So what’s a traveling nurse?

When I first decided to start travel nursing, I received a lot of questions from my family and friends. Where was I going? Was I moving and for how long? Would I keep my staff job? What do you mean travel nursing? I didn’t realize how mysterious travel nursing was, and even I had some questions when I first started to consider travel nursing.

On my way to my first assignment in Kentucky.

So for those of you who are curious, I thought I’d give you a few brief points on the ins and outs of travel nursing:

  • The agency and recruiter
    • A travel nurse works through an agency. The agency has close relationships with various facilities where they will place nurses. A nurse will either be placed with or choose a recruiter that helps them find a position at a facility that meets what they are looking for in an assignment.
  • The assignment
    • Most assignments last between 6-13 weeks, and usually will extend if the facility still requires help at the end of the contract. A nurse will work at bedside just like regular staff for that time period.
  • Making the move
    • A travel nurse may stay in a hotel or rent an apartment or house for the duration of their assignment. This becomes their home away from home while they still maintain permanent residence in their home city or state.

In the hospital setting, most units and floors attempt to maintain safe nurse patient ratios by staffing a floor with an adequate number of nurses. Depending on what type of floor like a medical-surgical floor (called med-surg by nurses), or an intensive care unit (ICU), the ratio will vary. When there is a shortage of nurses in an area, travel nurses become vital to maintaining adequate care and patient safety.

Hazelnut latte from Spencer’s in Bowling Green, KY my favorite spot while there.

One of the wonderful things about nursing is that patient care remains similar across many states and even countries. A valid nursing license from a compact state is accepted in most places across the US. This allows nurses to move from state to state, caring for patients and their families in new settings. Most travel nurses have 1-3 years experience in their specialty before venturing out to new places. This experience is helpful in overcoming the challenges associated with brief orientation periods and hurdles like unfamiliar equipment and policies.

Street view outside my apartment building in Flushing, NY.

Travel nursing certainly has challenges, but it also allows nurses to see different areas of the country or different countries all together. We travelers gain experience working with different patient populations, working conditions, cultures, and peers. We get to meet new people and explore new cities. It can be chaotic and joyful, frustrating and rewarding, exciting and nerve-racking.

If you have questions about the mysterious world of travel nursing, don’t be afraid to ask. You might just have meet a travel nurse out in the wild someday. Until next time, keep safe out there!

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