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Travel nursing is a nursing assignment concept that developed in response to the nursing shortage. This industry supplies nurses who travel to work in temporary nursing positions, mostly in hospitals. While travel nursing traditionally refers specifically to the nursing profession, it can also be used as a blanket term to refer to a variety of travel healthcare positions, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology and even doctors and dentists.
Reasons cited for pursuing travel nursing opportunities include higher pay, professional growth and development, and personal adventure. Travelers typically select from one or more recruitment agencies to act as intermediaries between the traveler and hospitals or other potential employers, but may also work as an Independent Contractor (IC). Agencies may submit applications for numerous positions concurrently on behalf of a traveler.
The usual requirements for becoming a travel nurse are a minimum of 1.5 years of clinical experience with 1 year being preferred in one's specialty and licensure in the state of employment, often granted through reciprocity with the home state's board of nursing. Some travel agencies will reimburse travelers for the cost of the license or other required certifications. A travel nurse may receive a minimal orientation to the new hospital (and rarely no orientation at all). Travel nurses are expected to be very experienced and knowledgeable in the given specialty.
If the nurse's home state has joined the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), the nurse can work in any other compact state as long as the home state license is in good standing. This facilitates the license reciprocity process and potentially speeds up the time to employment. There are currently 23 states participating in NLC; the state of Missouri is pending implementation.
Travel nursing assignment
Travelers typically work under a short-term contract. In the United States, these contracts typically range from 4 to 13 weeks, although 26-week assignments are also possible, and some travel nurses will accept back-to-back assignments from the same facility. Contracts outside of the U.S. can last 1–2 years. Frequently, a permanent position is offered by the hospital at the end of the contract.
Some have expressed concern that nursing positions may be taken by travel nurses, thus lowering job openings for long-term nurses.
Travel nurses are paid by the travel nursing agency that placed them, which in turn is paid by the hospital. The amount of money a hospital pays to the agency is referred to as the bill rate. The agency calculates and subtracts costs, overhead and profit margin from the bill rate and pays the difference to the traveler. To compensate travelers, higher rates than the rates paid to permanent staff is the norm. Pay can range from $30–50/hour or more, depending on various factors. Variables that affect pay include the location of the assignment (vacation destinations tend to be more competitive and therefore able to find willing applicants for less), demand for the position, local cost of living and the type of nursing specialty being sought.
Since all costs and compensation must come out of the bill rate, a traveler working for an agency offering a high level of "extras" will probably be paid lower wages than one working for an agency that offers few or no non-wage perks.
If travel agencies provide housing, it usually consists of a one-bedroom furnished apartment. Utilities (electric, water, trash) may be included. Telephone, cable television and sometimes Internet service can be included. Housing may include a washer and dryer, dishwasher, microwave and basic housewares such as pots, dishes, utensils and linens. Some travel companies allow the travel nurse to participate in the housing search and selection process.
Nearly all agencies will offer a housing stipend if the nurse chooses to secure housing independent of the agency. Stipend amounts can be substantial (even higher than actual wages) and these may be provided tax-free if the traveler has a qualifying tax home. Some companies require the traveler to take the housing stipend. The housing stipend or the value of the provided housing is taxed as part of the pay if the traveler does not have a qualifying tax home.
A travel allowance is generally paid by the travel agency. Some agencies offer healthcare insurance (or reimbursement for insurance held elsewhere), the ability to contribute to 401(k)accounts (sometimes with matching funds), licensure reimbursment, referral bonuses and loyalty reward programs. Some companies are even starting to add vacation and sick days, stock investment options and continuing education reimbursements.
There are an estimated 25,500 RNs working travel nursing jobs in the U.S.
Presently there are over 340 U.S. travel nurse companies (110 are Joint Commission Certified). Worldwide, there are more than 480 companies.
One survey found that the majority of travel nurses are age 40-50 (34.7%). 26.9% are in the 30-40 age range, and 21.3% are over the age of 50. Only 17.1% fall within the 25-30 age range.
Most travel nursing assignments last between 8 and 26 weeks with the majority of positions being offered for 13 week terms.
- Travel Nurse Insights: Barry W. Padgett 1st Edition 2009 p.1
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