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What Are The Disadvantages Of Being A Travel Nurse?
The nationwide nursing shortage has opened many doors for travel nurses, creating more opportunities and driving their salaries ever higher.
But for all the advantages of being a travel nurse, there are also some clear and potentially discouraging disadvantages, and it's those we'll look at here.
The Cons of Travel Nursing
Some of the cons of travel nursing are unique to this profession, others are true for the nursing sector on the whole.
Travel Nurses Lack Job Security
Travel nursing is the freelancing of the healthcare profession, and there are a few downsides to this.
The first is that you don't have the sort of job security afforded to others in the nursing profession.
Travel nursing positions are usually easy to come by, as there is a nationwide nursing shortage and it's more extreme in some states than in others. However, there are no guarantees that you'll have work one month to the next. And even if you do secure a contract, what happens when it's over? Will it be extended? Will you be able to find additional work elsewhere?
Some people like that sort of nomadic employment as it gives them the freedom of choice. Some will argue that it's exciting not knowing where you will be from one year to the next, and to an extent, that's true. But we're not talking about vacations here. We're talking about a profession, the thing that pays the bills and keeps a roof over your head.
The good news is that most travel nurses are either young enough not to care or experienced enough to find employment as and when needed. What's more, there are plenty of opportunities out there.
Still, it can create some anxious situations, especially when you reach key points in your life, such as when you're preparing to get married or raise a family. It's also worrying to know that your contract can be canceled at any time.
In many ways, every employee is at the mercy of their employer, but there are contracts and systems in place to prevent sporadic firings that ruin an employee's life. The same can't be said for travel nurses.
If the institution deems that you are no longer needed, your contract can be canceled. This could happen even before you begin work.
One of the saving graces of travel nursing is that you're not as vulnerable to pandemic-related job loss as other professions. When office buildings, banks, hotels, and educational institutions are shutting their doors and reducing their numbers, hospitals are flinging theirs wide open. In other words, people run away from the banks, hotels, and schools, and they run toward the hospitals and medical facilities.
You Can't Choose Your Hours
As a travel nurse, you will be treated as "extra" staff in the institution, and you'll be expected to work when they want you to work. You may find yourself being forced to work days and times you don't like, and as you don't have a lot of experience or influence within the organization, there isn't much you can do about it.
You can choose which jobs to accept and when to accept them, but even then, there's no guarantee that the offers will take you where you want to go.
As is so often the case with freelancers/contractors, the reality is that you don't have as much control and choice as you think you do.
The Pay Varies
The median average salary for a travel nurse is quite high, and they generally earn more than similarly qualified nurses working in permanent positions. However, the rate that you earn varies from job to job, and the differences can be substantial.
The amount you earn in California, for instance, could be 50% more than the amount you earn in South Dakota. Of course, those differences are at the extreme end, but even swings of 10 or 20% can make it difficult to manage your finances.
If you find it hard to properly manage your money, varying pay rates will cause problems.
You Won't Have Paid Time Off
A nurse in a permanent position can look forward to paid time off, allowing them to see their family, deal with emergencies, or just take a break after falling ill.
For travel nurses, the reality is a little less sympathetic. Travel nurse jobs don't always include paid time off, so if anything happens, you could lose out.
You Will Always Be the New One
How confident are you? How comfortable are you around new people?
Those are important questions to answer, as you'll always be the newbie as a travel nurse. You'll be entering institutions with established cliques and networks, as well as people who have worked there for years and even decades.
Sure, we're talking about professional workplaces and not high school. but for some people, the idea of always being the "new guy/girl" is terrifying.
Even if you're a confident person who gets along with everyone, the fact that you're the newbie means you could be given the jobs that no one else wants.
Anytime there is a job that no one else wants to do, who do you think they will ask?
Licensing Can Be a Struggle
To accept contracts in all 50 states, you must be licensed in all 50 states, and those licenses don't come easily. You'll be expected to obtain and maintain licenses for all of the states in which you work, and that can cause a lot of headaches.
The Housing Situation is Complicated
Travel nursing positions come with a housing stipend, which is great, but you'll be expected to find your own housing.
There are a few issues with this.
Firstly, you'll often find yourself accepting leases without even seeing the property, and that could cause no end of problems.
Secondly, you're not local and you may know nothing about the area. As a result, you could be moving into a high-crime area.
