Travel nursing can be incredibly rewarding. Travel nurses can take on new adventures, see new cities, increase their pay, and connect with lots of new people. Many travel nurses feel empowered that they are taking charge of their hours, their lifestyles, and their career paths, and, today, they make up a community of about 1.7M traveling nurses employed in the U.S.

“Travel nursing has been fantastic. It has allowed me to tap into this life of adventure that I would have never imagined. The experiences that I’ve had with it are indescribable.” 

-Anna Swift, RN, skier, kayaker, and adventurer in Seattle, WA

However, some nurses are held back from being a travel nurse by common myths that are out there about the job itself. Before we dive into those myths, let’s take a look at some stats:

State of the Industry

After the COVID-19 crisis brought more travel nurses to hospitals due to an increase in hospitalizations, rising need, and staffing shortages, the demand has dropped slightly, but it still remains higher than before the pandemic hit, according to The Economist.

Interest in travel nursing is on the rise, according to the Advisory Board, with Indeed saying that job searches for travel nursing are now 5x higher than they were before the pandemic and ZipRecruiter reporting a 15% increase in monthly travel nurse job postings in January 2022.

And, hospital spending on travel nurses has increased dramatically since 2019, skyrocketing from about 5% of their nurse labor expenses to almost 40% in 2022.

Travel nursing assignments are a huge opportunity for nurses who are willing to be flexible on their location. These assignments provide the opportunity to make more money and have a more flexible lifestyle – adding a work-life balance into a nursing career that might not have been an option before. 

Let’s discuss some common myths about travel nursing as well as the facts nurses need to understand the benefits that travel nursing has to offer the nursing community. 

Myth #1: I have to move every couple of weeks. 

A typical assignment at any given hospital or facility is about 13 weeks. However, most assignments have the option for nurses to extend their time there. In fact, if a nurse falls in love with her location or assignment, she can stay for up to a year or even request a full-time position if they are available. On the other hand, if she is not a huge fan of her location or assignment, she has the ability to leave that assignment at the end of 13 weeks and go somewhere new. One way of looking at it is that each assignment gives you the chance to try out a new facility or hospital without having to commit either way. 

Myth #2: It’s difficult to get assignments.

Staffing shortages for nurses are a reality. Nurses know full well about the burnout and low pay that existed before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have left full-time nursing because of these experiences, leaving hospitals to fill those open spots. And, since hospitals don’t provide travel nurses with health insurance coverage and travel nurses don’t take nearly as much time to train and onboard as it does to bring on a new, full-time employee, they are in high demand for healthcare facilities across the country. 

And, there are opportunities in large cities with big hospitals as well as small towns with smaller facilities. As long as travel nurses are flexible with their list of needs and wants and allow some wiggle room, they can work wherever they want – sometimes in locations they couldn’t afford to live in otherwise. For example, a nurse may want to work at a prestigious teaching hospital in San Diego, so he’ll have to work nights. Or, he might have to wait a month in between assignments to get the assignment he’s dying to get in New York City.  

Myth #3: Because I am a travel nurse, I will get the worst scheduling and no vacation/PTO.

Flexibility is one of the key perks of becoming a travel nurse. Generally, travel nurses make their own schedules. They can negotiate time off and days they want to work. A travel nurse can start her assignment in the fall so she’s free when the holiday season begins. Or, when one assignment ends, she can take a month off in between assignments to travel to Europe or spend time with family. Every hospital is different, but some facilities allow travel nurses to request all of their time off upfront before their assignment even begins. 

Plus, nurses help one another out. If someone’s shift is occurring when she has to be out of town, or on a day when she can’t work, she can usually find someone to switch shifts.

Myth #4: The pay isn’t really that much higher.

Traveling nurses are paid more than full-time nurses. The average travel nurse salary in 2023 is $51 per hour, which is higher than the average hourly rate of RNs, which is ~$38 per hour. (Source: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

When they start any assignment, travel nurses are most likely earning more than the permanent staff at that location. They will encounter varying pay rates in each city and what might seem to be a low hourly rate, however, the stipend given to travel nurses is how travel nurses make their money. The tax-free stipend that ranges from about $1-2K/week and can be used for housing, travel, meals, uniforms, and more. It increases their yearly income since that is normally what most nurses are spending their paychecks on.

Myth #5: It’s hard to make friends and permanent staff will not be welcoming to me at new assignments.  

Travel nurses are a community. 

“Whenever new travel nurses start at a facility, they’re never going to be the only travelers there,” says Anna Swift, RN, a travel nurse located in Seattle, WA. “All travel nurses meet each other at orientation and start to build friendships with one another from day one. Plus, they work so closely with the full-time staff that, as the staff brings the travelers under their wings, they become close friends with them too.” 

Additionally, permanent staff members are generally grateful that travel nurses are there. More often than not, the reason travel nurses have been called in is to help permanent staff due to an increase in hospitalizations, staff shortages, or some increased burden on the current staff. They are happy for the extra helping hands and minds and ready to work together to keep the hospitals running smoothly and make sure patients are well taken care of. 

How Medely can help you find a travel nursing assignment

Medely has helped thousands of nurses find travel assignments that fit their lifestyle, fulfill their needs, and earn them more money. If you’re interested in making a change, you can find travel nursing assignments on our site.