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Travel Nurse - A Health Career Option For The Restless Spirit
By Terry McDermott
It is like a perfect storm of opportunity. A serious nursing shortage meets a qualified professional that just doesn't want to get tied down in one place for too long. Put together this wandering soul and a temporary position in a hospital and you have a travel nurse.
There is a serious shortage of nurses in this country. The average age of a registered nurse is around 49 and as they quit, retire or burn out there are not enough nurses to replace them. In addition, there are not enough instructors in our nursing schools to teach all of those that want to enter the nursing profession. Since there aren't enough nurses coming into the system to replace the nurses dropping out, hospitals just don't have enough nurses to fill all of the positions.
So what is a desperate Human Resource Director of a major medical institution to do? They need to hire somebody to fill in the gaps even if it is only on a temporary basis. And more and more that "somebody" is a travel nurse.
Travel nursing started as a solution to seasonal population growth in Sunbelt states. During the winter, northern "snowbirds" migrated to warmer climates in states like Florida and Arizona. Consequently, hospitals in these states saw a spike in activity during the winter months and they couldn't afford to staff up year round to be in a position to meet this temporary upswing in demand. A solution was to recruit nurses to come on board for a fixed period of time until the part-time seasonal citizens returned to their permanent homes for the summer.
It was a beautiful, mutually beneficial arrangement. Hospitals could hire nurses for about 13 weeks to fill a temporary need without adding permanent staff. Nurses could travel to very attractive sunny states during the winter and enjoy themselves during the off hours. It was like getting paid to take a vacation, even though the work is just as demanding. During days off or after hours, nurses were essentially tourists. Plus, the pay was pretty darn good.
But over the past couple of decades, the seasonal aspect of the travel nurse industry has changed. The nursing shortage no longer runs from December through February. It is a year-round national crisis. There are simply not enough nurses to fill all of the available positions and the travel nurse industry has exploded as a result. The competition among recruiters is fierce and the nurse willing to move away from home for anywhere from 13 to 26 weeks is a hot commodity.
Travel nurse jobs are available in all 50 states. It is possible for a nurse to identify a destination that he or she is interested in and search around until they find the right position, at the right time, in the right institution, for the right pay. Travel nurses can command from $25-$55 per hour along with significant benefits and, in some cases, free housing. It is not unusual to qualify for a sizable bonus at the completion of an assignment.
Even though most nurses are compensated very well, travel nurses and receive significantly more than the nurses on the permanent staff. This, along with a perceived lack of commitment to the facility, may cause a bit of resentment. But, generally, the permanent staff recognizes that these temporary nurses fill a significant need and prevent the workload from becoming unmanageable.
The nursing shortage will not abate any time soon so the opportunity to travel, work hard, make a great income, fill a need and have a great time will be available to nurses that want to hit the road for years to come.
J. Terrence McDermott is the administrator of Travel Nurse Source, at http://www.travelnursesource.com, a resource center for travel nurses. Travel Nurse Source helps identify medical staffing needs and find qualified nurses to meet those needs.
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