Traveler stories

Oh, the Places You Can Go!

  • Print Page

By Melissa Wirkus, associate editor

From spending the summer at a rustic camp amid towering trees and sparkling lakes to gaining invaluable clinical experience at a facility on a Native American reservation, the places you can work at as a travel nurse are limitless.

Although the majority of travel nurse assignments are based at traditional, acute-care hospitals, there are countless other assignments that can take experienced nurses to interesting locations to care for unique patient populations.

Camp Nursing

Working at a camp is a great way for nurses to continue practicing while avoiding burnout. Taking a step away from the stress and politics of hospitals by working as a camp nurse is an excellent way for RNs to recharge and renew, while still being able to work.

“It is a very rewarding and uplifting experience,” said Margie Grogan, regional director of client services for AMN Healthcare. “The children and the staff are all excited to be there and look forward to this experience all year long. It's very rare that you participate in such a fun environment for work!”

Camp nursing is also a great option for nurses who have children. Many nurses enroll their kids in the camp they will be working at or in a nearby camp. “Other times nurses’ families are vacationing nearby and they love the area,” Grogan explained.

Another added bonus of working as a camp nurse is that many camps are dedicated to children with chronic illnesses, such as Camp Boggy Creek in Florida. Nurses working at specialty camps have the opportunity to expand their pediatric expertise while also interacting with this patient population outside the walls of a hospital—something that is a truly unique and memorable experience for caregivers..


One of the least known and misunderstood work options for travel nurses is detention centers. For nurses looking for autonomy and the opportunity to have a greater impact on patient care, an assignment at a correctional facility could be the perfect fit.

Although safety is one of the biggest concerns that nurses have about an assignment in a correctional facility, nurses needn’t worry, noted Lisa Nidiffer, hospital account manager for AMN Healthcare.

“This is actually one of the safest environments you can work in,” she said. “It’s like working in a locked psych unit in a hospital.”

Nurses are always accompanied by guards and they get to encounter different experiences every day. Most correctional facilities have doctors that work eight-hour shifts so nurses have a great deal of autonomy and play a large role in patient care—from examining and testing patients upon admission to the detention center, to caring for the sick on a daily basis.

Indian Health Services

Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities provide comprehensive health care to Native Americans and Alaska Natives, and with over 300 hospitals and clinics nationwide, nurses can work in a diverse range of practice settings almost anywhere in the U.S.

“Working in an IHS facility provides nurses an opportunity to work with a unique and underserved population. Native American cultures are diverse and rich in history heritage and tradition,” said Jeremy Holden, national sales manager for AMN Healthcare. “Working in an IHS facility opens opportunities to learn about a proud population that is eager to share their culture, history and heritage with people that want to learn about them.”

People that love the outdoors tend to really enjoy travel nursing assignments at IHS facilities. Some are located near or in large cities such as Phoenix, Albuquerque, San Diego, Anchorage and Tulsa, with diverse culture and social settings, while others are in more rural locations. Snowbirds in particular enjoy the flexibility of working in the IHS because they can move to warmer winter climates and cooler summer climates, and get to experience a new area every season.

“An assignment in an IHS facility is a great opportunity for people looking to do something different,” Holden explained. “Between the unique locations, interesting cultures and dynamic practices, IHS offers an opportunity to practice where you are appreciated and can have completely different experiences. More than any other practice setting you can stretch yourself beyond the routine and the mundane to really remember why you chose to pursue medicine as a career.”

Travelers who are interested in working at an IHS facility are also able to use any active U.S. RN license as they are classified as government facilities.

Ambulatory Care and Home Health

Accepting a travel nursing assignment in the ambulatory care or home health sector is yet another alternative to traditional hospital work, providing nurses with the ideal work-life balance.

Working in ambulatory care or home health gives nurses a stable schedule, often times with no shift work and no call. Most of the time, a job in these specialties means working the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift, which is ideal for nurses who are burnt out on the night shift or 12-hour days.

“The autonomy that a nurse gets and the direct one-to-one patient care are what attract many nurses to a career in home health,” said Will Morse, vice president of new markets for AMN Healthcare. “There is a lot of flexibility in the way they schedule their day.”

Working in an outpatient clinic or in home health gives nurses the opportunity to work with a variety of patient populations and maintain a full case load, while achieving a sensible work-life balance.

Whatever your specialty or area of expertise, thinking outside of the box and exploring different types of facilities and locations may give your career—and your soul, just the boost it needs.

© 2009. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

NurseZone brings you the personal stories of travel nurses across the country. Read their profiles, travel adventures and practical advice geared for nurses just like you.