What Is A Travelling Nurse And What Do They Do?

Written by
Amber Hobert
Published on
July 9, 2024
Table of Contents

Travel Nursing

Travel nurses are registered nurses who work at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare institutions across the world temporarily. Travel nurses assist in filling gaps in regions where there is a shortage of nurses.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of nurses are contemplating getting into travel nursing to assist in locations that need their services even more. Thus, it is crucial to understand what a travel nurse does, the requirements to become a traveling nurse, factors that influence nurses' pay as a travel nurse, and top tips to maximize your income as a travel nurse.

What is a Travel Nurse?

Instead of working for a particular hospital, travel nurses are hired through an independent nursing staffing service. This implies they can go as far as another nation or work at nearby hospitals that need interim nurses. Many nurses choose to go into travel nursing because of the numerous benefits, such as the opportunity to travel to new countries, work in a variety of practice settings, and meet new people.

Competitive compensation, excellent benefits, as well as free accommodation are other significant advantages of being a travel nurse. Travel nurse salaries are primarily unaffected by experience or degree level. In reality, a traveling certified nurse with two years of practice has the same earning ability as a traveling certified nurse with fifteen years of expertise. As a result, it is an excellent job opportunity for younger nurses who wish to generate more income and pay off part of their nursing school loan.

Registered Nurses (RNs)

A registered nurse has been the most prevalent sort of traveling nurse. Companies require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The Institute of Medicine launched a campaign in 2010 to have at least 80 percent of practicing RNs possess a BSN by 2020.

However, that objective has since been dialed back, and talks continue. RNs perform a variety of activities in their chosen medical field. These may include conducting diagnostic tests, interpreting data, devising treatment strategies, and giving psychological assistance to patients and families.

Requirements to Become a Travelling Nurse

Before you can be considered eligible for a position as a travel nurse, you must be a registered nurse with a valid license and have at least two years of experience in your nursing career. You do not require any extra certificates or credentials beyond those required for your primary specialty.

What Do Travelling Nurses Do?

Because travel nurses operate in their primary specialization, tasks will differ significantly among specialties. The following are some everyday nursing obligations:

● Examining sick people and having a conversation with them about their ailments as well as health histories to generate critically informed choices concerning their care.

● Providing vital information as well as counsel to boost the patients' health.

● Playing a significant role in diagnosis and treatment delivery.

● Conducting important medical research.

● Collaborating with the other medical professionals to guarantee effective patient care via the development of top-notch guarantee standards.

Finding Travel Nursing Jobs

Traveling nurses often collaborate with an agency that assists them in finding the best opportunity for them, depending on their expertise, locality, and duration of stay. Since various agencies deal with different medical institutions and specializations, you may work with many agencies to locate assignments that meet your requirements.

You may desire to work in someplace, city, or country, but it's essential to keep your options open. It is also worth noting that the most attractive locations frequently have the highest cost of living. If you accept a nursing job in a less desirable location, your compensation might be considerably more.

When investigating agencies and contracts, make it essential to find out:

● Which places does the agency service?

● How their compensation package is organized?

● What healthcare coverage does the organization offer?

● Whether the agency gives free accommodation or a housing allowance.

● Whether paid leave is provided.

● Whether the agency provides any signing benefits or end-of-assignment rewards.

● How often you'll be allowed to take a break in between tasks.

How Does Per Diem Nursing Differ from Travel Nursing?

Nurses who work on a per diem basis or daily do not have regular schedules or working times. As the term implies, they work daily, stepping in as needed at a healthcare center in their region. Per diem nurses frequently have a lot of leeways; however, employment isn't assured.

Furthermore, they are required to adapt swiftly to the regulations and processes of various institutions. They usually do not get benefits, but as a result, they might earn high hourly pay and perhaps benefit from tax reductions.

What Factors Impact Your Pay as a Travelling Nurse?

Aside from disaster situations like a pandemic, as is the current state of the world, there are a variety of many other variables that may affect the much you can anticipate earning as a travel nurse. Here are some examples:


The precise location of the job has the most impact on your compensation as a travel nurse. Put bluntly; pay rates frequently reflect the local living costs as well as geographical trends. You might be wondering which states offer the highest compensation for travel nurses. Well, some states have historically had the best-paying rates for travel nurses, while others have lower living costs, resulting in reduced rates.

