Finding Your RN Specialty: Become a Travel Nurse

Registered nurses (or RNs) traditionally work with patients in a hospital or clinic close to where they live. However, there are different types of nurses that work in a variety of other settings. Given the current health and social climate of the world today, more and more nurses are going into travel nursing to help in the areas that need it most.

If you think you may want to travel to different parts of the country and the world, a career as a travel nurse may be the right RN specialty for you. Learn more about travel nurses, why they’re important, and how these nurses play a critical role in helping to improve healthcare in areas in need. This role is especially suited for nurses who enjoy traveling to new cities and countries, relish in the freedom and flexibility to choose where they work, and flourish professionally with new learning opportunities.

What is a Travel Nurse?

Travel nurses are registered nurses who work in short-term roles at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities in areas of need around the world. Travel nurses help fill gaps in regions where there are nursing shortages. They are typically employed by independent nursing agencies instead of a single hospital or health system. Working with a nursing staffing agency means they can travel to different countries or work at local hospitals around the country that are in need of temporary nurses. 

What Do Travel Nurses Do?

The responsibilities of a travel nurse vary depending on the nursing role being filled. Traveling nurses are often versatile in their duties, filling roles that have shortages and need the most help. It’s important for travel nurses to educate themselves on the health trends and issues that are common in the geographic regions in which they work. Public health needs vary from country to country, and even from state to state. It’s also important for travel nurses to study the different risk factors that vary by location, such as the availability of clean water, access to vaccines, or potential government healthcare restrictions that may impact the health and well-being of their potential patients.

Why is Travel Nursing Important?

Travel nurses are an important part of global healthcare because they are vital in bridging the gaps that exist between the supply and demand of nurses around the world. Improving the nurse-to-patient ratio is a key factor in lowering mortality rates for patients. It also helps nurses offer more thorough care to the patients they do have. Travel nurses can help improve the ratio by working in areas that currently don’t have the recommended amount of nurses. 

It’s also beneficial to hospitals and health systems to bring in nurses from a variety of different educational backgrounds and geographic regions. Sharing new ideas helps to diversify care tactics that benefit patients and help educate other nurses. 

The recent COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of travel nurses as health care professionals relocate to hotspot areas to help prevent the spread of the disease. As a result of the pandemic, nurses all over the world have mobilized to alleviate the impact the disease has had on pandemic epicenters. This is done through testing for the disease, educating the public on healthy best practices (such as washing hands and using masks), and caring for those who are sick and terminally ill.

How to Become a Travel Nurse

Travel nursing requirements vary from region to region. The first step in becoming a traveling nurse is to earn an associate’s degree (ADN) or bachelor’s degree (BSN) in nursing from an accredited institution of higher learning. National University offers several nursing degree programs, such as the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.

The next step is to pass your RN licensure exam, the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). 

After receiving your RN license, most travel nursing staffing agencies require a set amount of hands-on experience before being sent out to other states and countries. This hands-on experience is typically completed in a standard hospital or clinical setting. 

For traveling nurses, it is highly recommended that nurses speak the native language of the population where they’re planning to work. 

Travel Nursing Salaries

Many factors can affect a travel nurse’s paycheck. The location, benefits, and nursing specialty affect the amount of money travel nurses can make. Like many industries, nursing wages fluctuate with supply and demand. Working in a specialty in higher demand in a region that needs nurses is more likely to pay higher than a travel nurse specializing in a more common area. Pay rates also differ for international travel nurses as different countries have different regulations and requirements for salaries.

According to Nurse.org, many travel nurses have the potential to earn over $50 per hour, plus company-paid housing accommodations. Under normal circumstances, this means it is possible for travel nurses to earn over $100K per year. It is common for travel nursing agencies to cover a number of expenses, such as state license and certification, travel reimbursement, and tax home expenses.

But right now with COVID-19, in-demand places like New York City are offering nurses significant incentives to assist with the pandemic. Pay packages are available for over $10,000 per week or $100,000 for a 13-week assignment. However, nurses need to be aware that they are entering a highly contagious area. 

Becoming a Travel Nurse

Specializing in travel nursing allows nurses to experience a wide range of professional and educational opportunities around the world. Traveling adds another layer of specialty to a nurse’s repertoire and provides a much needed service to the areas they travel. Public health needs vary by region and these nurses are an important solution to local healthcare dilemmas. 

So if you’re looking for a nursing career with competitive pay, vast professional opportunities, and a spot on the front lines of global healthcare, consider a specialization in travel nursing. Earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing is the first step toward becoming a travel nurse. National University’s College of Professional Studies can help you earn your RN in an accredited nursing degree program, as well as provide you with options for additional pathways in your desired field.