How Much do Travel Nurses Make [Explained]

How Much do Travel Nurse Make

Who is a Travel Nurse

A travel nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who works on a contract basis for a healthcare facility or agency, typically for a period of 13 weeks. Travel nurses typically fill short-term staffing gaps in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities. They are responsible for providing patient care, administering medications, and performing other nursing duties. In addition to a registered nursing license, travel nurses often require additional certifications or qualifications depending on the facility or specialty they are working in. Some travel nurses also work as travel nursing agencies, which match nurses with available positions and handle the logistics of travel and housing.

Travel nursing is a popular and rewarding career choice for nurses who want to explore different parts of the country, work in a variety of healthcare settings, and earn a higher salary than a staff nurse. However, many nurses are curious about how much they can expect to make as a travel nurse, and what factors influence the pay. In this article, we will explore the average hourly pay for travel nurses in the United States, and discuss some of the factors that can affect a travel nurse’s compensation.

How to Become a Travel Nurse: 

1. Meet the qualifications:

To become a travel nurse, you must have a current nursing license, be registered with the state board of nursing, and have at least one year of recent experience in the specialty in which you wish to work. This means that you must have graduated from an accredited nursing program and passed the NCLEX exam to obtain your nursing license. Additionally, you will need to have at least one year of experience working in your chosen nursing specialty to be considered for travel nursing assignments.

2. Get the necessary certifications:

Some travel nursing positions may require certifications in specific areas, such as ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support), BLS (Basic Life Support), and PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support). These certifications are usually offered through professional organizations such as the American Heart Association and demonstrate your knowledge and skills in specific areas of patient care.

3. Find a travel nursing agency:

Research and find a reputable travel nursing agency that fits your needs. There are many travel nursing agencies that specialize in different types of assignments, such as short-term, long-term, and critical care. It’s important to find an agency that aligns with your preferences, needs and goals.

4. Submit your application and documentation:

Submit your application to the agency along with your resume, references, licenses, certifications, and any other required documentation. The agency will use this information to determine if you are a good fit for their program and to match you with appropriate job assignments.

5. Interview with the agency:

You will likely have a phone or in-person interview with the agency to discuss your qualifications, availability, and preferences for assignments. This interview is an opportunity for the agency to learn more about you, as well as for you to ask any questions you may have about the agency and their assignments.

6. Get matched with a job:

Once the agency has reviewed your application and completed the interview, they will match you with a job that fits your skills and preferences. This will be a contract that states the pay, duration and location of the job.

7. Complete Orientation and Training:

Before starting your assignment, you may be required to complete an orientation and training program. This will cover any specific policies, procedures, or equipment used at the facility where you will be working, as well as provide an opportunity to meet other travel nurses and staff at the facility.

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8. Start your assignment:

Once everything is in order, you can start your assignment and begin your new adventure as a travel nurse. During your assignment, you will work alongside the staff at the facility to provide patient care and may have the opportunity to expand your skills and experience in new settings.

9. Maintain your nursing license:

As a travel nurse, you need to maintain your nursing license in every state you work in, so make sure you are aware of the requirements and keep your certifications up to date. This means renewing your license and continuing education on a regular basis to meet the requirements of each state.

How Much do Travel Nurses Make

The average hourly pay for a travel nurse in the United States is $33.69, according to PayScale. However, it is important to note that this is just an average, and the actual pay can vary widely depending on a number of factors. For example, travel nurses who work in high-demand areas, such as large cities or rural areas, can typically command a higher salary than those who work in more populated areas. Additionally, nurses who have more experience or specialized skills can also expect to earn more than those who are just starting their careers.

Another important factor that can affect a travel nurse’s pay is the type of facility or unit where they will be working. For example, nurses who work in a critical care unit or an emergency department may be able to command a higher hourly rate than those who work in a long-term care facility or a pediatrics unit. Additionally, nurses who are willing to work in remote or underserved areas may also be able to negotiate a higher salary.

In addition to the hourly pay, travel nurses also have the opportunity to earn additional compensation through benefits such as housing, health insurance, and travel reimbursement. Some travel nursing agencies offer these benefits as part of the compensation package, while others may require nurses to pay for them out of pocket. Therefore, it is important for nurses to research the different benefits offered by different agencies and to factor them into the overall compensation package when comparing different job offers.

How To Make The Most Money As A Travel Nurse

1. Look for High-Paying Travel Nursing Assignments:

One way to make the most money as a travel nurse is to look for high-paying assignments. Some assignments pay more than others, so it’s important to research and compare pay rates before accepting a position.

You can find high-paying assignments by looking at job postings on travel nursing agency websites, searching online job boards, or asking other travel nurses for recommendations. You can also ask your agency to provide you with a list of their higher paying assignments.

It is also important to note that compensation can vary depending on location, specialty, and facility, so you may want to consider working in higher-paying regions or facilities, such as larger cities, teaching hospitals, or government facilities.

It is also important to specialize in a certain area, such as critical care, emergency, operating room, etc. Specializing in a certain area can increase your pay rate as the demand for specialized skills are high.

2. Negotiate Your Pay Rate:

Yes, another way to make the most money as a travel nurse is to negotiate your pay rate. You may be able to negotiate a higher pay rate than the initial offer, especially if you have a specialized skill set or a lot of experience.

When negotiating your pay rate, it’s important to do your research and have a clear understanding of the current pay rates for similar positions in your area. You can use this information to negotiate a higher rate with your agency or the facility where you will be working.

