What is a Travel Nurse?


Posted to Travel Nursing

What is a Travel Nurse?

Nurses have a tremendous understanding of the cliche “Necessity is the mother of invention.” The nursing shortage has presented a problem that isn’t going to be resolved quickly. The health care industry has expanded to provide young people with many more career options, and too few have chosen nursing for far too long.

Importing a few hundred or thousand nurses from the places like the Philippines or Nigeria is not going to solve staffing crises the way it once did. The need is too severe, and these countries are feeling their own shortage of nurses.

Like consumers, nurses have learned that one way to leverage better salaries, and working conditions is to create competition. And so out of necessity, entrepreneurs began to look for ways to ease the crisis and of course make money at the same time.

For years, hospitals, clinics and other facilities have used nursing registries when they needed substitute staff or to fill longer term needs when they had seasonally high patient loads. That thought process and model eventually gave birth to the idea of travel nursing.

Travel nurses help to alleviate the shortage of nurses primarily in hospitals throughout the U.S. A few travel nursing agencies are beginning to offer international travel opportunities. Travel nurses accept assignments that range typically from four to twenty-six weeks. These assignments can be as close as fifty miles from your home to clear across the country.

Travel assignments are usually for a specific unit or units, but the travel nurse should expect to float where needed as long as s/he has been oriented to that unit. The specifics are detailed in the contract negotiated between the travel agency and the hospital. The travel nurse should have a good understanding of any assignment before accepting it.

One objective is to try to match the skills and experience of the nurse to the hospital. Another is to provide nurses the opportunity to expand their experience base while providing excellent quality care.

Some think the typical travel nurse is young, single, unattached and without children. This is not always the case. Travel nurses come in all sizes and shapes. Many have children, spouses, and even pets. It’s all about adapting. Travel nurses are not always RNs. Travel nurse opportunities are open to LP/VNs as well.

A travel nurse should have a solid base of experience and skills. Hospitals pay premium rates for travel nurses, and the regular staff is well aware of this fact. They may even have very high, and sometimes unrealistic, expectations that the travel nurses should be perfect.
The travel nurse should be professional, self-confident and a quick learner. The purpose is to meet a need, not to create a burden for the regular staff. A thick skin would be recommended, as anyone who is too meek or highly sensitive may not survive the travel nursing experience.

A good travel nurse should be able to ask appropriate questions and seek advice or assistance if they are unsure of something. (Do no harm!) Knowing how and when to use and follow a Policy and Procedures manual is essential. Not every facility does things the same way.Travel nursing provides nurses terrific opportunities to see the country and enjoy new experiences.

By Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN

Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book, and author/owner of TheNursingSite.com.

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