Travel nursing is one of the few professions that offer the bonus of discovering new places while working. The idea of travel alongside work seems idyllic for many of us, especially when other perks are involved, such as excellent pay, limitless adventures, and remarkable career advancement and personal growth opportunities. However, one may wonder if this is all travel nursing is about, then maybe it would be over in a few years.
What started as a temporary solution to a nationwide staff shortage is now a dedicated department of our healthcare system. This begs the question of whether this profession would outlast the pandemic, given that travel nursing was primarily in-demand because of the staff shortage during covid.
Therefore, It’s inevitable that questions such as; is travel nursing worth it? Is it dead? Is it in flux? Has it all just gone to the wayside? would pop into one’s mind. A short and sweet answer to all these questions would be ‘NO’; travel nursing is not dead. With 50,000 active travel nurses, it is still worth it, and here are some very valid reasons why!
Without delaying it further, let’s get to it.
6 Reasons Why Travel Nursing is Worth It
The agencies handle the nuts and bolts while you remain free.
Travel nursing has become a notable industry, unlike a few years ago when it was bare bones. The agencies weren’t giving you a whole lot of perks. The perk was to go to a cool new place and make a little more than a staff nurse. That has all changed. Now, travel nursing companies and agencies handle everything for you, from stipends and housing to compensation negotiations and pay.
Projections have shown that almost 50% of nurses work for agencies. So agencies have beefed up everything. Since they want nurses to stay with them, they now offer health insurance, paid sick leave, ideal shifts in high-demand locations, reimbursement for licenses, customized benefits packages, and much more. It’s basically like working for a hospital. You’re getting all the perks you usually get working for a hospital and making way more money. This reason alone tells you that travel nursing is far from dead.
Rates are still higher than pre-covid.
One of the biggest things people are concerned about with travel nursing not being worth it anymore is the pay. Back pre-pandemic, many COVID floors were happening, and people were making like 10K weekly. That is no longer the case. We’re nowhere near where we were two years ago, pre-pandemic.
So the nurses who were traveling back in 2018-2019 were making contracts around $1500 a week, maybe $2000 a week if you were out in California, but if you were in the South, you were probably making like $1300 to $1500 a week or if you were in a low cost of living area like the Midwest that is no longer the case. You don’t, generally, see contracts that low. And if they are that low, I bet no nurses are taking them.
The standard rate right now in 2022 is about $3000 a week. That’s kind of the baseline where a lot of them are. Some are lower than that, and others are higher than that, but that’s the average. So the average is double what it was pre-pandemic. Now $3000 a week is like my bottom line, and you can still easily find contracts way over that.
To give you a reference, most contracts are never that low. All the contracts we have witnessed have been $4000 a week or higher. So yes, the money would still be there in 2023. In fact, you’ll make three to four times more money than you would make as a staff nurse. So, travel nursing is still in demand.
Freedom, Freedom, and Freedom
The most prominent perk of travel nursing besides the money, rather more important than the money, is the freedom that comes with it. The ability to call the shots in travel nursing is just unmatched. You have much more independence as a travel nurse than a staff nurse. Nobody is hovering over you.
You take your contract as it is; you don’t work for that hospital or the manager. You are just there to help and do your best as a nurse. You don’t have the recruiter checking in with you every day. Nobody is micromanaging you. There’s nobody over your back like you’re pretty independent. Most of the time, your badge will say independent contractor, which is a great way to think. You are an independent contractor.
You’re only expected to go out there and do your own thing, where people will not hover over you. You don’t even have to attend the staff meetings or participate in any drama. Just go to work, clock in, and clock out. That’s it. Thus, its freedom makes it outlast the pandemic, which will keep the profession up and running in the years to come.
Market Allows Weekly Payments
Travel nursing is a lucrative profession and offers weekly paychecks. Now, what can beat an early paycheck? While some wouldn’t care about what time of the month they’re paid, for others, it’s how they keep things going. Generally, getting paid weekly is good, even if you’re not making more.
That way, you can micro-manage your budget effectively, which is one of the many perks of this profession. It also sets it apart from staff nursing jobs making it the way forward, which again validates the fact that travel nursing is thriving and in demand.
Work and Travel side-by-side.
From the natural beauty of Cedar City to the adventures of New York City, there are no bounds to where travel nursing can take you. The profession is open to all 50 states making it accessible and sought-after. You get to see incredible new cities and areas that you would have never been able to see otherwise. You get to live in all these cool areas for three months and experience different food and cultures.
So even when your assignment is sucky, try to have fun on your days off and do something. Maybe try a new coffee shop, check out a park, and discover what the place offers unique to that city. Make the best of it because not many professions allow you to travel while working, which is another reason why travel nursing will continue to thrive in 2023.
Vacation time off
Another huge perk of travel nursing is that you have unlimited vacation time. Once your contract is over, you can take as much time off as you want. Now, if you have health insurance through your agency, which most travel nurses do, your agency limits you to 23 days contracts. That’s still a little over three weeks and a perfect amount of time off.
Now, if you want to work on only making two contracts a year and take like six months off in between, you’ll have to get private health insurance. But there’s a massive perk with getting health insurance through your agency. It’s a lot cheaper, and 23 days is pretty good, especially if you consider the fact that nobody can deny you that time. Once your contract is over, it’s over. I don’t know what will happen if that doesn’t sell you on travel nursing’s unlimited time off.
What Does the Future Have in Store for Travel Nursing?
Contrary to popular belief, the transient role of a travel nurse is not in any way indicative of an unstable future. We’ve already seen how this type of nursing offers much more than working under a fixed contract. The acute and chronic shortage of nursing staff brought about this new category in the USA’s healthcare system, which has proved to be a blessing in disguise for many.
Per forecasts, job opportunities for registered nurses will snowball by 2026 to 1.1 Million (which we might add is much faster than most jobs) to fill in the shortage and have a backup. The unprecedented demands of travel nurses are currently dealing with the deficit to bridge the gaps. This makes one wonder what the future of travel nursing looks like.
With the changing circumstances, it is almost impossible to predict anything precisely, but certain factors can help give a clear picture of prospects. These factors are the rate of retirement, the legal landscape, and the aging population.
Rate of Retirement
Almost five million nurses are foreseen to retire by the end of this year, so we’ll see a significant shortage of the currently active workforce within a few months. This indicates that the number of people entering the profession will be less than ever. It also depicts the continued increase in demand for registered nurses.
Twenty million people have acquired health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. However, due to the ongoing turbulent political situations, it is unknown what the long-term future of this law is and whether its impact will continue. Moreover, patient-nurse ratio laws can apply throughout the 50 states, requiring a fixed number of nurses for every shift. This change indicates that the increased demands of travel nurses shall continue.
Currently, the USA has the highest number of citizens over the age of 60, which is expected to surge in the near future. The greater life expectancy of its residents increases the need for health care services. Once incurable conditions are now curable, resulting in higher demands of nurses than ever before.
As long as these shortages exist, travel nursing will need to bridge the differences, which means opportunities for higher wages, travel, and role flexibility are wide open. Taking such opportunities in high-need locations can increase the chance of potential remuneration. Additionally, working overtime also encourages travel nurses to make extra money.
While travel nursing is facing challenges in the post-covid world, the fact remains that it is here to stay. As far as the future is concerned, there are no potential hiccups that you need to be afraid of as long as becoming a travel nurse is what your heart truly desires. Where rates are ‘normalizing,’ contracts are getting easier to grab too. Your best bet is to have a significant financial cushion and keep tabs on staff jobs you can fall back on. Much like any other profession, there would be challenges, but travel nursing would inevitably be fulfilling and adventurous.