How often have you heard someone say, “I just want to quit my job and travel.” How many times have you said it yourself? The expansive horizons of the open road promise adventure and excitement, wherever you think about going. And it can seem especially enticing if you find yourself sitting behind the same desk day in and day out. 

Lucky for travel nurses, they don’t have to choose! Reliable income, a fulfilling career, and experiences in new places are what makes this vocation so appealing to so many. But how does travel nursing work? Nurses can’t just go where the wind takes them and waltz in to the nearest hospital. Travel nurses act as replacements filling gaps in short-staffed hospitals and go where they are needed most. 

So let’s take a look at how travel nursing works for both nurses and healthcare facilities.

What is Travel Nursing?

Florence Nightingale, founder of the modern nursing vocation, traveled throughout her career, providing care to patients across England during the 19th century. In the early days of nursing, medical professionals were far more mobile, often visiting the sick in their own homes. 

Travel nursing as it is known today didn’t exist until the 1980s, when New Orleans, Louisiana began bringing in extra nursing staff for the weeks surrounding the city’s famous Mardi Gras festivities in order to compensate for the inevitably higher patient loads. Since then, travel nursing as a career concept has taken off, becoming a viable and popular vocation. 

Staffing shortages are the reason most facilities use travel nursing today. Whether long-term or seasonal, finding enough qualified medical professionals locally to provide proper patient care can be difficult. Whether it’s a holiday like Mardi Gras or a public health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic, there is always a need for skilled, professional, nomadic nurses. 

How does Travel Nursing Work for Nurses and Allied Pros?

Getting Started

First things first: travelling healthcare professionals must be qualified to work. Medely helps allied pros of all types get ideal travel and per-diem positions, including RNs, rad techs, and many others. Before you apply for your next gig, you need to make sure your credentials are up-to-date. 

After you’ve earned your certification, most agencies ask that you have 1 year of experience under your scrubs before you start traveling. And whatever your specialization, know that you’ll need to keep up with the medical times by taking continuing education courses. You should maintain your BLS and ACLS certs as well. 

For nurses: keep in mind that your license may be state-specific. If you wish to travel outside of the Compact Nursing States, you may have to re-apply for an individual license in that state in order to find work.

Finding Work

Travel nurses typically source employment through a dedicated staffing agency, such as Medely. You must first fill out an application to the staffing agency, and include a skills checklist as well as your nursing license, certifications (such as BLS and ACLS) and professional references. 

The agency will then process your paperwork, and if you are adequately qualified you will be accepted. Agencies either employ a job-board format for finding work, or they assign you to an internal recruiter, who will find assignments for you based on preferences and parameters which you set: location, specialty, size of facility, length of assignment, etc. Medely’s technology allows pros to find their ideal assignment and apply with the click of a button. And your work history and credentials are already in the system, making booking your next gig even easier. 

Once you are connected with a potential assignment, you must interview with the hospital itself, typically over phone or video. If the hospital wants to hire you, they will submit an offer for your approval. Then you can get to work!

Practical Considerations

Many agencies are able to supply their travel nurses with housing, health insurance, and other benefits such as travel expense reimbursement. If your agency does not provide insurance, it may be necessary to purchase your own. 

Housing for travel nurses is typically furnished and comes with some basic amenities, although the degree to which may vary between agencies, external housing sources, and even locations. 

Do you have kids coming with you? A dog that just loves car rides? A plant or two? Before you hit the road, make sure your housing is big enough for everyone in your party.  Size, number of rooms, and pet-friendliness will be listed on the housing description. Check out our article, ‘Housing for Travel Nurses,’ for tips on finding your next home away from home. 

How does Travel Nursing Work for Employers?

Getting Started

The first step is registering your organization with a dedicated travel nursing agency. Many staffing companies allow healthcare facilities to register and post positions for free through their website. You can set parameters via your profile to find ideal nurses to meet your needs: specialization, length of experience, degree type, license state, etc. 

Medely makes finding your next allied pros easy as can be, while saving your facility 40% of costs associated with a traditional agency hire. Post the moment you need a pro, and get vetted nurses, rad techs, and other healthcare professionals with the click of a button. Post as much as you need, and only pay when the job is completed. 

Hiring Qualified Nurses

Everyone benefits – facility, patients, and nurses alike – when healthcare organizations hire vetted, credentialed professionals. Medely employs rigorous credentialing practices so you can be sure you’re hiring top-quality nurses, every time. Access pro’s credentials at any time through the app, and easily receive primary-source verification of all licenses and certifications. Pros working through Medely additionally undergo a thorough background check, as well as vetting by registered nurses. 

Once you’ve interviewed possible candidates and found the right fit, you can extend an offer to the professional you want. If they accept, you’ve filled one more gap! 

Obligations and Responsibilities

Employers are financially responsible for a travelling pro’s wages, as well as housing and travel expenses. It may seem like a lot, but ultimately hiring travel nurses will save healthcare facilities money: by eliminating time spent looking for and credentialing staff, overtime pay for full-time employees, and more. 

During the interview, a nurse may negotiate pay rates, specific days off, or other conditions of their employment. Any agreements you make then will be amended on the nurse’s contract, and both parties will be expected to honor those conditions. 

Last Thoughts: How does Travel Nursing Work?

Travel nurses and allied pros help fill the urgent gaps in healthcare. Whether it’s a shortage, global crisis, holiday rush, benefits of hiring travel pros are felt by professionals and facilities alike. Nurses and other allied specialists receive ample pay, flexible hours, and adventure. Healthcare organizations get qualified and enthusiastic professionals the moment they need them. 

Travel nursing is an exciting career with mutual benefits for both pro and employer: and Medely helps connect them. Medely’s healthcare staffing solution makes it easy for allied professionals and facilities alike to get their needs met. Our platform empowers travellers to find their ideal assignment; and organizations to staff vetted professionals when they need them. See how Medely can work for you today at

Does your facility need to break up with its current nursing recruiter? If you need further convincing, check out our article, “Why You Should Avoid Nursing Recruiters (And What you Should Use Instead.)