. Once you have a tax home, you have the opportunity to collect tax-free stipends to pay for various living and moving expenses while on the job. This sounds great until you have to file your taxes. Working in multiple states, filing multiple state returns, and claiming deductions can make tax filing difficult for the average travel nurse. You may have to hire a professional to complete your taxes each year, which is yet another added expense of travel nursing you’ll want to plan for.
Still Weighing the Pros & Cons? Partner with ProLink Healthcare Instead
As you can see, travel nursing has many benefits. A chance to escape drudgery, higher earnings, and untold chances to grow your career await you as a travel nurse. Many of the cons of travel nursing can be alleviated by partnering with a healthcare staffing agency like ProLink Healthcare. At ProLink Healthcare, you get help with finding jobs, securing licensure, and paperwork. All the difficulties traveling nurses usually complain about can be a thing of the past when you have a dedicated recruiter actively placing you in the most in-demand positions. Apply today to begin the process of becoming a travel nurse.