What Does A Travel Nurse Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Alyssa OmandacCareer, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Travel Nurses

A Travel Nurse is a Registered Nurse (RN) who works on a contract basis to fulfill the staffing needs of hospitals and other healthcare facilities. They typically work short-term assignments for healthcare agencies.

Associate's degree
Interest Match

A Travel Nurse is a Registered Nurse (RN) who works on a contract basis to fulfill the staffing needs of hospitals and other healthcare facilities. They are assigned to places where their skills are in demand and they administer patient care. It is an interesting career that many aspiring Nurses may overlook.

Working as a Travel Nurse gives you the chance to work with a diverse range of healthcare professionals and patients. You may develop your skills and techniques by seeing how healthcare workers perform their duties in other states or countries. This unique perspective helps build more clinical experience that may advance your career in the Nursing field.

What they do

A Travel Nurse is a Registered Nurse (RN) who works on a contract basis to fulfill the staffing needs of hospitals and other healthcare facilities. They typically work short-term assignments for healthcare agencies.

Travel to far corners of the globe or the US

Depending on the healthcare staffing agency, Travel Nurses have the chance to work in a wide range of regions. They may get assigned to provide nursing services in other cities, other states, or even other countries. You typically get to choose the job locations and facilities, allowing you to remain in your local region or travel.

During your travels, the staffing agency covers your living costs. Your hotel or apartment is covered. You may also receive a food allowance along with your standard pay.

Provide nursing services to patients

Travel Nurses perform many of the same job duties assigned to standard Registered Nurses (RNs). You will administer medication, perform physical examinations, check patients’ blood pressure, and record information on patients’ medical records.

Travel Nurses may also need to plan and implement treatment plans and evaluate the progress of patients’ recovery. Travel Nurses are also expected to explain treatments and medical issues to patients to ensure that they understand the plan of care.

Collaborate with Physicians and Nurses

Travel Nurses frequently work with other healthcare professionals to treat patients. You may need to review notes with physicians and coordinate care with other hospital staff. Travel Nurses also sometimes need to refer patients to specialists and collaborate on the plan of care.

Due to the need for collaboration, this job requires strong communication skills. Communication errors increase the risk of misdiagnosis, dosage, and other medical mistakes.

Spend 8 to 13 weeks at remote assignments

Travel Nurses may work domestically or internationally. Domestic assignments typically last for 13 weeks. However, short-term assignments may only last for eight weeks.

International Travel Nurses typically complete longer assignments as there are more steps involved in transferring to another country. International assignments may last one to two years.

Listen to patients and evaluate their emotional and physical needs

Travel Nurses and other Registered Nurses (RNs) are often the first healthcare professionals to address the needs of patients. They are responsible for listening to patients describe their symptoms and performing the initial physical exam.

Travel Nurses must analyze the needs of their patients, which may involve taking detailed notes or providing counseling or healthcare education.

Stay up to date with the latest healthcare advances and treatment plans

Travel Nurses are required to stay up to date with any new developments in the healthcare industry. They may even need to continue their education or complete training courses to use the latest technologies.

The healthcare industry evolves quickly. Staying aware of the latest breakthroughs allows Travel Nurses to continue delivering quality patient care. You may even choose to continue your education to seek advancement. As an RN, Travel Nurses can obtain a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to pursue careers as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs).

What is the job like

Grover Nicodemus Street, RN
Nursing agency

Hospitals hire travel nurses to help when they are short staffed due to vacations, illness, or in times of admission surges like in the COVID pandemic.

My typical shift is 12 hours and in usual circumstances, I work 3-4 days per week. Usually, a nurse will be stationed in only one area of a hospital like the medical unit, but I have been trained in almost every area because I enjoy the variety. This flexibility helps the work stay interesting day after day and makes me valuable to the hospital.

I start the day by getting my assignment as to which patients I will be caring for. After the previous nurse gives me details about the medical issues and current condition of the patient, I start by doing a head-to-toe exam, giving medications, and helping with meals. Some patients need to be repositioned frequently to prevent skin breakdown. Every patient is unique and is suffering in their own way. My job as a nurse is to not only care for their physical needs but also be that emotional support in their trying times.

