Travel nurses are pretty busy these days. Even before the onset of the coronavirus crisis, travel nurses were being sent by their agencies to help cover staffing shortages and address hotspots for the flu and other seasonal illnesses. Coronavirus took things to the next level. It has certainly shined the spotlight on travel RN jobs.
Traveling registered nurses, RNs who move around and work on a contract basis, are not a recent phenomenon of the coronavirus crisis. They have been around for a long time. Also known as locum tenens nurses, these professionals combine their work as nurses with their passion for travel. They are a valuable asset whenever crises like coronavirus surface.
How Travel Nursing Works
Health Jobs Nationwide, a nationally known jobs board for healthcare professionals, says travel nursing works on a contract basis. Travel nurses are essentially self-employed contractors providing service for a limited amount of time. An average contract is 13 weeks. Some are shorter, others are longer.
Your typical travel nurse doesn’t venture too far from home. A contract up to 50 miles away is fairly common. Yet there are still a fair number of travel nurses who exceed the 50-mile threshold. Some visit other states, some travel across the country, and some even go overseas.
RNs who prefer the travel lifestyle say that being able to visit new places and meet new people is a big part of the reason they choose to stick with travel nursing. It must be a fairly strong motivation because travel nursing jobs are not easy.
Constantly Changing Environment
One of the biggest challenges of travel nursing is working in constantly changing environments. A nurse might spend 13 weeks in the critical care unit of a major metropolitan hospital before turning around and spending the next 13 working pediatrics in a rural clinic in middle America.
Travel nurses also do not tend to limit themselves to one particular area of practice. A single nurse could, over the course of his or her career, work in every department from emergency medicine to oncology. Those specializing in hotspot response could be working with coronavirus patients today and hurricane victims next week.
Living Out Of a Bag
Not all travel nurses are involved in hotspot response. In fact, the vast majority of them are not. But those who are must be willing to constantly live out of a bag. They have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice as well. After all, natural disasters and pandemics do not schedule themselves months in advance.
The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated just how important travel nurses are to hotspot response. According to USA Today, one particular agency that normally sends nurses to hotspots sent out three times as many nurses in March and April 2020 compared to 2019. The demand in Texas alone is 10 times 2019’s demand.
With that kind of demand, you would expect the pay for travel RN jobs to go up. It has. At the start of 2020, travel nurses were averaging $1700 weekly. Their pay was up by 76% in March 2020. In addition to an average weekly salary in excess of $3000, travel nurses were also receiving additional stipends for meal, travel, accommodation, and other expenses.
Travel nursing has been a choice for RNs for more than 50 years. But thanks to the coronavirus crisis, more people now know about travel nurses and the phenomenal work these individuals do. Perhaps more nurses will be enticed to join the ranks of their traveling counterparts as a result of all the attention.