Even in a troubled economy, medical careers are always in demand. However, hospitals with stretched budgets can’t always afford to hire all the full-time staff they need, or sometimes the full-time positions are in areas to which many qualified nurses simply aren’t able to move permanently. Whether you’re pursuing a PhD in nursing degree or you’re still working on your associates or bachelors, take advantage of the demand for nurses and become a travel nurse. Here are a few reasons travel nursing is such a great career choice.
1. Greater Pay Potential
Two nurses with almost the exact same education, skills and experience could take home a significantly different paycheck each week. How? Simply due to where they live and work. Cost of living in the area, the size of the local population and the number of applicants for a position could all impact the salary a nurse receives. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a nurse in California can expect a median hourly wage of about $43, whereas one in West Virginia can expect an hourly wage of $27.
Perhaps you don’t want to or are unable to move to a state with better pay; if you are willing, you may face a lot of competition for available jobs. If you become a travel nurse, you’ll be sent across the country to places where you can earn more per hour for the same work you’d do back home and without the commitment of a cross-country move. If you earn higher wages elsewhere and then go home to a place where the cost of living is lower, you will be living quite comfortably.
2. A Resume-Builder
Every position you take as a travel nurse affords you a new resume-building opportunity. If your eventual goal is a permanent position, or even if you’re currently happy with traveling, your resume will become enriched with the variety of positions you’ve worked and the large number of professional references you meet along the way. You can work different shifts and hours for different types of medical care providers, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and schools, and find your passion. Through your experiences you will discover which kind of nursing best suits you.
3. More Time Off
A nurse with a permanent position typically has a week or two of vacation time per year and may face competition when it comes to getting popular times of the year off. This is especially true of newer nurses who have little to no seniority. A travel nurse has many more opportunities for time off if he or she so desires. As each position is contracted for a certain amount of time, it’s simply a matter of informing your coordinator that you’d like some time off between one assignment and the next.
Travel nurses are never “stuck” in positions they don’t like. They’re contracted for a certain period, but if they come to see that the work doesn’t suit them or they’re really unhappy in the area, they’ll know that the end is in sight and they can try new positions and areas in the near future. If you opt to become a travel nurse rather than uproot your life entirely to take on a permanent position in a new area, you won’t have to worry about the prospect of getting stuck. On the other hand, if you find a place or position that works well for you, you’ll know where to apply for permanent positions in the future.
5. Travel More
Nursing isn’t typically a profession that one associates with great opportunities for travel, but it is when you’re a travel nurse. Every few weeks or months, you could be getting to see a new part of the country. On your down time, you’ll be able to explore everything each place has to offer, and most likely the place hiring you will have paid for your transportation and lodging, so you’ll be traveling at minimal cost.
Already qualified nurses or those pursuing a nursing degree have at least five reasons to consider a career in travel nursing: potential for greater pay, great resume-building experiences for future permanent positions if desired, greater chances for time off between assignments, flexibility to move from one hospital and community to the next and to see more of the country. At the very least, consider travel nursing on a trial period, as you just may find your passion — and if not, you can readily move on to a more permanent position.
About the Author: Patricia Shen is a contributing writer and travel nurse recruiter coordinator. As a former nurse practitioner, some of her fondest memories are of her own travel nurse experience.