July 31, 2019  | Updated: May 13, 2020

Category: Medical Careers, Nurses

Are you a nurse with an itch to hit the road and move around for a while? Then you may want to become a travel nurse. But before you start packing your bags, there are some things you should consider. While being a travel nurse can be great, it also comes with some downsides.

Here are the pros and cons of becoming a travel nurse.

Pro: Getting to explore new places

Travel nursing is ideal if you love to travel. You can explore cities and towns across the country for months at a time—far longer than you’d be able to just visiting. And if you like the place you’re at, you often have the option to extend your contract and stay there longer.

Some of the best places for travel nurse job prospects are New York City, Boston, Orlando, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Jose. Try them all!

Con: Being away from loved ones

For many people not willing to become travel nurses, being away from loved ones is often their main reason. This is especially true for people who are married and/or have kids. Whereas they would’ve loved doing this when they were single, they can’t justify it now, which is reasonable.

If you’d like the best of both worlds, though, you could choose a place that’s not too far away from home and drive home on the weekend or non-working days. Many do this and it works.

Pro: Earning more money

In general, travel nurses earn more money than staff nurses.

On average, registered nurses earn $67,040 a year and travel nurses earn $88,712 a year. This is assuming you work the whole year, though. Some travel nurses take breaks in between jobs. If you work straight through, you will likely earn more money, which lures many into doing it.

Con: Lots of paperwork

There is unfortunately a lot of paperwork involved with becoming a travel nurse, since you’re having to start a new job every few months and every job and state have their own paperwork.

This can be minimized, though, if you work with a good travel nursing agency or recruiter. They may be able to take care of some or all of the paperwork for you, streamlining the process.

Pro: Getting to test different environments

Being a travel nurse is a great way to test out a city before moving there permanently. For some, that’s the driving motivator, as they try to find out where they should live long-term. This is a much more effective way to know you’d like living somewhere than visiting or researching.

You could also see how you like working at different hospitals and facilities, which could result in coming back to that place later to become a staff nurse. It’s the perfect tryout.

Con: You never reach seniority

Because you’re not at one facility for very long, you never quite reach seniority.

This means you may not be able to get certain shifts that facilities tend to only give nurses with seniority. It also means you may have to float to get the hours you want, and you’ll miss out on reaching a level where you can invest time in newer nurses and really mentor them.

Pro: Getting more job experience

Travel nurses generally have the opportunity to get more versatile experience than staff nurses.

You can try out new specialties and employ the use of vaccinology, epidemiology, tropical medicine, and more. Plus, you’ll get to work in a variety of facilities, gaining a wide array of experience. These may include trauma centers, nonprofits, community hospitals, travel health clinics, military facilities, colleges, and much more.

Con: Frequent moving

This can be a pro and a con, depending who you talk to.

For those who think it’s a con, they may get worn out by having to pack up their bags and go somewhere new every few months. There’s the physical task of moving and getting settled in to a new place so often, and there’s the feeling of not having a home. It may not hit you at first, but after a while, many people can’t take it and return to being a staff nurse in one city.

Pro: More flexibility

In general, travel nurses have the option to take off more time than staff nurses. This is because, in between contracts, you can typically take a break, if you’d like. You don’t have to immediately pack up and head to the next job.

You can also often arrange your schedule so you have longer weekends and shorter weeks.

Con: Having little time with people

One complaint some travel nurses have about the gig is that other nurses may not see the point in getting to know you, since you’ll be leaving soon. In this day and age, though, it’s fairly easy to keep up with people from afar, so don’t go in thinking everyone feels this way. Many don’t.

You’ll also have limited time with people you meet outside of work, which may make it difficult to make friends while there. It’s still worth trying to meet people, though, so you don’t miss out on getting to know wonderful people. Besides, if you ever move there one day or visit, you’ll already know someone in town, which is always a useful thing.

There are other pros and cons of being a travel nurse, but this about covers the major points.

So, do the pros outweigh the cons? This varies person to person. It’s not as simple as counting up pros and cons and going with whichever has the highest amount, since some points may have more weight to them than others. If you’re unsure, though, you may as well go for it. If you don’t like it, you can always return to being a staff nurse.

We’ll cover more on travel nursing in the future, so be sure to subscribe to our blog to be notified of future posts.

Sources: Travel Nurse Salaries in the United States, Indeed; Registered Nurse Salaries in the United States, Indeed; Best Places for Travel Nursing, Concordia University, St. Paul; Top 10 Benefits of Being a Traveling Nurse, Rasmussen College; How to Become a Travel Nurse, Colorado Technical University; PROS AND CONS OF TRAVEL NURSING, HealthLeaders