Here are the most frequently asked questions when it comes to travel nursing.
How do I start travel nursing?
Go to NurseFly.com, browse jobs, and click to apply! Getting started is easier than you think! Lucky for you we have a guide to applying for your first travel nursing job! I also wrote an article to help you choose an agency and recruiter and how to write an amazing travel nurse resume!
How far in advance should I start the application process to be a travel nurse?
If you know you are ready to travel, or will be soon, we recommend you fill out an application so that you are prepared to seize the right opportunity. If you decide to apply well in advance of when you’d like to travel, NurseFly will keep your information on file and stay in touch until you are ready. Check out tips on keeping your travel nurse documents organized!
What is a travel nurse recruiter?
A recruiter works for a travel nursing agency and is your personal contact before and during your contract.
What do I ask a travel nurse recruiter?
There are so many questions to ask your recruiter throughout the whole process of finding and signing a contract. Read NurseFly’s post on 10 questions to ask your travel nurse recruiter for info.
Can I be a travel nurse as a new grad?
Only if you want to place your shiny new RN license at serious risk. Most facilities require at least one year of experience, most prefer two, especially for a specialty. As a travel nurse you are expected to hit the ground running, sometimes after only 4-8 hours of orientation on the unit. Most new grads do not have the experience necessary to be successful for a travel nurse assignment.
Why should I become a travel nurse?
There are so many perks to travel nursing! The money, the freedom to choose when you work and when you take a break, exploring cool new locations, the added professional experiences and so many more reasons are why you should become a travel nurse. You can read all the awesome reasons why I became a travel nurse and see the benefits for yourself.
What type of experience do I need to be a travel nurse?
At least one year of recent experience in the specialty that you are applying for, preferably in a hospital/acute care setting is required. 2+ years experience is preferred.
What are travel nurses?
Travel nurses are contracted, temporary workers that are used to supplement staffing in healthcare facilities across the country. You can work full time or per diem as a travel nurse. Hospitals, long term care facilities, home health systems, clinics, and many other sites hire travelers to help them cover their schedules.
What states can I travel to as a travel nurse?
Any state in which you are licensed. You can also apply for a license in other states. Some states have fast licensing, others take months. See NurseFly’s guide to preparing for licensure and info on compact states article for more detail. For more information regarding licensing in other states, please visit: https://www.ncsbn.org/nurse-licensure-compact.htm
Where do most travel nurses go?
There is no one set place that is most popular among travel nurses. Historically, many travel nurses have gone to work in California because of their awesome patient ratio laws and decent pay scale. Many travel nurses are looking for the highest paying jobs, and location can vary greatly. A smart travel nurse looks at the compensation and compares it to cost of living to make the most fiscally responsible decision.
How long does a travel nurse stay in one place?
Typically, assignments are 13 weeks. However, shorter and longer assignments may also be available. The COVID pandemic has presented travel nurses with options for shorter term assignments for crisis areas.
Is travel nursing a career?
Yes! A lot of travel nurses travel for years before taking a permanent staff position, and some just keep traveling! You gains so much experience as a traveler and it’s a great way to see all of the country! Read more about developing your travel nursing career!
Can you cancel a travel nurse contract?
That depends on your contract. You want to try to avoid cancellations unless there is a personal emergency or if you truly feel your license is in danger. Some contracts have no penalty if you give two weeks notice, and some require complete fulfillment of the contract, or else you may have to pay a hefty fee. If you are struggling at your assignment, reach out to your manager and recruiter to discuss options. Try your absolute best to NOT cancel a contract with little to no notice. If you do so, you may be banned from working with your agency or with that specific healthcare system ever again.
Why are travel nurses needed?
All nurses can relate to the short staffing issues that plague the industry. All specialties and types of facilities are suffering from this problem. Travel nurses help fill these staffing holes while managers recruit and train permanent staff. Travel nurses are also used to help cover maternity leaves or be an extra set of hands during an EHR (electronic health record) conversion. Additionally many hospitals and healthcare systems rely on local agency staff (a form of travel nursing) to help complete their schedules.
Where are travel nurses needed?
Everywhere! Places with higher needs will pay a bit more, and some of the less popular rural areas have higher rates. California is always hiring, pays great, and has safe staffing ratio laws that protect all nurses working in the state. Choose your top five locations and check out the jobs waiting for you to apply!
How does a travel nurse get paid?
Travel nurses who claim a permanent tax home have a blended rate. This rate includes tax-free stipends and a taxable hourly wage (often seems low, but the stipends make the pay much higher). Travel nurses who do not claim a permanent tax home can still take travel contracts and will have a rate similar to that of a blended rate, only all of their wages will be fully taxed. See our Travel Nurse Pay Breakdown article for a full explanation.
How much do travel nurses make?
This can vary greatly, but the average income of a travel nurse (including the stipends) is $80k-$90K per year. Travel nurses who take the tax free stipends will report a much lower number on their tax returns due to a low taxable hourly wage. Factors like facility, agency, specialty, and local demand for nurses will affect the pay rates for travel nurses. Check out our salary guide to find out more on How much do travel nurses make?.
Do travel nurses make more?
Most travel nurses will make more money than they would as a staff nurse, with our without a duplication of expenses (having a permanent tax home). This will always depend on the cost of benefits and pay for specific travel nurse assignments.
What do travel nurse recruiters make?
Reporting of this figure varies from $50K-$85K per year. Agency and years of experience can have an impact on a recruiter’s salary. Read my bill rates and managed service provider article for more info on how agencies and recruiters make their money.
