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Traveling Nurse

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Education and Training: Associate’s and license required
Average Salary: $70,000 per year
Job Outlook: Very Good

A traveling nurse is essentially a credentialed nurse who travels locally or nationally for various types of jobs. Some traveling nurses work in the home healthcare industry. These nurses may provide basic care and maintenance for home bound patients, and they often perform other home related tasks, such as cooking meals or keeping up on laundry. For the most part, home healthcare traveling nurses will work with only a handful of regular clients within a limited geographic area.

Other nurses, however, may travel on contract to hospitals and other large medical facilities around the country. These nurses are often hired for several weeks or a few months at a time on a temporary basis while the hospital undergoes change or fills its own nursing staff with permanent nurses. Nurses who travel may have different specialties, but for the most part they are general hospital nurses who are flexible enough to work in many different areas. These nurses often make a higher-than-average wage and may get other types of compensation for their travel.

Education and Training Requirements

As with any other nursing job, a traveling nurse must have at least an associate’s degree in nursing as well as a current certification. Nurses who have certain specialties or higher levels of nursing education may have more job opportunities or be higher paid for traveling nurse positions in their area of specialty. At times, hospitals who bring on traveling nurses will run short training or orientation programs to familiarize the new nurses with the way things run at that particular hospital, just as they might run orientation programs for new hire-ons.

Getting the Job

Those interested in traveling nurse positions may wish to apply through traveling nurse organizations that contract out nurses to various hospitals. While they may be able to seek out temporary nursing assignments on their own, it will be easier to make arrangements through a company like American Traveler or Aya Healthcare, which both specialize in staffing for medical facilities who are in need of temporary help.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

The job prospects for nurses in general are expected to be very good over the next few years, though some positions in certain areas of the country may be competitive. The advantage for traveling nurses is that they are willing and able to go wherever is necessary to find the jobs that are available. These nurses, in particular, are likely to find abundant jobs as long as they aren’t limited in where or how long they are willing to travel.

Most traveling nurses eventually settle down into a full-time nursing position in an area they like, although many continue to travel for as long as it suits them. Those with associate’s degrees in nursing may go on to get higher degrees to become nurse practitioners, or they may simply bring their wealth of experience to a higher level nursing position at a local hospital or healthcare facility.

Working Conditions and Environment

Obviously the working conditions for these contracted positions may vary quite a bit, depending on where and when the nurse takes a job. Hours are likely to be odd, but most nurses don’t work more than a forty-hour workweek. Some nurses are paid on an hourly or per diem basis when traveling.

Nursing can be a high-stress position, particularly for traveling nurses who are constantly getting used to different standards and practices at various healthcare facilities. Also, many of these nurses are likely to be brought in to staff intensive positions like emergency care, so that may make this job an especially stressful one.

Salary and Benefits

The average salary for a nurse is about $62,400, but a traveling nurse is likely to get a premium on top of this, so their earnings are usually higher. These nurses can make anywhere from $50,000 to $90,000 per year, depending on how often they transfer and what type of healthcare facility they work for. These jobs may or may not come with benefits, as they are temporary positions, and it really just depends on the agency through which the nurse is finding new opportunities for travel.

Where to Go for More Information
To find out more about traveling nurse requirements and job opportunities, check out the following resources:

American Association of Colleges of Nursing
1 Dupont Cir., NW, Ste. 530
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 463-6930
http://www.aacn.nche.edu

National Council of State Boards of Nursing
111 E Wacker Dr., Ste. 2900
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 525-3600
http://www.ncsbn.org

National League for Nursing
61 Broadway, 33rd Fl.
New York, NY 10006
(212) 363-5555
http://www.nln.org

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