Ask a Travel Nurse: What Can I Expect From Travel Nursing?


what to expect from travel nursing

Ask a Travel Nurse Question:

I am considering going into travel nursing for money benefits/ travel experience. I was wondering how frequently you felt dumped upon by other nurses while working at an assignment? Also, how easy is it to get an assignment where you want it and on the unit you prefer? Do most companies require a contract per assignment or per year or such?

Do you feel like you generally are able to earn and save more money traveling vs. being permanent employee? How competitive is it to obtain open positions? thx for your time.

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

Every travel assignment you take will be different. I can recall some real nasty nurses that I avoided at all costs and I remember units where everyone got along and it was like one big party. Whether you are on a travel assignment or working as staff, there is going to be someone that doesn’t like you for one reason or another, or perhaps, NO reason at all. Travel is all about assimilation and finding a fit in the unit in which you will be working. Be helpful and friendly the first few weeks and you will get a reputation as being a good traveler. There will always be “haters” out there, but how you h and le them is a big part of being a travel nurse. “Dumping” has not been much of a factor in my travels, but there might be times where you could have to speak up for yourself. There is a difference between having a crappy assignment and one that is unsafe.

Getting an assignment in an area you prefer has about a thous and variables at any given time. For the most part, you should find what you seek if you are looking in a large enough area. For example, I wanted to be able to see the Gr and Canyon, so I was willing to work anywhere in a Phoenix ICU to do so. Phoenix positions in ICU were plentiful and I was able to choose my hospital. If you want to see the world’s largest spinach can in Alma, Arkansas, while working in hyperbaric therapy…well, good luck!!

As a new traveler, you might have to sacrifice a first or second desired location, but you should still be able to find an area in which you want to see the attractions, and feel comfortable working in the facility and unit where they have assignment offerings. No one says how long you have to wait for that perfect, or at least “doable”, assignment comes along.

Contracts are from assignment to assignment and you should never sign allegiance to any one company for a period of time beyond what they are guaranteeing you to work. You might sign a service agreement for a period of a year that just states things like, “You will adhere to facility policies and procedures,practice safely under the board’s guidelines, etc” which tells your travel company you will do these things if you take assignments with them throughout the year (rather than stating this in every single contract you sign). But you should not travel with a company that requires you to work ONLY through them, because they might not have assignments in any area you want to travel and a contract like this would force you to take a position no matter where it was. Companies requiring this type of commitment are rare. Always READ CAREFULLY what you are signing. If it doesn’t sound good, don’t let a recruiter talk you into something without seeking an outside opinion.

You will almost always spend more money while traveling. In my mind, if you don’t, what’s the purpose really? If you never go out and explore the area or see the attractions, I’m not sure why someone would consider travel. You could probably make more staying in one place and receiving yearly raises as a staff nurse instead. Travel allows you to see places that most people must spend vacation time to see. You don’t have to spend every dollar you make, but do consider releasing the strings of the coffer to see and do things unique to the area. Don’t waste the wonderful opportunity by working tons of OT and missing one of the best benefits of travel nursing.

How competitive it is finding a position also has many factors. Is it a popular destination? What time of year is it? (hiking areas will be harder to get into in the spring, snow skiing areas in the fall). Plus, any area is going to have staffing needs that rise and fall, so some of it simply comes down to timing.

To help further, a few resources I recommend for those starting out are and the Delphi forum for traveling professionals (go to, look for the box on the right that says “Explore existing forums”, type in “travel nursing” and the top result is a group called Travel Nurses and Therapists with over half a million members). You can find a lot of good info on the types of issues you might encounter in travel nursing.

Pan Travelers is also another good site with a forum. They have a free section and also a portion where there is a charge to access that information.

You can also subscribe to Healthcare Traveler Magazine for free on their website ( and ard/Article/detail/633857) as well as read back issues. You can also join Healthcare Travelbook ( which is a sort of Facebook style place for travelers. I also blog on a site that has good travel information at

I’ll also mention my book since it was written specifically for those people embarking on their first assignment. It’s a how-to book that walks you through the entire process of becoming a traveler and what to expect. If you are interested, you can find out more about what is in the book at

After reading up a bit more, if you need some help getting started, I also work with several good travel companies and recruiters that will take the required time with new travelers.

I hope this helps and feel free to write with any other questions along the way.




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.

4 Comments on "Ask a Travel Nurse: What Can I Expect From Travel Nursing?"

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  1. Maria says:

    Hey thanks for providing detailed info in regards to traveling. You have solved all the main queries which arise in our mind, before taking up our first travel assignment.

  2. Nickjc says:

    When I was on my first assignment, I was too worried about what everyone thought of me. Later I realized haters are everywhere and you cannot please everyone around you. So for beginners, my suggestion would be that just focus at your work, do it well and then enjoy your travelling experience.

  3. I feel these are very relevant questions for the travel healthcare industry in general these days. “Office politics” set the tone so strongly in any workplace — particularly if you’re there on a temporary basis. In the times when I’ve spoken with coworkers and loved ones who work in nursing about traveling careers, they invariably cite these concerns as one of their reasons for hesitation.

  4. There are a lot of good as well as some not so good realities of travel nursing that you should become familiar with. But a good place to start is to understand that you as a traveler is filling a need that is either a back fill for an employee that may no longer be there or assisting a facility that has a shortage of qualified staff on a large scale.

    Either way you will be required to hit the ground running and to have a back bone to tough through some of the possible areas of contention.

    At the end of the day though I can offer that you should find a decent rewarding career as a travel nurse.

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