What are travel nurse stipends?
Stipends is another word for “reimbursements.” In travel staffing industries, the term is often used to describe tax free pay for meals and housing. In a travel pay package, a portion of your pay is taxable and another portion is the tax-free stipends. In order to be considered a traveler, you generally must travel at least 50 miles from your tax home, but this can vary between facilities.
Are travel nurse stipends taxable?
No, the stipends are not taxed if you claim a permanent tax home, duplicate expenses, and qualify for stipends. There is a lot of information to take in about travel nurse taxes. Read our article to get a better understanding about travel nurse taxes.
How do travel nurses file taxes?
You do NOT need a tax-preparer to file your travel nurse taxes if you were able to file your own taxes prior to becoming a travel nurse. You will need to file in all of the states that you’ve worked in throughout the year, but it’s the same process as filing in your home state. Your stipends are already deducted so there is no need to itemize expenses that fall under the housing or per diem categories. Read more about understanding your travel nurse taxes.
What do travel nurses do for health insurance?
Most agencies provide some form of health insurance. Few agencies will have it for ‘free’, but many have reasonable costs for a single person. Other options include state marketplaces, or 3rd party insurance merchants like ehealthinsurance.com
Ask your recruiter about options for health insurance during and between your contracts.
Can travel nurses deduct mileage?
No. Because you are receiving tax free stipends for housing and per diem expenses, you may not deduct mileage. If you are taking a fully taxable wage and traveling over 50 miles to your place of work, you may be able to deduct mileage but cannot also legally take the stipends.
Can I travel and work PRN?
Yes! As long as it doesn’t conflict with your contract schedule or decrease your performance.
Can travel nurses work part time?
Most travel nurse contracts are full time (36-40 hours). If you want to work part time, it would be best to look at local agency per diem contracts. It doesn’t have to be ‘local’ to your permanent tax home. Many large cities and healthcare systems have managed service providers that staff a huge local float pool for hospitals to utilize.
Can travel nurses work overtime?
Depends on the facility. I have never had a problem working OT as a travel nurse. But, the facility where I worked as staff did NOT allow travelers to work OT, as they claimed it was too much of an expense for the unit. Your OT rate will vary greatly between agencies and hospitals. Some agencies only pay overtime based on your hourly taxable wage (which will be low if you are taking stipends), so your rate may only be something like $30/hour for OT. You can try to negotiate for more- or pick up a per diem job on the side.
Can travel nurses work close to home?
Most facilities require that you work at least 50 miles from your permanent tax home. Some facilities have even longer distance requirements. I had a travel nurse job in Massachusetts that required my permanent tax home to be at least 180 miles from the facility. Check with your recruiter to be sure. If your home is inside the mileage radius, you can still work as a traveler but your wages will be fully taxed and you will not be eligible for tax-free stipends.
Do travel nursing contracts include housing?
All agencies are different. Some agencies provide housing and others throw the housing stipend back into your pay, allowing you to choose and pay for your own housing. Read about travel nurse housing options.
How do travel nurses find housing?
Many agencies will offer to provide housing, but this could mean your stipends take a huge hit and your take home pay will suffer. I find that it is more economical to find your own housing, even if it means a bit more legwork. There are tons of sites and resources for finding housing. NurseFly has a whole post devoted to tips and tricks to find travel nursing housing.
Can travel nurses have pets?
Absolutely! I personally travel with a cat (and a roommate!). If you are taking agency provided housing you will need to check in advance if they allow pets and if there are any breed restrictions. If you are finding your own housing, simply look for apartments and rooms that allow pets. It is becoming more common for people to allow pets as they realize a lot of nurses want to travel with their fur babies! Most places will require a pet deposit which may or may not be refundable.
Can travel nurses bring their families with them?
Yes. Many travel nurses travel with their partners and children. It helps to have a partner that can work remotely or work seasonal jobs in various locations. When children turn school aged this can be tough. This can be made easier by taking longer contracts or extending assignments, or homeschooling your children.
Can a travel nurse stay as permanent staff after completing a contract?
You can stay as permanent staff as long as you don’t have an limiting agreement with your agency. Some agencies still have clauses that state you cannot take a permanent staff job in the area within a certain number of weeks or months after completion of an assignment. I know many nurses who have signed on as staff after a contract because they loved the people and the location. You will no longer receive stipends and you must change your permanent tax residence once you sign on as permanent staff.
Can travel nurses work internationally?
The short answer is, yes absolutely! If you are not fluent in another language (and you will have to take a fluency exam if you claim to be), your options are limited to English speaking countries. Countries such as the United Kingdom (UK), New Zealand, and Australia are popular with international travel nurses. Only some travel nursing agencies have the capabilities to help place you in an assignment like this. The contracts tend to be a year or more and require a lot of paperwork and patience. You can also check usajobs.gov for nursing jobs abroad with the military.
Can travel nurses file unemployment?
Yes, but you must meet the unemployment requirements in your permanent tax home state. Additionally, if you have been receiving tax-free stipends your unemployment will be calculated on your taxable hourly wage- which is often quite low in travel nurse assignments. Be prepared for lower than expected benefits.
Can travel nurses have tattoos?
Most facilities still have a ‘no visible piercings or tattoo’ clause in their dress code policy. That being said- I see nurses every day, both travelers and staff, rocking very clearly visible tattoos and piercings. Most facilities seem to tolerate them if they are not offensive and if the piercings are subtle (like a single nose ring).