Travel nurses are believed to have first made their appearance in the late 1970s in New Orleans, LA. With a census spike resulting from the city’s Mardi Gras festivities, travel nurses were hired to help combat the nursing shortage.
That being said, a lot has changed in the nursing and healthcare industries over the past decade, and with it, so has the reality of working as a travel nurse. Qualified nurses have never been in higher demand. Workforce shortages and geographic mismatches of nurse supply and demand have altered the mindset of how today’s healthcare administrators think about their staffing plans.
As a result, the world of travel nursing has also changed. With that in mind, we thought it would be helpful to put to rest some of those lingering myths around travel nursing.
Myth #1: Travel nursing agencies companies do not offer good benefits.
False. Top travel nursing agencies should offer a variety of benefits catered to your specific needs. These plans should be supplied by insurance companies with recognizable names, as well as in-network coverage throughout the United States. Since you are traveling, coverage that is regional or only good in a specific state is not valuable if future assignments are outside of the coverage area.
GHR Travel Nursing offers three different Blue Cross Blue Shield healthcare plans and has great vision and dental insurance options from Guardian. Enrollment for travel nurses who elect these benefits begins the first of the month, following the assignment start date.
Myth #2: Travel nursing does not provide career stability.
False. There are just over 4 million nurses employed in the US, and the need for nurses is much higher than that. There is always work available for skilled, experienced nurses who have the flexibility to travel. In many situations, you can extend for two, three or even four 13-week assignments at the same hospital.
Myth #3: Travel nursing is a great opportunity for recent graduates to gain experience and visit new cities.
Unfortunately, this is false. Travel nursing is not completely out of reach for new nurses, but the pursuit does require a minimum of 12 months of full-time employment working in a specific skill set. Once you have that experience under your belt, the opportunities for you to work as a travel nurse are plentiful.
Myth #4: Travel nurses are compensated higher than most staff nurses.
True. Travel nurses are expected to fill scheduling gaps to help prevent hospitals from being short-staffed. A travel nurse must have the skills and experience necessary to begin working immediately and responsibly, with minimal orientation and acclimation to the unit. In order to maintain quality care for their patients, hospitals are very willing to pay travel nurse rates for a short period of time, which translates to greater compensation for qualified nurses who have the flexibility to work travel assignments.
Myth #5: The company that quotes you the highest gross pay is the employer you should travel with.
False. As a travel nurse, you should always validate that you’re working with a company who has industry experience, backed with payroll and benefits practices that are compliant with all federal, state and local employment laws and regulations. Inexperienced companies could cause you financial woes down the road, especially if their tax withholding or reimbursement practices result in an unfavorable IRS audit.
Also, make sure your recruiter is not estimating your weekly pay by including overtime shifts. If you have overtime quoted in your weekly pay estimate, ask for an overtime guarantee in writing. A reputable recruiter working for an honest company should accommodate the request.
Myth #6: Travel nurses are treated poorly by staff nurses.
False. Travel nurses work alongside staff nurses as a means to maintain the quality of patient care. Staff nurses are eager and happy to have the additional support. The possibility that two people may not always agree exists in most employment situations, and the chances of incidents happening are not greater for travel nurses. There are many hospitals that are very accustomed to having travelers. A good recruiter knows who these are and can share that information with you. This can be especially helpful for first-time travelers.
Myth #7 – The travel nurse working next to me, for the same company, on my same unit is making more money per week than me.
This may be true. One of the advantages of travel nursing is the flexibility companies have to pay out your compensation for the assignment in different ways, depending on your individual situation. Some nurses may need to be reimbursed for the miles they are driving from home to the assignment. Others may require payment for expenses associated with obtaining a state license. These are things that may be paid out at the beginning of the assignment, rather than weekly over the length of the contract.
Nurses who do not require up-front reimbursements or allocations may appear to be receiving more money weekly over the length of the assignment, but the truth about this myth is that when added up in the end, both packages are providing the same total compensation.
There has never been a better time to consider working as a travel nurse. By understanding what to expect, and building a relationship with two or three reputable nurse staffing agencies, you not only can make great money and advance your career, but enjoy doing it.