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By April 19, 2011 11 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: What can you tell me about travel nursing in California?


travel nurse in CaliforniaAsk a Travel Nurse Question:

Hi, was wondering if you have experience working in CA as a travel RN; am considering it and any info on staffing, work conditions, any special issues or problems in regard to that state would be MUCH appreciated. And if you have worked there, which cities/facilities/communities? Thank you so much.

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

I have worked in CA from San Diego, to L.A., to San Francisco. Huge state and has just about anything you could want: beaches, water, weather, places to ski, skydive, go whitewater rafting, boating, L.A. nightlife, San Fran’s iconic sites, whatever you want, California has it.
The first thing you should decide is whether you are interested in So Cal or Northern California. Each can be drastically different. San Diego has cool weather almost all year and provides beaches, attractions like Sea World, and a great art Mecca in La Jolla.

Los Angeles has the nightlife and the Hollywood scene. On a night out with friends, I was asked questions on one of Leno’s “Jaywalking” segments on Melrose and met Travolta while taking care of one of Kelly’s family members at a hospital in the marina. There’s nothing quite like the L.A. vibe.

San Francisco has fabulous diversity within the city and I worked at a hospital where I walked to and from work each night while staring at the Golden Gate Bridge along the way (if it wasn’t fogged in of course). If the city is too congested for you, there are also other smaller hospitals around the area that are only a thirty minute commute to get you into the heart of everything without having to work and live in city.

So, you must first decide, which location you want to pursue. I cannot recall how long CA licensure takes, but I know that I applied even before I started looking for assignments because I knew I was going to be working somewhere in the state for my next assignment.
Staffing is usually good since CA has state m and ates as far as number of patients you may take in certain areas. Working conditions are going to be based on where you work. No two hospitals are going to be the same (that goes for anywhere you travel). Investigate the hospital and the surrounding area before you commit.

CA also has a “blended” rate meaning your first 8 hours are regular time and after 8 is time and a half. They average these two over a twelve hour shift and this “blended” rate is essentially what you will earn per hour. Not a big concern, CA just does it differently and you should be quoted a “blended” rate on your CA contracts.

In San Diego I worked for Sharp Memorial, loved it. In L.A. I worked UCLA-Santa Monica, loved it. Also St Johns, they terminated my contract :-< . Daniel Freeman Hospital in Marina Del Rey, loved it. Providence Medical in Simi Valley, liked the work, but the commute up the 405 was not nice. In San Fran, worked UCSF. Nice hospital, but contracted for a specific unit and then floated to all the critical care areas. Not what I had signed up for and didn’t feel as if I was treated well on that contract.

So Cal is nicer weather, but jobs usually pay better in Northern Cali.

Hope that helps some. Feel free to write with any other questions you might have or need any help with travel company choices.

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.

11 Comments on "Ask a Travel Nurse: What can you tell me about travel nursing in California?"

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  1. Margaret


    Considering a contract at St. John’s. Why did they terminate your contract if you don’t mind me asking

  2. David says:

    Hey Margaret. Unfortunately, that was the first assignment where a simple personality clash led to a terminated contract.

    Sometimes, those with a little authority like to wield that power over others. In the travel world, you are low in the pecking order as far as the facility is concerned and if you find yourself in the cross-hairs of a unit manager or even just a charge nurse, it can lead to issues with your contract.

    Fortunately, it does not happen often, but as a travel nurse, you do need to tread lightly and fly under the radar.

    As for St John’s, I would say the hospital is an acceptable place to work, but in the ICU, it did feel a little “cliquey” with the travelers usually working on one end of the unit and regular staff on the other. But this was also about ten years ago, so I know that the person who got me fired had so many conflicts, that she was later terminated and it’s possible that unit politics may have changed.

    If the compensation package is acceptable, I wouldn’t hesitate as it is not a horrible place to work by any means. It just so happens that my experience there was not what I had hoped.


  3. Leila


    Does anyone know where the common travel nurse housing is in Santa Monica.. I’m going to take their housing and want to know where it usually is first.

  4. Hey Leila. I cannot tell you where the “common” housing would be, but while I worked in L.A., two different travel companies put me up in Mariners Village in Marina Del Rey. The housing was so nice that it was my primary motivation for staying for three years.

    I stayed there while working for St Johns, UCLA Santa Monica, Providence Hospital in Simi Valley (a bit of a trip to and from work) and Marina Del Rey Hospital.

    However, each company is different, so call your company’s housing department and see where they choose to house travelers.

    Hope this helps.


  5. Kaylee


    I’ve been submitted to UCLA Santa Monica but already received another offer in Glendale. I would REALLY like the UCLA position but my recruiter said it can be hard to get and they commonly take awhile before they interview. Is this true? I really feel like my recruiter knows someone at Glendale or something bc for some reason he’s pushing that one super hard and making me doubtful about UCLA. UCLA would be a lot more money for me so I wonder if he’s going to make more off Glendale. Do you know of anyone to speed along the process or have you ever tried contacting a talent recruiter AT the actual facility you’ve been submitted to?

    Thanks a ton!


  6. Hey Kaylee. I was let go from a contract at St Johns in Santa Monica and my recruiter found me a position at UCLA Santa Monica within a week. So for me, I went from no one knowing my name at UCLA, to orienting to work there, in about a week and a half.

    I obviously cannot say if things have slowed in regard to hiring turn-around times, but if it is a position you want, I would not hesitate to call the hospital directly, find out who is in charge of hiring travelers, and convey your interest.

    Some hospitals may not like this, but if they’re upset for you taking an initiative to work with them, then maybe they aren’t the best choice of employers.

    Trust your instincts with regard to your recruiter. Most are just working hard to find you a position, but sometimes that can cloud their judgement in regard to what you REALLY want. If UCLA is worth waiting a week or two, then let your recruiter know that. Your recruiter can also push this process with the facility if they want to.

    I hope this helps.


  7. Lauren


    Hey David,

    Can you tell me what travel nurse companies work with UCSF? I’d love to do a contract there. Thank you

  8. David says:

    Hey Lauren. I worked at UCSF with RN Network and if you like, you can message me at and I can get you hooked up with a great recruiter I have there.

    I cannot say for certain they still work with them, but unless there was some issue, I’m sure they continue to contract with them.

    If you ever want to work it backwards like that (starting at the facility rather than the travel company), just call the facility directly and ask the nurse recruiter (or whomever handles the travelers) what companies they prefer or with which companies they have a good working relationship.

    I hope this helps.


  9. David says:

    Hey Lauren. Sorry so long on the response.

    The best way to find out which companies work with any specific facility is to call the facility itself and speak with the nurse recruiter or whomever handles the travelers. Ask them if they have any preferred companies or companies with which they have found it especially easy to work.

    While most facilities are open to any travel company helping them with their staffing needs, occasionally you will find a facility with an exclusive contract or preferred companies.

    I will tell you to make absolutely sure about the conditions under which you will work at UCSF. I was hired as a traveler for the renal ICU unit and only discovered after orientation that I was essentially a float nurse (a position I NEVER accept in a travel contract) Kaiser (as a whole) has a reputation when it comes to the way they treat their travelers.

    Hope this helps.


  10. Ken


    What travel company did you guys used to get UCLA Santa Monica?

  11. David says:

    Hey Ken. I believe I also used RN Network for my UCLA Santa Monica assignment. Feel free to write me direct if you need a great connection at RN Network.


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