CODE BLUE scenarios happen daily in hospitals and nurses are trained to respond quickly to try to save a life. Nurses put in IV lines, give medications, do chest compressions, and communicate with the families. Trauma situations sometimes gets bloody, but it is important to maintain the focus that this is a human being in front of me needing help in this critical moment.

Pros and Cons

Being a nurse is very rewarding, but it is hard work. As a travel nurse, I leave home for weeks or months at a time to fulfill my assignment. To compensate for being away from family, travel nurses usually see a higher pay rate and get and extra stipends for travel and lodging.

I like the freedom of being able to choose where I will go next. So far, I have worked in about 23 different states and over 100 hospitals across the country. If I enjoy my assignment, I always have the choice to return. I also like the ability to work in the ED, ICU, Trauma, medical or surgical ward, pre or post op areas. I never get bored.

There will always be a need for medical care, so the nursing profession is a great choice for a secure and fulfilling career.


You get to travel to new locations and experience new cultures

If you have always wanted to travel, a career as a Travel Nurse may be right for you. Travel Nurses get to visit a variety of locations during their careers. You may even get to travel to exotic overseas destinations.

You help increase access to care and prevent Nurse burnout

Nurses that work at understaffed hospitals are more likely to suffer from burnout, which can impact the quality of patient care that they deliver. Staffing shortages may also limit access to care for some patients. As a Travel Nurse, you get to help alleviate these concerns. Your assignments help cover staffing shortages due to seasonal fluctuations or hospital expansions.

You will expand your skill set and improve your nursing resume

Working as a Travel Nurse allows you to build your resume and expand your skills. You get to work at top-rated hospitals around the country or even in other countries. The diversity of your assignments provides more insight into different medical techniques.

Travel Nurses enjoy greater flexibility compared to standard Nurses

Travel Nurses have the flexibility to choose their assignments. This gives you more control over where you work and how long you work.


You may spend a lot of time traveling

You may need to travel great distances for each assignment. With some assignments only lasting a few weeks, the constant travel may eventually become tiring.

You may deal with death and disease regularly

As with standard Nurses, Travel Nurses frequently interact with individuals suffering from life-threatening diseases. Not all patients survive, which can have an emotional impact on Nurses.

Where they work

Healthcare Staffing Agencies
Health Clinics
Hospice Homes

Travel Nurses often work for healthcare staffing agencies. These agencies provide staff for other healthcare facilities to deal with worker shortages. For example, a nearby hospital may need additional staff to deal with an increase in patients.

Travel Nurses may also work for individual hospitals or healthcare facilities that operate multiple locations. For example, a Travel Nurse may move between locations operated by the same healthcare company to address staffing shortages.

How to become one

Step 1: Take Science Courses in High School

High school students who are interested in becoming Travel Nurses should take science classes beyond the state requirement. For example, most states require students to complete two to three years of science. Taking additional science courses may help you get into a competitive nursing school.

Step 2: Enroll in a Nursing Program

Travel Nurses are Registered Nurses (RNs), which requires the completion of an undergraduate nursing program. You may complete an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). ADN programs typically take two to three years while BSN programs often take four years to complete.

Step 3: Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam to Get a State License

After completing a nursing program, you can take the NCLEX-RN exam to become a Registered Nurse (RN). Additional licensing requirements vary by state but most states require a background check.

Step 4: Obtain a Nursing Position

After obtaining a state license and becoming an RN, look for entry-level nursing jobs. You should have at least two years of experience before pursuing a career as a Travel Nurse.

Step 5: Look for Employment with a Staffing Agency

Most Travel Nurses work for staffing agencies. After gaining two years of experience, start looking for work at an agency that matches your criteria, such as pay scale and assignment locations.

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Helper

People with this personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.

You can read more about these career personality types here.

Travel Nurses should have empathy and compassion as they frequently treat individuals who are suffering from serious illnesses. You also need emotional stability to deal with the loss of a patient.

Travel Nurses also need to be trustworthy individuals as they are partially responsible for the health outcomes of treatment plans. Along with these personality traits, a Travel Nurse needs to be confident in their ability to communicate due to the need to collaborate with other healthcare professionals.

Take this quiz to see if Travel Nurses is the right career for you.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.


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