Traveling nurses have been around since the 1980s, historically filling gaps in healthcare staffing for things like maternity leave coverage and other staffing shortages. The idea is simple –nurses who want to earn more and experience different parts of the country sign on with a staffing agency to be a traveling nurse or contract nurse for short-term work at a facility. Contracts typically run from a few weeks to a few months.
Demand for traveling nurses skyrocketed during the pandemic. Facilities with acute nurse staffing issues turned to travel nurses to fill the gap. Because demand was high, the pay for traveling nurses increased.
That got the attention of many nurses, who saw the financial advantage travel nursing offered and left their in-house positions. But with the pandemic coming to an end, the demand for traveling nurses is falling–and fast.
It's hard to predict how much longer travel nursing will be in demand. But even with demand waning, many nurses may still be considering becoming a traveling nurse. Before making that leap, it's good to understand the downside of travel nursing. Here are seven things to consider before becoming a traveling nurse.
1. Hard to Find Good, Affordable Housing
While one of the appeals of becoming a traveling nurse is to live in different parts of the country, finding short-term housing can be challenging – and expensive. Often travel nurses must sign housing agreements sight unseen. You could be stuck living in a place with multiple repair issues. You also could be stuck in a less-than-desirable neighborhood.
It’s also hard to make short-term housing feel like home. Painting is usually out of the question, and since short-term housing is often furnished, you could find yourself living for a few months with an uncomfortable couch or lumpy bed.
2. License Constraints
Nursing is a highly regulated profession – and rightly so. After all, lives depend on you and your expertise. Traveling nurses have to hold active and unrestricted licenses in each state they choose to work, and license requirements vary from state to state. Often travel nurses have to maintain licenses for multiple states, which can be difficult and time-consuming.
3. Tax Issues
Moving from state to state every few months sounds fun, right? Each state you work in will require you to file state tax return, which is not so fun. Filing multiple state returns is time-consuming, challenging, and costly. If you are considering becoming a traveling nurse, you will likely have to hire a professional to help you file your taxes to ensure there are no errors.
4. Lack of Career Advancement
Traveling nurses stay at a facility for a few months and then move on. This gives you little opportunity to get promoted and climb the nursing career ladder into leadership or management positions. At each new contract job, you will always start out on the bottom rung of the ladder – and stay there.
5. Job Security
Traveling nurses sign a contract, but the reality is the facility can cancel that contract. This is becoming more frequent in the wake of the pandemic as facilities pull back on using expensive traveling nurses. You could find yourself in an unfamiliar city, stuck in an expensive short-term housing lease, with suddenly no job.
6. No Choice in Scheduling
Did we mention you will always be on the bottom rung of the ladder? Because in-house nursing staff have seniority over traveling nurses, they will always take priority in scheduling, leaving you with the less desirable shifts, including nights, weekends, and holidays. Also, nurses are often floated to other wings. Guess who gets floated more? The nurse without seniority.
7. Difficult to Make Connections
Whether working full or part time, a good chunk of your life is spent at work. Forging relationships and making strong social connections at work make people happier and healthier, improving their overall well-being. As a short-term traveling nurse, it's often difficult to make those strong connections. This also holds true in your personal life. Getting together with friends from home is not an option during your free time as a traveling nurse, and you may not be in one place long enough to make new, lasting friendships.
ShiftMed Fills the Nurse Staffing Gap
For nurses that don't want to be a full-time nurse at a single facility, yet are concerned about the downside of travel nursing, ShiftMed's nursing jobs app offers the perfect balance. ShiftMed connects CNAs, STNAs, GNAs, LPNs, and RNs with nearby per diem shifts or permanent positions at short-staffed facilities through the ShiftMed app. You get to stay local, but experience the variability of new facilities, build your skills in different settings, and increase your earning potential. When choosing ShiftMed to find nursing jobs, you are hired as a W2 employee, which means half your payroll taxes are covered and your tax season stress is eliminated.
Learn more about the benefits of becoming a ShiftMed employee. Download our app and start doing the work you love close to home!