Areas designated "destination areas" might pay less. However, this won't always be the case with quick-response tasks. Because of the COVID epidemic, travel nurse pay has soared, with extremely high-demand cities paying more than $10,000 each week.

Nurse's Specialty

Non-specialty nurses, like those in the medical and mental health fields, are often paid less than specialized nurses. Consequently, specialist nurses with highly sought-after abilities and qualifications can earn higher compensation and limitless chances.

Type of Shift

Evening shift jobs are increasingly common in the field of travel nursing. The great news is that most hospitals pay more for night shift jobs. Flexibility is essential if you intend to make a lot of money being a travel nurse. A cautionary note: if working the night shift is not your way, no amount of money is worth risking your safety, satisfaction, or license. You must only commit to this if you give greater patient care during the night shift. If not, stick to day shifts. Your patients will indeed appreciate it.

Rapid Response and Crisis Assignments

Because of the urgency of the situation, rapid response and crisis assignments have some of the greatest nursing salaries inside the travel nursing sector. Even as the name implies, these jobs necessitate nurses arriving at work quickly – generally within two weeks.

Nurses who work in such positions may have restricted alternatives for location. They are also often shorter than the standard 13-week assignment, so if you are prepared to go, you may start immediately in places where you are most needed. Facilities in need of quick response solutions are more commonly those dealing with unanticipated census surges, unit openings, emergency responses, EMR improvements, as well as other issues.

In general, the hospital is not in a catastrophic situation caused by a natural or man-made calamity. However, in some cases, they are. On the other hand, some institutions may use flexible-length assignment choices to handle patient care amid short-term personnel deficits.


Hospitals may be interested in this assignment since it does not demand the 13-week commitment that other travel agencies do. This implies that organizations that provide these sorts of jobs may provide travelers with a wider range of shorter as well as higher-paying projects. Now, what's the hindrance? As previously said, quick response tasks necessitate a speedy turnaround.

As a result, nurses must have their documentation in place if they wish to benefit from top compensation. Nurses must present credentials, examinations, permits, and other documentation as soon as possible to the agency. Most organizations occasionally assist nurses in obtaining licenses and certification, even financing foreign state permits for nurses who finish a contract with the firm there.

Agencies may also fund accommodation fees if the nurse resides in one of their chosen hotels. On the other hand, most travel nursing agencies give a housing allowance estimated to cover the expense of a nurse finding his or her private lodging throughout the assignment.

Finally, they pay the travel expenses that nurses spend at the beginning and conclusion of a job. Contracts vary from 36 to 48 hours weekly, although working 48 hours is unquestionably more lucrative, especially given the extra pay rates.

Top Tips to Make the Most Money as a Travel Nurse

Crisis Contacts and Epidemic Nursing

More than ever before, travel nurses are in high demand amid the pandemic. If you want to get paid what you are worth, pursue a crisis contract in a region suffering a COVID rise. It will pay off handsomely. However, it's vital to consider the benefits and drawbacks; if you do contract COVID, ensure your employer covers sick leave.

Find Your Housing

It's advisable to receive a lodging allowance and seek your housing. This gives you the option to end up choosing your pricing. Nurses are frequently housed in more expensive lodgings by agencies. Furthermore, agencies enter into corporate leases with a "business" price tag.

Some agencies may be able to provide free accommodation if you stay at one of their chosen hotels. Most other organizations will not pay this expense directly, but they will assist you in setting it up.

Be Flexible

If income is your incentive, flexibility is essential. Occasionally, the highest-paying jobs pay nurses more because they are not necessarily the best. They may be at an undesirable location or even on a difficult-to-full time shift, like evenings or changeable shifts. Although this is not always the norm, nights, changeable shifts, as well as weekends may also have greater compensation or shift differences.

Collaborate with Recognized Agencies

Each agency is unique and will build its pay packages accordingly. Transparency is essential. The most trusted agencies will openly reveal their remuneration packages, including take-home income. Because of this emphasis on openness, nurses may skip the bargaining or fact-finding stage and quickly determine if the position is suited for them.

Negotiations between nurses and employers can cause uncertainty and distrust. This is why working with agencies that do not permit negotiations might just be the best option. They are likely to offer the nurse their competitive pricing from the start, leaving no space for bargaining.

