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I’ve been a travel nurse recruiter for over 12 years, and I have literally had thousands of conversations with travel nurses about everything from their perspective of life on the road, to their favorite cities to work in (or which one has the best night life!) or to the best hospital they every worked in.  In the course of those conversations I often ask “why did you become a travel nurse?” (please note that I said “travel nurse” and not “why did you become a nurse” as that’s an entirely different question with different responses).  The answers individual travel nurses provide are often fascinating and sometimes eye-opening.  However, the vast majority of travel nurses that I speak with on this topic usually mention 3 key elements in their decision.

  1. An opportunity to explore the U.S. and get paid for it: There are few jobs that you find that pay (and pay well) a person to travel as a major component of the job.  Travel nurses usually travel in bursts of 13 week assignments and have the opportunity to accept jobs anywhere in the US where they can legally work and are accepted for the position.  Boston, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, LA are some top destinations with those I’ve spoken with that like “big city” jobs.  Others prefer the rural quiet of Minnesota, North Carolina or Colorado.  Whatever lifestyle a travel nurse prefers, they can pick and choose depending on their willingness to travel, availability of assignments and qualifications to get the assignment.  After 13 weeks, travel nurses can then move on and try something different.  I’ve known experienced travel nurses that have lived in almost all 50 states over the years – not many people can say they have visited almost all 50 states let alone live there for several weeks.
  2. Make the most of their paycheck: Unlike most of us, travel nurses have the ability to maximize their paychecks and take home pay through their ability to invoke the IRS’s “Tax Advantage Program”. At its essence, this law allows travel nurses (or other professions that travel) to get significant tax breaks/reimbursements involving their travel expenses or associated housing costs.  The Tax Advantage Program allows travel nurses to take home more of what they earn weekly while on assignment, instead of having Uncle Sam take a big chunk out of it.
  3. Avoid hospital politics: This is actually a big one, particularly over the past 3-5 years. Many nurses that end up becoming travel nurses did so because they worked in a traditional hospital setting for several years and simply got tired of the politics that come in to play.  Difficult nurse managers, doctors with huge egos (heard that one before?), older nurses that enjoy “eating their young”, management that cares more about paperwork than patients.  Travel nursing gives RNs the ability to stay out of the fray, focus on the job and the patients and move on.  If however, a travel nurse falls in love with a facility, there is often the opportunity to extend assignments or return again in the future.  It’s the best of both worlds.

If you’re a travel nurse, please share your “top 3 reasons” with me – I would love to see them.  I’m also curious to see if there are travel RNs out there who have a reason that they decided to become a travel nurse that I haven’t heard of yet…just try me!

About Angela Carringer:

AngelaA 12-year travel nursing industry veteran, Angela Carringer has joined Go Healthcare Staffing as Vice President of Recruitment.  Along with being a first-rate recruiter, Carringer brings a unique hands-on perspective to the position having served as a trauma hospital nursing assistant early in her career; working alongside Registered Nurses and assisting them with multiple aspects of patient care. Angela can be reached via email at angela@gohealthcarestaffing.com or by calling 844-966-8773

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