Becoming a Traveling RN: Is It For You?

Becoming a Traveling RN: Is It For You?

The concept of a ‘traveling nurse’ was developed in response to the nation’s nursing shortage. RNs are assigned in locations that are currently understaffed, usually for four to thirteen weeks at a time. While the term traditionally refers to registered nurses, it can also apply to a variety of other health care professionals. Visiting Nurse Service is the most popular example of the traveling nurse model in action.

A job as a traveling nurse looks exciting. But what does the job really entail? And how do you know if becoming a traveling nurse would be a good fit for you?

The best traveling RNs possess the following qualities and characteristics:


A traveling RN needs to quickly and easily adapt to unexpected situations in a calm and skilled manner. Things can move at a fast pace in this industry, both on and off the job. Off the job, it is not always feasible to plan your next move, such as when you are leaving and how long you will be there. You need to be able to show a certain level of trust that it will all just work out.

On the job, you need to be able to pick up shifts when needed and float to other units. You need to be flexible enough to do what is best for your patients, your team and whatever the situation calls for at the moment. You also need to be willing to learn new ways of doing things, as each assignment will have its own set of routines and unwritten rules.

Thick Skin

You will face a lot of challenges as a traveling RN, and you need to be confident in yourself and in your abilities. You may receive only a couple of hours of orientation at each new assignment, and you need to be certain that you can jump in and do your job immediately.

Traveling RNs may find they are, at times, treated poorly. While it is easier to stay out of office politics as a travel nurse, it can be harder to fit in. You need to possess a high degree of self-confidence to manage any negativity that may come your way. If you are naturally an optimist, you will do well.


To become a traveling RN, you need to have a year and a half of clinical experience. Facilities will not consider you as a traveler if you have not put in time as a staff RN. It is also highly desirable if some of that time was spent in your specialty.

You also need to be insightful, demonstrate high emotional intelligence and show independence. Other skills needed as a traveling nurse include good communication skills and critical thinking skills.

An Adventurous Spirit

It goes without saying that as a traveling RN, you need to enjoy traveling as you will spend a lot of time away from your family and friends. You may miss important events and holidays.

If you love to travel and meet new people, this can make that time away easier to endure. Traveling RN’s love new experiences and seeing things from a different perspective. They constantly challenge themselves to learn and grow, both professionally and personally.

They are also okay with packing up and moving on, as they are ready for their next adventure. As a traveling RN, you will not stay in one place for too long. You may feel like you are just getting settled in when it is time to leave for your next assignment. An adventurous spirit will make that transition easier for you.

What Else?

Travel nurses perform their duties in the same way staff nurses do. They put in their 12-hour shifts and typically work a typical 36-hour workweek. The job requires the same level of education and the same clinical experience.

While staff nurses make on average, around $60,000 a year, travel nurses can make around $100,000 a year, when you factor in their benefits package. A traveling RN may receive license reimbursements, scrub reimbursement, housing stipends and an opportunity to further their education.

If you possess the above qualities and you love to get to explore new places, a career as a traveling RN might be good for you.

M. Grano Jan 30, 2020




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