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Ask a Travel Nurse: Is Travel Nursing Too Good to Be True?


Binoculars LadyAsk a Travel Nurse Question:  

I’ve been wanting to do travel nursing for many years now. With the kids now out of the house it just seems like the time to go for it. What are your thoughts in general about travel nursing, is it safe, and is it too good to be true? Thank you!

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:                                                

I can only actually recall one instance where I did not feel safe. That was due to a travel company housing me in an apartment complex with which they were unfamiliar. They offered to put me up in a hotel until they could take care of things, but I declined and a week later was in a very nice complex with a few pools, tennis courts, work-out room, and even a racquetball court. There will be a few bumps along the way, but plan for them and you will be fine.

As for it being too good to be true, I often think that myself; however, it’s usually when I’m on assignment in Hawaii, all winter, sitting on a beach on my day off, thinking to myself, “this is too good to be true”.

I NEVER take vacations. I simply don’t need to. Want to see the Gr and Canyon? A Phoenix or Flagstaff assignment will give you plenty of days to see the Canyon, the red rocks of Sedona, or about a hundred other attractions. I just pick a spot that has multiple interests for me and usually wait until something comes along in the general area. If you work twelve hour shifts, then that leaves up to eight days in a row that you could potentially have off work. Even if you are looking at a day’s drive to an attraction, it’s still doable.

I will say that some of whether or not you enjoy travel nursing can be dependent upon your expectations.

I have many nurses who write to me asking if “such and such” is a good rate for a travel contract and why they would take a contract making less than they do now as a staff nurse. Well, if you’d like to keep earning $35/hr all winter in Idaho, be my guest (nothing against Idaho). But, if you can still pay all your bills making $25/hr, and prefer to spend your winter on that beach in Hawaii, then travel nursing might be for you. Finding a balance, coupling an exciting location with a decent pay rate, is also not hard to do.

You just have to remember, travel nursing is not a “cash cow” position. Sure you can find assignments paying great rates, but maybe not in all the “choice” locations. But that’s a great thing about travel nursing. If you need to pay off some bills, maybe you take an assignment paying higher, but in a location that might be seventh or eighth on your “to do” list. Then when you want some adventure, take a summer assignment in some place like San Diego, where you can spend time at Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, the Wild Animal Park, Legol and , or just have a great 4th of July watching the fireworks over the Ocean in La Jolla.

You also need to keep in mind that the reason you might be making less than you do as a staff nurse is because your travel company is often providing furnished housing that may cost them $1400-$2800 a month.

Before you look at traveling, sit down and do a monthly budget to know how much you will need on any given assignment. Then, it is always a great idea to have at least a month’s worth of expenditures in a savings account for any unforeseen periods between contracts.

You will have to check into options for schooling for your children, but what better way to get an education than actually being out in the real world?

I hope this helps and if you have any other questions or need additional help in getting started, feel free to email me at


About the Author:

Hello everyone. I’m a travel nurse originally from Ohio who graduated in 1993 from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus. I completed a critical care fellowship at Riverside Methodist Hospital in 1994 and started traveling in that specialty a year later. My first travel assignment was in Maui and since that time I have completed close to 40 different contracts in various states with multiple travel companies. I am the author of Travel Nurse’s Bible (A Guide to Everything on Travel Nursing), in addition to my writings here and in the pages of Travel Nursing publications such as Healthcare Traveler Magazine and American Nurse Today. I am presently on assignment in Phoenix, AZ and travel anywhere from six to eleven months of the year.

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