Looking Ahead: Can You Imagine Yourself as a Travel Nurse?

A global Covid-19 pandemic brought sweeping changes across healthcare, especially the field of nursing. As healthcare facilities scrambled to fill short-term staffing needs, many turned to travel nurses who are licensed to practice in multiple states. Demand for travel nurses surged along with the need for care for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.

A quick search of the John Carroll University alumni roster on LinkedIn reveals a number of JCU alumni working as agency recruiters, and as travel nurses.

As John Carroll University launches a new Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), we offer this short list of things to know about travel nursing aimed at prospective and current nursing students.

How common have travel nurses become in hospitals?

Data from staffing agency AMN Healthcare says that 95% of health care facilities reported hiring nurse staff from contract labor firms during the pandemic. Within those facilities, travel nurses are covering a higher percentage of total hours worked by nurses ( 3.9% in January 2019 to 23.4% in January 2022), according to data from Syntellis Performance Solutions. 

How long do travel nursing assignments run?

Travel nursing assignments typically last 13 weeks, but contracts can be as short as 4 weeks or as long as 26 weeks

What is the Nurse Licensure Compact, and is Ohio a member?

The Nurse Licensure Compact describes a set of uniform licensure requirements (which include a federal and state criminal background check) agreed to by 39 state boards of nursing. This allows nurses to earn one multistate license in their primary state of residence while practicing virtually or over state lines in 38 other compact states across the country. 

Currently licensed nurses can either renew their single state nursing license or convert it to the new multistate license. Future nursing graduates will be able to choose either for their initial licensure. Pennsylvania and Ohio are the two most recent states to pass Nurse Licensure Compact legislation. 

Starting on January 1, 2023, Ohio residents will be able to apply for a multistate license, and nurses residing in other states who hold a Compact license will be able to begin working in Ohio. You can plan on a six-week waiting period from the date your complete application is submitted and when you receive your nursing license in Ohio.

Neighboring states participating in the Nurse Licensure Compact include Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

Do travel nurses get paid well?

The staffing crisis brought a huge increase in salaries for short-term nursing assignments. Before Covid-19, staff nurses at hospitals earned on average $73,300 per year, or approximately $1,400 per week. Salaries for travel nurses can reach between $5,000 and $10,000 per week. Many nurses choose to pursue such lucrative salaries, and to take more time off between assignments. 

Is being a travel nurse like running your own business?

Staffing agencies handle nearly all of the behind the scenes paperwork and contract processing, but travel nurses do have to become familiar with documentation, the art of being organized, and the routines of setting up a living quarters quickly. Like anyone who works away from home base for an extended period, you will need to get clear on matters such as driver’s license, insurance and registration requirements in your new state. You will want to secure key documents such as your travel nursing contract, paperwork required by your facility, nursing license, contact information for your recruiter, assignment facility and nurse manager. And you will want to learn from full-time RV travelers or others leading a more nomadic lifestyle how to pack light while still meeting all of your basic needs.

How can travel nurses manage self-care? 

While the pay increases attracted many nurses to pursue short-term travel assignments, many in the field caution everyone to consider their own well-being.  Some proven self-care tips for travel nurses include looking for a colleague and/or friend who might want to follow the same career path; putting some extra thought into living within walking distance of good grocery stores, restaurants, parks and other amenities; and establishing an exercise and self-care routine; volunteering or getting involved in a church or social community to ward off isolation.

Nursing at John Carroll University

John Carroll University’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing, launched in collaboration with Cleveland’s world-class medical institutions (Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and the MetroHealth System), is seeking approval by the Ohio Board of Nursing in July, 2022. Recruitment of students will begin Fall 2022 for a Fall 2023 start of the BSN. New teaching and simulation facilities in the Dolan Center for Science and Technology will support a forward-looking, evidence-based approach to nursing education, a cornerstone of the John Carroll University BSN.

John Carroll is a private Jesuit university located in University Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland.