By Melissa Hagstrom, contributor
Travel nursing allows the opportunity to visit new places and choose flexible assignments. But can travel nurses derive long-term benefits from a mobile career, benefits that will ultimately enhance their career development and their earnings potential? NurseZone.com asked top recruiters from two of our staffing company partners to answer that question and dish out some insiders’ advice.
First, it helps to understand the two main types of travel nursing assignments--short-term and traditional--and which one may be right for you.
Robin Connell, placement manager with NurseChoice, an AMN Healthcare company that specializes in quick-start, critical staffing, explained the differences between the two types of assignments. "A traditional travel assignment is 13 weeks with 36 hours per week, although there are some exceptions. Our positions range from 2 to 12 weeks, with 8 weeks being the typical, and usually 48 hours per week."
Depending on your skills, preferences and timeline to start, taking either a traditional or short-term assignment is an excellent route to gain new work experiences and steer your nursing career in the right direction.
Short-term, critical need staffing assignments require nurses to be ready to go on short notice, so they tend to compensate travel RNs on the higher end of the pay scale. In addition, some of these assignments revolve around special projects that can require specialized skills, such as a hospital’s electronic medical record (EMR) system implementation.
"At NurseChoice, we are able to provide facilities with a tenured team to help with their EMR conversions,” said Connell. “A travel nurse can benefit by learning all different systems, becoming an EMR super user and helping facilities as they go live from paper to computer charting. Being able to add this to their résumé is a huge benefit; as hospitals continue to go live there will be an increased need for skilled EMR nurses.”
Travelers who opt to go the traditional, 13-week route will find the widest variety of job opportunities, as hospitals have more openings for these assignments.
Both short-term and traditional assignments offer excellent pay and benefits, including travel reimbursements, 401(k), and guaranteed hours in many cases.
Holly Pharr, senior recruitment manager for NursesRx, an AMN Healthcare company, pointed out that there are a lot of factors to consider when looking for travel nursing assignments. “An assignment is an opportunity to spread your wings both professionally and personally. Some nurses are looking to expand their résumé and work in a different hospital environment while making a difference in the patient experience. Of course, many are excited about the adventures outside the hospital, as well,” she said.
Pharr shared that her travelers have experienced many personal “highs” while on assignment--such as seeing the ocean for the first time, hiking in a national forest or attending a world-renowned jazz festival--and developed lasting relationships. At the same time, they have been able to learn best practices in patient care, develop new nursing skills and gain a greater appreciation for their profession. Several have even discovered new areas of interest that have had a direct bearing on their career choices.
Where can travel nursing take your career?
Are you looking for work in a cutting-edge, academic medical center? How about using your skills in a smaller hospital that requires you to work across specialties? Need more experience in a particular unit? A good recruiter can provide career guidance and help you find the work environment and assignment that will meet your goals. In addition, just learning to work as a traveler will help you grow as a nurse.
"Just by becoming a travel RN, you are learning important skills that will help you in your nursing career," Connell said. "Traveling teaches you to adapt and thrive in challenging environments. At each new assignment, a travel nurse must learn how that particular hospital does things. This helps shape the nurse to be able to work in any environment. This is an incredibly valuable asset to bring to the table and any job an RN goes to."
In order to derive the most career benefits from travel nursing, both recruiters agreed that the most important thing you can do is keep an open mind and stay flexible.
“Overall, in travel it’s important to note that every hospital is going to have different things it can offer, just like every area has its charms,” Pharr said. “The best hospital you ever worked at may not be the most lucrative, but maybe you learned an incredible amount to advance yourself or you worked with a great group of people and made some amazing new friends and professional connections. Travel has something for every nurse with a passion for making a difference and a heart for adventure.”
"Be open to new adventures," Connell added. "Our most successful nurses are the ones that are open to new things. They go where the need is, work hard, and enjoy the financial and career benefits. A tenured travel nurse can be successful anywhere they go."
© 2013. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.