Housing is one of the most significant concerns for a travel nurse. There are a few options available, and it depends on the travel nurse agency/company regarding how accommodations are set up. Some companies provide housing (i.e., apartment, duplex, etc.). Some companies offer a housing stipend, or a fixed amount of money each month to apply towards housing.
First, nurses need to be aware of where their “tax home” is, as stipends are tax-free if working away from the tax home. Having a tax home is necessary to receive tax-free housing. A “tax home” is defined as the general vicinity of an individual’s primary place of work (regardless of where the primary residence is). Generally, the IRS considers someone traveling away from home (i.e., their “tax home”) if it exceeds one workday.
Different travel nurse agencies offer different stipends – it’s important to research what the living expenses are in a specific area to ensure housing is adequately covered. The General Services Administration (GSA) lists the maximum daily amount for lodging, meals, and incidentals with regards to travel expenses. The key word is MAXIMUM. It’s not required that a company pay employees the listed stipend. In fact, some travel nurse agencies offer higher hourly wages instead of housing stipends. Additionally, the GSA rates are based on short-term travel – usually less than a month. Travel nurse contracts can last three months or more.
Travel nurses have a broad range of responsibilities and duties, and specific tasks depend on the specialty in which the nurse is trained. General nursing responsibilities and duties include:
- Using the nursing process of assessing, diagnosing, planning, implementing, and evaluating to care for patients in a variety of healthcare settings
- Administering medications, fluids, assisting with activities of daily living and patient mobility
- Reviewing and interpreting diagnostic tests such as lab work and imaging
- Provide monitoring and oversight in all aspects of patient care
- Collaborating with physicians in developing a plan of care
- Assessing the psychosocial needs of patients and families
- Recognizing and intervening in clinically unstable patients
- Providing resources for patients and refer as necessary
- Educating patients and families in all areas of healthcare maintenance and prevention
- Working in assignments anywhere from eight to thirteen weeks (on average) in the U.S., one to two years if outside the U.S.
- Learning various patient care systems/documentation
- Providing immediate medical care and aid for large populations during times of war or disaster
Domestic and international travel nurses also have different characteristics specific to their roles.
Domestic Travel Nurses
- Work within the U.S.
- Typically work assignments that range from eight to thirteen weeks
- Can respond to areas of the U.S that experience natural disaster or disease outbreak
International Travel Nurses
International travel nurses should have excellent communication skills, should be open to new experiences and challenges, and should have a strong desire to learn. These nurses are responsible for performing a wide array of duties. As stated previously, the tasks an international nurse will have to perform depend entirely upon their medical specialty. Some of the more general or everyday tasks that international travel nurses will perform include administering medication, wound care and providing emergency medical services and care. Since there are often nursing shortages in many of the regions that international nurses travel to, another general role of these nurses is to educate family members and caretakers about the appropriate patient and medical care. In summary, international travel nurses:
- Work outside the U.S.
- Typically work assignments that range from one to two years
- Respond to areas that experience natural disasters or disease outbreaks, such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa
- Provide medical care and aid to underserved, rural, and remote populations
- Usually, must wait for document processing before traveling
Travel Nurse Working Conditions
As with any career, there are positive and negative aspects to working as a travel nurse. Nurses can suffer from stress as they may carry a heavy patient load and have many critical decisions to make. Additionally, travel nurses may suffer from feelings of isolation since they tend to relocate often. Having a strong sense of independence and a support system available, even remotely, can help.
Additionally, nurses may work in high-risk areas that may expose them to workplace violence, blood-borne pathogens, and chemicals. Travel nurses must always familiarize themselves and adhere to safety standards set by the organization.
International travel nurses can face different challenges. Travel nurses must be familiar with the country’s laws, geographic-specific diseases, and always keep their overall safety as a priority.
Despite these considerations, travel nursing can be immensely rewarding. Many organizations and staff nurses appreciate the help travel nurses offer. Travel nurses help relieve staff nurses from burnout, as can happen when working short-staffed.
International travel nurses are also highly appreciated. They provide medical care and assistance to many patients in remote settings who otherwise would have no access to healthcare. They help with relief efforts in war zones or after disaster events, which can be both rewarding and enriching.
Travel Nurse Salary and Employment
According to the American Nurses Association, as of 2015 fourteen states had mandatory nurse-patient ratios. Nurses are pushing for federal legislation supporting safe staffing and because of this, and if more states pass safe-staffing laws, nurses will be in even more demand. Travel nurses will help mend the current and projected nursing shortage. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 16% overall growth for nurses until 2024, which is much faster-than-average growth for all occupations.
Travel nursing has many incentives for nurses regarding pay and benefits including:
- Travel reimbursement
- Free housing
- Medical, dental, and vision coverage
- Retirement plans
- Assistance in obtaining passports/work visas
- Choice of location
- Selection of hours/shifts worked
- Competitive pay
- Higher-than-average pay for RNs
According to Indeed, the average yearly salary for a travel nurse is $75,109. However, since pay is competitive in travel nursing, some companies are offering salaries of around $100,00 annually for domestic travel nurses.
International travel nurses tend to have lower salaries than domestic, except for assignments in some middle eastern countries. This is because, for the most part, nurses tend to make less outside of the U.S.
Salary is dependent on the agency, and nurses should research each company to find the right salary and benefits that best fit their needs.