If you can bargain with a recruiter, why aren't they providing you with their best deal from the start? Something more to think about. Moreover, business jargon and terminology such as "blended rates" might be perplexing.

Stay Organized as a Travelling Nurse

The best-paid travel nurse jobs have a time limit since they are in great demand and competition is tough. The truth is that agencies cannot just submit your application for a job simply because you desire to be accepted. They must actually "market" your abilities to the hospital. How then do they accomplish this? Through your papers, often known as your "profile" — resume, testimonials, competence checklists, license, and so on.

Having well-organized documentation that can be swiftly and simply presented to a new agency increases your chances of receiving high-paying projects. The sooner you deliver your documentation to your recruiter, the sooner they can place you in a high-paying position. Most nurse managers recruit travel nurses on a first-come, first-served approach.

This is because your agency has already performed a background check; the hospital does not need to conduct more research to evaluate your qualifications. The hospital requires your abilities to cover an interim staffing demand. If you handle every high-paying job as if it were your last, your chances of obtaining the position will improve.

Moreover, ensure you keep your papers up to date. You could alternatively store them in the cloud via a service like Dropbox or Google Drive. This makes it simple to share your document folder with your employer. Additionally, if you do not own a scanner, get a scanning app; it works great and eliminates the need to tote about a large piece of equipment.

Bear in mind that many organizations are becoming more technologically aware and establishing mobile applications. These apps enable nurses to instantly upload papers to their corporate profile, where they may be saved and updated whenever the app informs nurses about their expirations.

Work with Several Agencies

The fact is that no agency will have assignments offered in every place in the country.  In reality, some hospitals pay varying rates to each agency. Finally, local organizations may have stronger connections with local hospitals. The bottom line, working with various agencies is a bright idea since it expands your prospects.

However, do not be sneaky if you choose to deal with many recruiters. Tell them the truth about each other. Do not "play" them against one another. Moreover, ensure that you stay in contact with them even if you do not accept their project currently. They are inclined to work with you once more in the future.

Maintain Multiple State Licenses

Did you know that most hospitals would not even look at your professional profile if you are not licensed in your state? If not, then now you do. Maintaining valid driving licenses in many states will boost your chances of consistently finding high-paying employment. If you wish to work in a specific state, you must first get a valid license. If you don't have a driver's license in that state and plan on visiting soon, apply immediately.

Do Local Agency Per Diem Shifts and Pick Up Extra Shifts

You can do local agency per diem shifts if you wish to supplement your income. You can also offer to put in extra shifts while on assignment.

Communication with Your Recruiters

Recruiters are the link between you and the best-paying travel nursing jobs. It is critical to talk to them about your remuneration requirements. If you are searching for a high-paying job, let them know. If you require a sign-on or completion bonus, ask. If you can't live peacefully with a salary of less than a particular amount, inform them. Simply put, always ensure that you communicate your needs or preferences.

Maintain a Strict Budget

It is easy to get out of a regular routine while you are working as a travel nurse. It can be compared to when you are on holiday, and you eat foods you wouldn’t usually consume or purchase items you wouldn’t normally buy since you are out of your normal schedule. Never use an unfamiliar area or a short-term job as an excuse to waste money; make a strict budget and adhere to it, including when you are off your comfort zone. This allows you not to waste money on things like pricey snacks and dinner out.

Consult with a Financial Advisor

What's the simplest way for a nurse to earn more money? By simply making good use of the money you already have. Schedule an appointment with an accountant that specializes in travel nursing as soon as possible so that you can take all of the necessary financial procedures to increase your income, from paying taxes to understanding your deductions.

Is Being a Travel Nurse the Right Job for You?

A job as a travel nurse may be the ideal combination of work and travel for all those who love healthcare, humanity, and traveling to new locations. If you have finished a registered nursing training program with at least one year of practice in your specialty, you can take your nursing program on the road.

As a travel nurse, you could put your education to use by working on short-term assignments in places around your country and even beyond. Aside from being a difficult yet gratifying profession, the job frequently provides a high level of freedom, above-average income, and additional rewards.

However, before you can decide whether being a travel nurse is the right job for you, you should reach out to a mail forwarding professional for more advice, as you will always need your crucial documents with you.

Sign up for Residency in South Dakota