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The Emergence of the Traveling Nurse

With the increased need for expanded health care services in the United States, new opportunities for those in the nursing profession are being developed each year. One of the most intriguing new avenues for nurses involves the rapidly growing numbers of so-called traveling nurses who serve for short periods of time in hospitals and clinics across the country. Though travel nursing is not an entirely new option for nurses, the lengths to which this practice is being used to meet health care facilities’ nurse staffing needs represents the beginning of a new paradigm for the health care industry. It remains to be seen whether the trend is a temporary phenomenon designed as a short-term fix for the nursing shortage or a sign of things to come.

Travel nursing is not a specialty form of nursing service, but it is a special way of providing general nursing services. By traveling from city to city and hospital to hospital – often for periods of time that amount to no more than a few months – the travel nurse provides a crucial service for personnel-strapped medical facilities. The typical travel nurse accepts an assignment to work in a specified area for anywhere from two months to a year, and many of these wandering professionals eventually enjoy a particular location and assignment so much that they accept a permanent assignment with the hospital they are visiting.

For anyone wishing to see diverse areas of the country and experience a variety of working environments, a career in travel nursing is extremely attractive. In addition, travel nurses often enjoy slightly higher salaries than many of their settled counterparts – without the need for additional education or training. Better yet, nurses who travel frequently benefit from expanded nursing skill sets and are able to obtain experience in different nursing disciplines. If and when these nurses eventually decide to settle in one location, the expanded skills they learned in their travels enable them to command higher salaries than the average registered nurse.

Most travel nursing is organized by various travel companies. The advantages of being contractually bound to a travel company primarily rest in their long-standing relationships with various health care providers. Those relationships enable travel companies access to a wider variety of assignments from which the nurse can choose. The best travel companies offer tremendous benefit and incentive packages as well, and allow the travel nurse to choose his or her assignments.

Travel nursing has other advantages as well. Because many of the most prestigious medical facilities avail themselves of this service, being a travel nurse can mean an opportunity to work – even for a short time – in a high profile nursing job. Travel nursing is also an effective way for nurses to scout new job opportunities prior to making a commitment to move to a new area. For those who just yearn for new experiences, travel nursing allows an opportunity to work in a wide variety of climates and city types – from large facilities in major cities to small clinics in rural areas.