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You can also negotiate other terms of your contract, such as housing and travel expenses, which can also affect your overall compensation.

When negotiating, be confident, clear and professional. Be ready to present your qualifications and experience, and be willing to walk away from a contract if the pay rate or other terms are not to your satisfaction. Remember that the agency or facility will be making money from your contract, so it is important to be compensated fairly for your time and expertise.

It is also important to have a clear understanding of the agency’s policies and to be aware of the fair labor standard act (FLSA) and the state labor laws.

3. Work for Multiple Agencies:

Yes, working for multiple agencies is another way to make the most money as a travel nurse. By working for multiple agencies, you can take on multiple assignments at once and increase your earning potential.

When working for multiple agencies, it’s important to have a clear understanding of each agency’s policies, pay rates, and other terms of the contract. This will ensure that you are being compensated fairly for your time and expertise.

It’s also important to be organized and manage your schedule effectively, so that you can take on multiple assignments without becoming overwhelmed.

One thing to keep in mind is that some agencies may have non-compete clauses in their contracts that prohibit you from working with other agencies while under contract. It’s important to read the contract carefully and understand the terms before accepting an assignment.

It is also important to be aware of the agency’s policies regarding overtime, paid time off, and other benefits. Some agencies may not provide these benefits, which can affect your overall earning potential.

It is always a good idea to have a clear communication with the agencies you are working for, to make sure that you are aware of their policies and expectations, and to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings.

4. Take on Additional Responsibilities:

As a travel nurse, you may be asked to take on additional responsibilities depending on the facility you are working at and the needs of the patients.  Some travel nursing assignments come with additional responsibilities, such as charge nurse or case manager, which may come with additional pay. These responsibilities may include:
  • Acting as a charge nurse, managing other nurses and overseeing patient care
  • Providing education and training to other staff members
  • Assisting with quality improvement initiatives
  • Participating in interdisciplinary team meetings
  • Acting as a mentor or preceptor for new nurses
  • Providing leadership and direction during emergencies
  • Acting as a liaison between the facility and outside healthcare providers

It is important to discuss any additional responsibilities with your employer or supervisor before taking them on, and to ensure that you have the necessary skills and knowledge to perform them safely and effectively.

5. Consider Working in an Undeserved Area:

Working as a travel nurse in an undeserved area can be a rewarding experience. These areas often have a shortage of healthcare professionals and your skills and expertise can make a significant impact in the lives of the community members. Additionally, working in an underserved area can provide unique and diverse clinical experiences that can broaden your professional development. However, it’s important to consider any specific challenges that the area may present, such as a lack of resources, and how they may affect your work as a nurse.

6. Keep Your Credential up to Date:

As a travel nurse, it is important to keep your credentials up to date. This includes your nursing license, certifications, and continuing education units (CEUs). Travel nursing agencies often require their nurses to have current and active licenses in the state where they will be working. Additionally, many hospitals and healthcare facilities have their own credentialing requirements that must be met before a nurse can begin working there.

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Failing to keep your credentials up to date can lead to delays in being placed in a new assignment or even losing your job. It’s important to stay aware of expiration dates and renewal deadlines, and to begin the renewal process well in advance. Some states require continuing education to renew licenses, which can be done through online or in-person classes.

By keeping your credentials up to date, you will be able to continue working as a travel nurse and take advantage of the many opportunities that this career path can offer.

7. Get Certification 

To become a certified travel nurse, you will typically need to have a current nursing license and have at least one year of experience in a specific area of nursing, such as medical-surgical, pediatrics, or critical care. Some agencies may also require additional certifications, such as Basic Life Support (BLS) or Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).

Once you meet the requirements, you can apply to work with a travel nursing agency. These agencies will help you find temporary assignments at healthcare facilities across the country, and you will typically earn a higher hourly rate than you would as a staff nurse. Additionally, many agencies offer benefits such as housing and travel reimbursement, which can help offset the costs of working away from home.

It’s worth noting that travel nursing can be a great way to increase your earnings, but it’s not for everyone. Travel nursing requires a high degree of flexibility and adaptability, as you will be working in a variety of different healthcare settings and with different teams of nurses and doctors. Additionally, you will need to be comfortable living away from home for extended periods of time.

Top 10 Tips for Traveling Nurse:

  1. Be prepared to adjust to different work environments and cultures.
  2. Keep in touch with friends and family to maintain a support system.
  3. Stay organized and keep track of important documents such as licenses, certifications, and health records.
  4. Be open to new experiences and take advantage of opportunities to explore your new location.
  5. Take care of yourself physically and mentally by staying active, eating well, and getting enough rest.
  6. Be sure to stay compliant with state-specific practice laws and regulations.
  7. Research the cost of living in your new location and plan your finances accordingly.
  8. Learn about the healthcare system in your new location and how it differs from your current location.
  9. Network with other healthcare professionals in the area to learn about job opportunities and make connections.
  10. Have a good attitude, be flexible and be willing to learn new things to make the most of your travel nursing experience.

In summary, travel nursing can be a highly rewarding and financially lucrative career choice for nurses who are willing to explore different parts of the country and work in a variety of healthcare settings. The average hourly pay for a travel nurse in the United States is $33.69, however, the pay can vary widely depending on factors such as location, experience, and type of facility. Additionally, travel nurses should also consider the benefits offered by different agencies, such as housing, health insurance, and travel reimbursement, when comparing different job offers.

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