If you’re looking for a career that enables you to travel, set your own schedule, earn a high salary, and help people in need, then becoming a traveling nurse could be the perfect fit. Traveling nurses typically work three-month assignments around the country as temporary fill-ins for nurses on maternity leave or another unexpected leave of absence. It’s also popular for medical centers to hire qualified traveling nurses to cover seasonal population increases or sudden nursing shortages. Traveling nurses choose where they want to work and generally have all of their housing and travel costs paid for in full. Due to our nation’s growing need for skilled nursing candidates, traveling nurses are essential for filling gaps and consistently providing excellent patient care.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered traveling nurses earn an average annual salary of $68,910, or around $33.13 per hour. Many medical facilities also offer sign-on and completion bonuses of up to $6,000 for traveling nurses. Traveling nurses are typically among the highest-paid RNs because they travel more than 50 miles from home and non-income earnings are tax-free.

Beginning Salary

Fresh out of nursing school with little or no experience, traveling nurses can still expect to make a decent average starting salary of $45,630. However, with time, it’s easy for traveling nurses to quickly bring home upwards of $96,320 each year while having their daily expenses paid for.

Key Responsibilities

Although daily duties will vary greatly depending upon a traveling nurse’s specialty area, this position involves many of the same responsibilities associated with RNs. Traveling nurses are hired for shorten assignments to provide patient care, educate patients, and offer administrative support to keep healthcare facilities running smoothly. Tasks could include recording patients’ medical histories, administering medications, establishing care plans, monitoring vital signs, consulting with physicians, operating medical equipment, performing diagnostic tests, and delivering emotional support to families. Traveling nurses usually focus on providing care for specific health conditions, specific body parts, specific populations, or specific workplaces.

Necessary Skills

First and foremost, a traveling nurse must be flexible to easily adapt in continually changing work environments. Excellent communication skills are critical because traveling nurses need to understand the unique needs of their patients and interact with other healthcare professionals. Being a quick learner is important for traveling nurses to quickly become trained in their facility’s policies and procedures. As with any other nurse, traveling nurses should also possess strong organizational, analytical, critical thinking, and decision making skills. If traveling nurses are planning to take their skills across international borders, they should also be knowledgeable in the local language and culture.

Degree and Education Requirements

Before becoming a traveling nurse, you’ll need to first satisfy the post-secondary training requirements needed to be a registered nurse (RN). You can choose to receive a diploma from a hospital-based nursing school, earn an Associate of Nursing (ASN) from a community college, or pursue a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from a university. You should keep in mind that the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) considers the BSN a minimum requirement for a professional nursing career though, so many jobs will require this level of education. If you’re interested in advanced practice nursing roles like nurse practitioner (NP), nurse anesthetist (CRNA), nurse midwife (CNM), or clinical nurse specialist (CNS), you’ll need to attend an accredited graduate nursing school to receive a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) within one to three years.

Pros and Cons of the Position

Working as a traveling nurses allows you to experience our country and other countries to the fullest. You’ll spend around 13 weeks in each city to meet new people, learn about different cultures, experience unique healthcare delivery systems, and develop independence. Traveling nurses often report a high sense of job satisfaction, partly because of minimal exposure to typical staff drama. Most traveling nurse positions offer free housing, meals, travel coverage, insurance benefits, retirement programs, and special add-on bonuses. On the flip side, a number of traveling nurses become worn-out with changing jobs every few months. Continually driving, packing, and living out of suitcases can become tiring. Developing strong relationships with other nurses can be difficult too because new friends will be left behind for the next job.

Getting Started

After earning your degree, the next step towards working as a traveling nurse is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) exam given by your state’s board of nursing. If you pass with flying colors, you’ll have the credentials to begin gaining valuable work experience. It’s typically required that traveling nurses have at least one year of experience in their chosen specialty area, such as critical care, medical-surgical nursing, pediatrics, geriatrics, cardiac care, or neonatal nursing. Gaining professional certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) will also be a big plus for finding job prospects. Then, you should consider joining a staffing agency for traveling nurses for the opportunity to compare multiple job openings and interview with numerous medical centers. You’ll likely need to receive a compact RN license to work across state borders too.

Future Outlook

Demand is expected to grow for traveling nurses are hospitals and other medical centers need to supplement their short-staffed workforce with added talent. Not only will recent healthcare reforms give millions of people better access to medical treatment, but America’s aging baby boomer population will strain the system with their health needs later in life. According to the BLS, employment of RNs will grow rapidly by 19% before 2022. Many reports have indicated that the United States is not producing enough nursing graduates and will experience a critical shortage of 800,000 nurses. Traveling nurses with at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing and relevant work experience will have the best job prospects. Presently, there are over 340 traveling nurse agencies in America to fulfill positions in hospitals, clinics, outpatient care centers, ambulatory care settings, ICUs, physicians’ offices, and other medical facilities.

Overall, traveling nurses follow their sense of adventure to travel around the country and fulfill temporary nursing positions in various specialty areas. Traveling nurses have essentially the same duties as they would have at a medical center closer to home, but are given the chance to see new places while making significantly more money. Since this field began more than 20 years ago, traveling nursing has become popular to provide short-term staffing solutions, especially in Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas

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