Travel Nursing Myths & Facts
While the travel nursing profession has flourished over the last 20 years, there are still many misconceptions about working as a travel nurse. Let’s set the record straight and address some of the most common misperceptions about travel nursing, revealing the facts behind the myths.
Myth or Fact? Travel Nursing Is a Less Stable Career Choice
This seems to be one of the more prevalent travel nursing myths, and one that isn’t supported by fact. “The fact of the matter is that hospitals are having shortages,” says Lindsay Francis, a seasoned Onward travel nursing recruiter. “The baby-boomers are getting older and at the end of the day, these hospitals have shortages and they can’t fill them all with perm staff.
“So quite frankly, we see the need there and especially during these economic times, a lot of these hospitals are willing to pay more money to bring these travelers onboard. So even though it’s not a perm job, you’re probably signing up for more of a 13-week assignment. We are definitely seeing the positions grow as well as the salary ranges increase as those needs are going up.”
Onward recruiter Suzanne Johnson offers a great example of travel nursing career stability, telling the story of an RN who “found a great niche at a hospital in Oklahoma. Every couple months, he goes back and takes a three-month contract and they absolutely adore him. They welcome him back with open arms every single time. It now gives him the flexibility to go work in Oklahoma, make quite a bit of money, be away from his family for a little bit, and he takes summers off every single year to hang-out with his kids when they’re off from school.
“So travel nursing … can really be a huge benefit for family time and really tailoring it to your schedule where you can take those summer months off or you can go travel with your family on vacation time.”
Myth or Fact? Travel Nursing Jobs Are Found Only in Big Cities
“Certainly, where the population is more heavy and condensed, we certainly see more opportunity and more needs,” Lindsay says. “However, we get contracts in Montana, Kansas, Idaho, Wyoming — some areas where you wouldn’t even think there would be as great of a need,” reflecting a demand for travel nurses “not only the big metropolitan cities but also on the outskirts in smaller community hospitals as well.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics supports this travel nursing fact with its location quotient ranking for RN jobs: Leading the list of states with “a higher share of employment than average” are the largely rural states of South Dakota and West Virginia.
Nursing shortages are a fact of the healthcare workplace, says Suzanne, “and some of these hospitals know that it’s difficult to bring in a well-trained nurse into some of these rural areas, and most of those are [sometimes] willing to pay a higher premium.”
Myth or Fact? Travel Nursing Is a Great Resume Builder
Fact! Travel nursing “increases your marketability,” as an RN, says Suzanne. “Different levels of facilities and different levels of patient care really do increase your chances of getting another job anywhere, because now you’re showing your marketability in a small market where you might be the only nurse on a 12-hour shift in an ER.
“It just means so much to put on someone’s resume when I can say this person has worked in a rural Indian reservation hospital with the Navajo people but she’s also done all of this work in Baltimore in inner city added a huge teaching facility in Johns Hopkins,” she adds.
Lindsay points out that travel nursing is now so established, that most nurse managers and healthcare hiring agents are “now well aware that there are a lot of nurses who choose traveling as part of their career paths. So they shouldn’t be surprised to see a resume or to see an application from a travel nurse that has several different hospitals on it.
“I think what Onward Healthcare does to also help that resume look even stronger is that being part of The Joint Commission, we do get a reference for every travel assignment they take.”
Myth or Fact? Travel Nursing Is for Young Nurses
Lindsay takes the lead in debunking this common travel nursing myth, telling the story of a retired nurse in her late 60s who’s worked as a travel nurse with Onward for almost a decade.
“She takes about two or three travel contracts a year so she’s probably off about three months total out of the year,” says Lindsay, who tells how this RN and her husband “travel up and down the coast in the summertime. They go up to New England or they travel to the Dakotas. And in the wintertime, they come down to Florida and they spend the wintertime there. Every year, they take December off so they can enjoy it with their grandkids and their family and be back home and they have a great experience and a great time.”
“I also have people that do it because they want to visit their families and visit their grandkids,” Lindsay adds. “They’re not ready to yet close the chapter on the working experience but they also don’t want to work a perm position and deal with that all the times. So it really does give them the opportunity and the flexibility to continue working but continue working at their own rate. If they want to work six months out of the year, they’re able to do that. If they want to work one assignment out of the year, they’re able to do that.”
Myth or Fact? Travel Nurses Aren’t Treated as Well as Permanent Staff
Though every employment situation is unique, the Onward experts jump at the chance to debunk the myth that travel nurses, in general, receive something less than the respect accorded to full-time RNs.
“It is true there are a lot of facilities that are very traveler-friendly,” says Lindsay. “Obviously, they’re short-staffed and they don’t want to be working five, six days a week if they don’t have to unless it’s their choice. So bringing on people to help and make the schedule easier for them, great.”
Also, travel nurses enable permanent staff members to have time off for the holidays and enjoy that time with their families — another reason for travelers to expect a warm welcome.
But, since every floor of every hospital is different, Lindsay advises asking the right questions during the phone interview process. “Find out a little bit more about the floor and exactly what it’s like,” she says. “But in most cases, I will say on an 80-20 scale — 80 being positive — most facilities are welcoming those travelers coming on assignment.”