So You Want to be a Travel Nurse

By Natalie Winzer, iHire
Traveling nurse holding up an illustrated map of the world

The travel nurse role originated approximately 20 years ago as hospitals and medical facilities found themselves in need of short-term support during periods of staffing shortages. Today, travel nurses are in high demand. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and Bureau of Labor Statistics, there could be a shortage of 1 million nurses by 2022. Plus, with more than 32 million Americans gaining access to healthcare for the first time as a result of the ACA, the need for nurses will be greater than ever. So if you enjoy exploring new locations and meeting new people, a travel nurse role may be the perfect gig for you.


Travel nurses are hired, placed, and paid by travel nursing companies/agencies (who are in turn paid by the hospitals). Assignments range from 8 to 26 weeks and include general nursing as well as specialty roles. Standard health benefits, travel expense reimbursement, and living arrangements are often included, making it easy for a travel nurse to arrive at a location and immediately focus on patient care.

There are no additional educational requirements for travel nursing, but nurses will need to be licensed in every state they work in and should give up to 8 weeks for license applications to be processed. Pay will vary by assignment – with shorter contracts generally paying a little more than longer ones – but the average annual salary for a travel nurse is $75K.


One of the main benefits of travel nursing is the freedom to set your own schedule and choose assignments and locations that appeal to you. If you are at a point in your life where you aren’t sure where you want to establish your roots, travel nursing gives you the option of doing the job you love while testing out different cities as your next hometown.

Travel nurses also have the opportunity to work in some of the top facilities in the US, expand their skills, build connections with healthcare leaders, and use the latest technologies that may not be available elsewhere (read: resume booster). There is always the possibility that a short-term contract could evolve into an offer for a permanent position as well.

Your agency is also there to support you throughout your assignment (many offer 24-hour assistance) should any problems arise.

Things to Consider

Because travel nurses are called upon to fill staffing shortages, this commonly includes covering holiday, weekend, night, and rotating shifts. Additionally, depending on the agency, you may be responsible for your own CEUs and insurance between contracts, though some companies offer a grace period.

If you find yourself disliking an assignment, you are contractually obligated to complete it, just as the facility is contractually obligated to you. However, once you finish the assignment, you can opt to not work at that particular location again.

You can often travel with pets and family members, but be sure to do your research ahead of time to ensure this is approved and/or if you will be expected to cover extra expenses.

Travel Nursing Companies

Ready to get started? Here are a few travel nursing companies to look into:

Onward Healthcare

American Mobile

Medical Solutions

FlexCare Travel Nursing (A Travel Nursing Job Board)

Additionally, consider joining The Professional Association of Nurse Travelers ( This non-profit organization offers free basic membership and provides professional development, tools, and resources specifically for healthcare travelers.



American Mobile – Travel Nursing

Nurse Zone – Travel Nursing FAQs – Nursing Salaries Stand Out for Travel Nurses

Onward Healthcare – Frequently Asked Questions for Travel Nursing Jobs

American Association of Colleges of Nursing – Nursing Shortage Fact Sheet

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