There are many wonderful things that a career in travel nursing offers. However, there is a downside to travel nursing and it is important that nurses know the ups and downs before making the decision to become a travel nurse. Before discussing the pros and cons of travel nursing, let’s take a look at its history.
Travel nursing as an official job title is fairly recent, but the history of travel nursing goes back much farther. Florence Nightingale already has a firm place in the history of nursing and she also plays into the history of travel nursing. Many consider Nightingale to be the first travel nurse. Florence traveled around to a number of places to treat ill patients. When the Crimeon War broke out between Russian and Turkey in 1853, Nightingale traveled around Turkey to different hospitals to treat the wounded soldiers.
The Cadet Nurse Corps program began in 1943 as a way to train nurses for positions in the military hospitals. Over the course of three years, more than 100,000 nurses trained, similar to that of a modern day travel nurse. The specialized training these nurses received gave the industry a needed boost of credibility. A few decades later, during the late 1970’s, travel nursing began as a way to accommodate the flux of elderly visitors to Florida each winter. Once the seeds of travel nursing had been planted in the 1970’s, the industry really came together as a viable career option during the 1980’s. In fact, the eighties brought a nursing shortage to the United States. Because of the shortage many hospitals started using travel nurses to make up for the lack of staffing. Skilled nurses across the country travelled to the states where the most help was needed.
Now, modern day travel nursing has expanded beyond travelling around the United States. Many travel nurses visit countries around the world, such as Ireland, England and Australia to help with staffing shortages. Onward Health Care notes that the United States alone may need more than one million new and replacement nurses by 2016. Travel nursing may prove to be a lucrative career for new nurses looking for work.
The decision to become a travel nurse should be made with care and consideration. There are many positive aspects to a career in travel nursing. An obvious plus is the opportunity it gives nurses to see the country and migrate to their climate of choice. The nursing profession becomes a portable one. For nurses considering relocating, this gives them the chance to “try it before you buy it”. In fact, money is a huge incentive for many travel nurses. Most enjoy a pay increase along with contract completion bonuses, tax breaks, and loyalty and referral bonuses. Another positive side effect of travel nursing is an enhancement to their resume. A travel nursing career allows nurses to become part of a team and work alongside some of the greatest healthcare minds in the world. However, because a typical travel assignment is for 13 weeks, it is likely that a nurse will not get sucked into the hospital politics that creep into many nursing units. All experienced nurses understand the frustrations that come from the negative dynamics that can take place between nurses, managers, administrators and physicians. Travel nurses have no obligation to stick around and deal with these dynamics.
A smart nurse needs to also consider the cons that go along with a career in travel nursing. Travel nursing careers tend to be more bedside or hands on clinical nursing. It is difficult to move up the corporate ladder as a travel nurse. If nursing management is a goal for you, then that is difficult to find as a travel nurse. In addition to a lack of advancement, travel nurses tend to work in their current area of specialty only. Nurses who wish to cross train will be disappointed. Most hospitals require a minimum of two to three years experience in a clinical specialty. Along with that comes a lack of opportunity for new graduates to enter the field of travel nursing. They lack the experience that the hospitals are looking for. Finally, travel nurses often become lonely or homesick. To combat that isolating feeling, many travel nurses bring their family or pet along with them to keep them company.
The decision to enter the exciting and growing field of travel nursing should be made carefully and thoughtfully. As noted, there are many wonderful aspects to working in this career as well as some drawbacks. Think about it and see if this is for you!