Lately my hospital has had an influx of traveling nurses from all over the United States. And they’ve all been amazing! Some from Louisiana, Illinois, North Carolina, California, etc. And they really seem to enjoy being here.  So why are we not all packing our bags and hitting the road?

Traveling nurses certainly have a lot of benefits. Most travelers can obtain up to $3,300 a month for housing expenses in addition to food stipends and their hourly pay. While their hourly pay may sound lower than usual, their stipends are usually tax free. (On a side note, if the nurse has someone to stay with, she can pocket said stipend!) Each of the assignments is usually 8-13 weeks long, allowing travelers to leave an assignment if it isn’t their favorite, but a lot of assignments offer the opportunity to renew, allowing the nurse to potentially stay somewhere for multiple months.

On the other hand, travel nurses have to cope with a certain amount of stress that comes with moving frequently. Being away from family, making new friends, and even finding housing can be stressful. A lot of times travelers take housing in a location without knowing the area well. For some this works out well, but for others they may end up in a sticky situation. Most agencies will offer some agency sponsored housing, which is often a safe alternative.

Besides housing, traveling nurses must beware of the hospital they are traveling to. Frequently in the NICU, I see travelers that come from a NICU that doesn’t accept certain types of patients or doesn’t offer a specific procedure. When you travel, you are expected to be able to perform the duties of that hospital’s nurses. Know your boundaries and always make sure you are comfortable with the assignment you are receiving. Sometimes a CVICU in one place isn’t the same as another. And watch out for those assignments that always give the worst assignments to travelers. Travelers are a blessing to a hospital in need and so they should be treated!

One of the most important things to look at when considering traveling is the implications of traveling on your current job. Will you come back to your position and be guaranteed a spot? Will you have to go to night shift and work your way back down the waitlist to days? Make sure you look into this before making any commitments.

There are a lot of advantages to traveling, and a lot of challenges as well. It’s important to know yourself and know what you’re prepared for. Doing things on your own, exploring new places, and getting to know different methods of doing things can be really enjoyable with the right attitude. The first step is to contact an agency and begin to explore their options and what licensure requirements are for you. There is no harm in investigating!

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Alicia Klingensmith, BSN, RN

Alicia Klingensmith received her BSN from the University of North Florida and currently works in the NICU at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.

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