Travel Nursing 101: What Do Travel Nurses Do?

Have you ever wondered, “What do travel nurses do?”

Not to confuse nurses who go to patients’ homes, travel nurses work in a specific facility on one unit for a limited amount of time. 

Most travel nurse assignments range between 4 and 13 weeks. 

During this time, the travel nurse works alongside the hospital’s regular nursing staff. Assignments may be in large teaching university hospitals, small rural community facilities, and anything in between.

If you’ve considered a career as a travel nurse, there are a few things you should know before you embark on your travel nursing journey.

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How Does Travel Nursing Work?

Travel nurses care for patients. Andrew Craig, travel nurse, blogger, podcaster, and advocate for traveling healthcare professionals, offers this insight:

“It’s our job to quickly adapt and mesh with the culture of the unit and the hospital. Being a team player and having a desire to work with others is one of the best ways to provide excellent patient care, which is the ultimate goal of travel nursing.”

Generally, travel nurses work with a recruiter to find an assignment that utilizes their current skills, challenges their growth, and meets their personal needs. But, travel nurses don’t just offer care and move on to the next assignment.

They are an important part of the healthcare team at hospitals across the nation. They increase access to care, share their expertise, improve patient outcomes and decrease the effects of nurse burnout.

4 Important Things Travel Nurses Do

1. Increase Access to Care

Travel nurses make positive impacts on hospitals. The use of travel nurses has been shown to increase the quality of patient care and positively impact patient outcomes.

Assignments may begin during times of staffing shortages. In addition, travel nurses may be needed during seasonal fluctuations, hospital expansions, maternity leave, sick leave, or holidays. 

Because travel nurses perform the same nursing functions as the regular hospital nursing staff, they may work in specialty units and care for the same number of patients. 

2. Share Unique Expertise 

Travel nurses work across the country in various settings. Therefore, they are continually learning from physicians and nurses and honing their skills. 

Travel nurses provide unique expertise and approach to care. They’re able to share what they’ve learned throughout their career with other nurses and staff members. 

3. Improve Patient Outcomes

Quality of care and patient outcomes are top priorities for hospitals. During times of staffing shortages, hospitals rely on travel nurses to help meet patient outcomes and the hospital's overall mission.

Nurses are the single largest healthcare provider in most hospitals. One study found that supplemental nursing staff, including travel nurses, make up 30 percent of the nursing workforce in the United States. Without them, care can’t be provided, and outcomes will likely not be met.

4. Fight Nurse Burnout

Nurses who work in units where staffing shortages are the norm feel the effects of nurse burnout. 

Travel nurses provide relief to staffing shortages and burnout. The regular hospital staff may enjoy a better work-life balance while the travel nurse is present. Using travel nurses decreases the impact of the epidemic of nurse burnout.

The next time you are talking to a colleague and ask, “What do travel nurses do?” you will have the answers. 

Travel nurses are important healthcare team members that provide services in situations where patients risk being turned away.

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