Tell me the truth about travel nursing
September 3, 2007 6:23 PM   Subscribe

Tell me the truth about travel nursing - is it a great opportunity to spend time in new places and live in lovely, free housing or a road to back-breaking labor and miserable living conditions?

Have any of you worked as a travel nurse? Do you have any advice about best/worst companies to work for, or if travel nurses get the worst assignments, or if the housing is terrible?

I am finishing up an accelerated nursing program and I'm just one semester away from being a family nurse practitioner. I have one year of experience as an RN on a medical/surgical hospital unit. My husband is planning on starting a grad program in Fall 2008, but we won't know where we're headed for that until spring rolls around. We think we might be ready to leave Manhattan before next summer and I'm wondering if travel nursing would be a good option for us to spend time in a few new places. He has family in Austin, so we're especially interested in spending some time there.

The stories I've heard about travel nursing range from fairy tales to horror stories and I'm interested in hearing your experiences. Thanks!
posted by hurricanemag to Work & Money (5 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
My mother loved it, but she had a habit of going back to the same places every year on her contracts, thus building up familiarity with the areas. In my experience it takes a few months to really start learning your way around and getting to the fun part of living somewhere.

The housing they provided her with was great, but was occasionally a thirty minute drive from work, which is not exactly ideal when you've worked a 12 hour shift. After the first contract she took the stipend instead, and found her own housing. She ended up picking places that weren't quite as nice as what the agency provided, but were closer to work.

The assignments can be a little awkward, since your coworkers don't want to invest in you for the long haul, but from my mother's experience she didn't get shitty work, and she made a lot of friends among the other travel nurses.

I wouldn't say it was a fairy tale or a horror story for my mother, but a lot of that depends on the agency. Seriously, get recommendations for specific agencies. I can't stress that enough. My mother knew other travel nurses who really got screwed because they had crummy agencies. Shop around--there's such a huge call for it that you can afford to look for something with a lot of perks.
posted by tejolote at 6:41 PM on September 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

My wife is a FNP at NYUMC. She's been friends with several travel nurses over the years and all seem to have had positive experiences.... I'd have definitely heard about any nightmare stories!
Luckily, its something you're not locked into - if it turns out to not work for you, you can always look for a more traditional position. I'd say give it a try if you're inclined to travel!
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:05 PM on September 3, 2007

Consider posting your question to the travel nursing forum at and checking out the resources at
posted by chudder at 7:16 PM on September 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I once dated a travel nurse, and he seemed to mostly enjoy it. Turned out it wasn't (for us anyway) the best thing for a long-term relationship, though.
posted by trip and a half at 7:40 PM on September 3, 2007

I worked as a traveller for several years. It all depends on what you are looking to do. As long as you keep a "home base" for tax purposes, it really helps. I never took the "tax advantage", it worked out better for me to take my per diem rate at the end of the year.

That said, make sure you have a tax preparer that is *very* familiar with travel nursing. Not many are, and there are tax advantages.

Agencies/recruiters can make or break your experience. The first contract is usually rough. Realize there is more than one way to do things and try not to (at least not vocally) compare to "where I used to work".

My sons had vacations and saw things they never would have seen otherwise. I think it made me a more flexible as a RN.

I "settled down", I married in November and came across a job offer I couldn't refuse. I am now staff/management at a well known facility, and they appreciate the background/experience I bring to the table. I worked as a traveller from 1999 to 2006, with the exception of going staff somewhere for 15 mo in there.

As far as housing, if it sucks (I've had those!), don't accept. Don't move in, make them put you in a hotel until they find you something proper. Once you move in, they'll never change it.

Good luck!
posted by 6:1 at 7:49 PM on September 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

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