Travel nursing is an appealing option for nurses with a sense of adventure who want to make a difference by helping out where they’re needed most. They can ease the burden on their temporary colleagues by quickly familiarizing themselves with the flow and policies of a new workplace. This helps ensure that patients receive the best possible care.
Nursing is a satisfying but challenging career. Many nurses work long hours, so it’s not uncommon for people to experience burnout during their careers. Registered nurses interested in travel nursing are understandably concerned about burnout, wondering how many hours they can expect to work.
Travel nursing is known for its flexibility, but nurses must be willing to accept the terms of each contract. Here’s what you can expect in terms of the average workload and hours on a typical assignment.
How Travel Nursing Works
Travel nursing is a job that involves registered nurses or specialty nurses traveling around the country taking on short-term contracts. Contracts typically run for 13 weeks and are based in certain parts of the country, depending on which areas require additional help.
Travel nursing jobs come up due to nursing shortages (often caused by turnover, maternity leave, or illness), a surplus of people during seasonal periods, or other specific situations hospitals need help with. Salaries are competitive and generally run higher than those of a staffing nurse.
How Many Hours Do Nurses Work?
While the duties of a travel nurse will be similar to that of a registered nurse, how often you work will depend on your travel nursing agency and contract. This can also differ from nurse to nurse.
Generally speaking, travel nurses will usually work a 40-hour workweek. The workweek will either be:
- Five 8-hour shifts
- Four 10-hour shifts
- Three 12-hour shifts
On the same note, your hours and days will depend on your work and the facility you work at. However, with a recruitment agency, you will be able to choose the schedule that works best for you to get the most out of the new area where you’ll be residing.
When you initially take on a travel nursing position, you will be required to go through an orientation period which will typically last a few days. Travel nurses must be adaptable and reliable—there’s a very quick onboarding process before you jump right in.
Once your schedule is organized and you have found your rhythm in your new job, you can spend your spare time discovering new things to do in your new town and exploring the area. You can experience new restaurants, shopping, parks, trails or hikes, beaches or lakes, and anything else your area offers. All the while, feeling secure that you will have a job and income the entire time.
Do Travel Nurses’ Schedules Change Mid-Contract?
The healthcare industry is extremely dynamic. On any given day, healthcare professionals could walk into an environment different from the one before.
Different patients, external events like natural disasters, outbreaks, or holidays, and changes within the healthcare facility can all affect a nurse’s experience and responsibilities. For this reason, being flexible and ready for anything is a must.
While you might have a consistent schedule throughout your contract, you might also need to switch your hours one or more times to accommodate the facility’s needs. While there should be expectations set when you take a contract, you need to be prepared for your hours to change if needed.
Travel nurses need to be team players. Permanent staff might have priority when it comes to working hours. But a positive attitude will go a long way toward getting a glowing recommendation at the end of your contract.
The bottom line is that patients need care and travel nurses might need to adapt when needed, within reason.
What Do Nurses Do On A Typical Day?
Experienced travel nurses can quickly assimilate to a new work environment as the duties should be similar for each assignment. However, each healthcare facility will have its way of doing things.
Nurses won’t know exactly what to expect until they’ve started their contract. A typical day for a nurse can vary greatly based on their department, special skills, and other factors.
On a typical day, a nurse will need to juggle various tasks, which will change based on the patient population and staffing levels. Nurses must monitor patients’ vital signs, complete paperwork, communicate with patients about their care, help with routine care tasks, and coordinate care with other healthcare professionals.
Successful travel nurses must be able to juggle multiple responsibilities at once. Since they are often assigned areas experiencing patient surges or staffing shortages, travel nurses often have very busy schedules during each shift.
Nurses need to practice self-care to prevent burnout. Most travel nurses decompress by exploring their new “home” and relaxing during non-work hours.
How Long Do Travel Nurse Assignments Last?
The most common arrangement is a 13-week contract. This breaks up the year into quarters and allows RNs to settle into their travel nurse assignments before moving on to the next contract.
The typical nurse schedule allows for enough time to explore and enjoy the local sights during any given assignment. With that said, some contracts might be longer or shorter, based on the facility’s specific needs.
Sometimes, nurses enjoy their placements so much that they ask for contract extensions. In some cases, this is possible, but not always. The longest a traveling nurse can stay in one place is about a year, and it’s uncommon for extensions to last so long.
Generally, a travel nursing agency will provide some housing assistance to help their nurses find suitable short-term housing. They might also provide stipends for housing and travel expenses. This takes some of the pressure off of moving around every quarter since you’ll have someone helping you to find a new place to live you can comfortably afford.
How TheraEx Can Help You Find Your Ideal Placement
At TheraEx, we believe that travel nursing can be an excellent option for those who want great pay, adventures, new experiences, and something to add to their resume along the way.
With the pandemic and the constant unknown ahead of us, there is no better time than now to figure out what your best options are. This goes for both work and what paths may benefit you in the greatest way.
Not all staffing agencies offer the same pay, benefits, and assistance. It’s important to work with an agency that has your best interests in mind and will provide generous compensation. Travel nursing is an important resource for hospitals, but there are lots of logistics involved with bringing temporary nurses in. A reputable agency like TheraEx will take care of the details and find you great placements so you can focus on providing quality care.
Here at TheraEx, we work to support you throughout your whole journey of becoming a travel nurse. Contact us today to get more information on starting your travel nursing career or simply ask us your questions. We’re here to help!