Even if you do your research and live somewhere safe, comfortable, and secure, you could still find yourself in the wrong part of town during your commute or shopping excursions.
You Will Dread Tax Season
Even if you're a nomadic extrovert who doesn't worry too much about job security, there is one major disadvantage that will definitely cause you a headache or two: taxes.
The fact that you're moving around a lot means you'll need to file multiple state tax returns, increasing the likelihood that you'll make a mistake and even necessitating the hiring of a professional to handle your accounts.
You Will Miss Home
Although you can choose which travel nursing contracts to accept, you will likely find yourself accepting positions away from your home.
The digital age means it's easier than ever to stay in touch with family members, and if you don't work too far away, you can always drive back and see them on occasion. However, it means you'll be spending a long time away from your loved ones and that could make you very homesick.
The Pros of Travel Nursing
There are a lot of cons to travel nursing, but don't let that put you off. There are just as many advantages, and to ensure that we don't deter you completely, we'll look at those advantages now.
Travel nursing positions pay more than permanent positions, assuming all variables remain the same.
Many experienced travel nurses earn upwards of $100,000 a year, and as the shortage of licensed and registered nurses is expected to continue, that could remain the same for many years.
You Can Travel
When thinking about the pros and cons of travel nursing, the actual travel aspect is the most important. If you get homesick very easily and don't like to travel, this is probably not the profession for you. If you prefer a more nomadic lifestyle and are at your happiest when traveling, it's the perfect job.
The United States is a vast and diverse country. There is so much to see and do here, and as a travel nurse, you'll have the perfect excuse to see all of it.
You Will Make New Friends
As a travel nurse, you'll be meeting a lot of new people from all kinds of backgrounds. It's the perfect opportunity to make new friends or even to find a partner.
You Don't Need to Worry About Hospital Politics
A hospital can be a complicated workplace. It brings together hundreds of employees from different backgrounds and at varying pay levels, and it puts them in life or death situations. It's stressful, it's depressing, and it makes for some very complicated workplace politics.
Think of all the complicated relationships and rivalries that exist inside a hospital. As a travel nurse, you'll be stepping into the middle of it, but the fact that you're only there for a limited time means you don't need to worry about any of it.
You can make friends, and you should definitely be sociable and friendly, but there's not enough time for you to become embroiled in those chaotic relationships.
Travel Nurses are In Demand
The nursing profession is one of the fastest-growing in the United States. Americans are living longer, the population is growing, and healthcare is improving. All of that means that travel nurses will likely remain in demand for many decades to come.
You Can Find Your New Favorite Place
Most Americans only ever live in one state, and the majority never leave the towns and cities they were born in. They may think that they live in the best place and there's no reason to leave, but they don't really have anything to compare it to.
As a travel nurse, you will live in many towns and cities throughout the United States. You can sample life on both coasts and everywhere from major cities to small towns. As a result, when you're ready to retire or settle down, you'll know which areas are best for you and can start planning for the long term.
You Will Be Reimbursed
Travel nurses can earn a variety of reimbursements, reducing their expenses and increasing their take-home salary. These reimbursements relate to housing and travel, but they also include uniforms, nursing licenses, and many other things that you need for your job.
You Can Create Your Own Schedule
Although it's not always easy to choose your hours on assignment, you still get the last say about when you work and where you work.
If you have a child to raise, a wedding to plan, or you just want to take a vacation during off-peak periods, you have the freedom to do so.
There Are a Number of Benefits
In addition to health insurance coverage and reimbursement, travel nursing pay packages may also include additional benefits, such as overtime pay for weekend shifts, and bonuses for starting and finishing the assignment.
You'll Gain Experience and Life Skills
It's hard to be a painfully introverted and socially awkward travel nurse. As noted above, you're constantly the "new guy" or "new girl", and even if it makes you feel awkward and nervy at first, you will eventually develop a thick skin.
After introducing yourself to all of those nurses and doctors, and after being forced to live independently and nomadically, you'll become a stronger and more confident person.
It's not just life skills, either. Working in multiple roles will also improve your experience and should lead to improved pay rates and other benefits.
Summary: Advantages and Disadvantages of Travel Nursing
There are clearly a lot of pros and cons to working as a travel nurse, but the same could be said for a lot of positions.
Determining whether the profession is right for you or not is just a case of weighing up the pros and cons, speaking with your family, and plotting for your future.
It's a great profession that offers a wealth of advantages, but it's not for everyone.
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