Travel Nursing: What Does The Job Entail

RNs who become travel nurses work for healthcare staffing agencies to take temporary assignments at hospitals in different areas of the country (or even abroad). They are hired for short-term contracts and paid for their time away from their legal tax home. Adaptability is a necessary skill for travel nurses to possess. They must be able to quickly adjust to new environments and the culture of each location.


As hospitals and other healthcare facilities nationwide struggle with staffing shortages, travel nurses are in high demand. Their job is to fill in at locations with shortfalls for specific periods — and they do so for the same pay as permanent employees. The average travel nurse assignment lasts 13 weeks, which leaves them enough time to immerse themselves in local culture and explore the area. But they can also stick around for an additional negotiated period if desired.

The flexibility of the position is a big draw for many people considering travel nursing. But it’s not without its challenges. For one, traveling nurses are often dispatched to facilities with a high need or an emergency, such as after natural disasters. That means they may be assigned to shifts that the hospital doesn’t want them to work, such as night shifts or overnights. If not handled correctly, it can lead to stress and burnout. That’s why travel nurses need to maintain resilience.

Job Description

Travel nurses are hired on short-term contracts to fill in the gaps in healthcare staffing. They perform the same responsibilities as permanent nurses and work in various specialty areas, including the NICU and medical-surgical units. The hospital management will decide their schedules, and they usually have limited time to learn the unit’s patient population, its charting system, and how the department operates.

They also gain experience working in various hospitals, from extensive urban to smaller rural facilities. It allows them to broaden their skills and show that they are adaptable to new situations, which may help them when applying for full-time positions.

One challenge that travel nurses face is distance from family and friends. While many travel nurses find a small community in each place they live, it can be not easy to build deep relationships because these connections are often short-term. To overcome this, travel nurses must prioritize self-care and spend time with loved ones when possible. They must also be prepared for new hospitals’ steep learning curve and staffing systems.


Travel nurses must be able to adjust to new work environments quickly. They must also be able to acclimate to the unique healthcare system of each location they visit. Additionally, travel nurses need to have a good understanding of their own needs and limitations. For instance, when they switch jobs frequently, it could be difficult for them to establish relationships with their coworkers. They might also find it challenging to maintain a healthy lifestyle when working such long shifts.

Travel nurses are often given short orientation periods for their assignments, so they must be able to learn the hospital’s charting system and patient populations quickly. It’s best to earn a specialized degree in nursing before entering the workforce as a travel nurse. Moreover, it’s also recommended that travel nurses acquire an Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) license to make it easier for them to move between states and take on new assignments. Getting a permit can save nurses time and money in the long run, as they won’t have to spend extra time obtaining a state nursing license every time they change assignments.


A registered nurse who works temporarily at medical facilities is known as a travel nurse. Unlike permanent staff nurses, whom healthcare centers hire, these workers are employed by nursing staffing agencies and move to a new location after every contract. They work in all clinical settings, from small rural hospitals to large urban trauma centers. Because they are committed to a specific assignment for a short time, these nurses must be ready to adapt to different workplace environments and learn hospital systems quickly. They also must be able to cope with the stress of long shifts and travel. Taking steps to prioritize physical and mental health, connecting with other travelers and locals, and practicing self-care can help travel nurses stay healthy and productive. A registered travel nurse in Ohio earns up to four times the compensation rates of permanent staff and enjoys a flexible schedule between contracts. 


Travel nurses fill in gaps in staffing at healthcare facilities. They often work 12-hour shifts and are responsible for assessing patients, administering medications, and creating care plans. Depending on the specialty, they may work in a hospital or clinic. They are dispatched to areas with a high demand for their skills. For example, they are deployed to hospitals in response to natural disasters. A travel nurse must be able to learn quickly and adapt to new environments. They must be able to use their broad knowledge base to adopt the standards of practice at each location. They also need to be able to learn new technologies quickly.

A travel nurse must have a strong support network to cope with the frequent changes in their lives. They often move to places that are far from their family and friends. It could make forming intimate bonds challenging. In addition, some travel nurses may find themselves working on an assignment that they don’t like. Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate these issues. 

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