Nurses on the go!
Mar 22, 2021, 12:00 PM.
National demand is driving the need for travel nurses, particularly those with bachelor’s degrees.
Amanda Perini, a registered nurse pursuing her bachelor’s degree fully online says nursing is in her blood. Her entire family is in the medical profession. So, when her mom, a nurse for more than 36 years, suggested that she try travel nursing, Perini looked into it, saw how lucrative it could be, and signed up knowing the extra pay would come in handy.
Perini also wanted to do something different, strike out on her own, see the world and explore new cities. With the 100 percent online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN), the portability of the program made the travel option possible.
With two years of hospital experience at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, FL, Perini’s first travel nurse assignment placed her at the front lines in New York in March, 2020. Smack dab in the heart of the growing coronavirus crisis, she describes the experience as extremely challenging, however, she loved it. Her presence made a difference and she still managed to study for her BSN.
What is travel nursing?
Travel nurses fill short-term positions at hospitals and clinical facilities around the country for weeks at a time. These nurses-for-hire need only a couple years of experience to qualify for the positions offered through travel nurse staffing agencies (there are many). The agencies offer competitive compensation packages, which may include a generous stipend and housing, in addition to high pay. Perini states there’s a vast network of travel nurses on social media who offer tips for the trade as well as ways to save money with room rental in cities.
According to Nurse.org, before COVID-19, travel nurses typically earned more than $3,000 a week. Some travel nurses have earned up to $10,000 a week during the pandemic. A yearly salary of over six figures is entirely plausible, says the organization.
“Nursing is an industry that is financially secure, even during a pandemic,” emphasizes Robert Bello, an FIU RN to BSN student and formerly a nurse “floater” at Mount Sinai in Miami Beach, FL.
To bridge the national gap between supply and demand in the nursing field, many health care organizations hire travel nurses for eight to 13 weeks at a time to continue maximum levels of care. Positions can be shorter or longer, depending on need. Indeed, when COVID-19 spread across the U.S., nursing shortages grew.
“Travel nursing especially in the COVID-19 era, has become a major way of filling the needs of the nursing shortage especially in states with a greater need than others,” states Clinical Assistant Professor Nola Holness who teaches in the RN to BSN program. Holness is balanced in her approach as she weighs the pros and cons of travel nursing. While it may be lucrative and it may provide hospitals with personnel, it does deplete local hospitals that hired and provided training to the nurse. In addition, nurses may leave the hospital with limited experience.
Real learning and licenses
“Valuable experiences can enhance nursing education. Travel nurses can become exposed to clinical experiences that may not have been available in their home states,” says Holness, who also describes how some travel nurse assignments can be considerably challenging. She notes that those who enter travel nursing will accumulate licenses in many states, which can also provide mobility and more varied job opportunities. This is the case for Bello.
Bello became a travel nurse because he was afraid of bringing COVID-19 home to his family—his father is immunocompromised. The greatest reward after serving others across the nation, he says, is the opportunity to gain experience in as many areas of nursing as he can. The added value, he notes, will be his marketability on graduating, and this is his primary motivation for pursuing his BSN fully online.
“Eventually most nurses will have the degree, and I want to remain competitive,” he reasons.
RN to BSN student Jessie Demesmin, agrees with Bello about the convenience of online learning. But the main reason she came back to school is because, as she says, FIU never gave up on her.
“To be quite honest, FIU has always given support. They were calling me and asking me to come back every semester. They encouraged me,” she states. “You have to dedicate time, but it’s doable, even when you have six 12-hour shifts as a travel nurse.”
Demesmin enjoys travel nursing, but stresses that it is not for everyone. It’s exciting but very scary, she discloses, because you’re always the new person learning how everything works.
“You have to have a strong backbone and a good support system if you’re going to make it,” advises Demesmin who video-calls her family every day.
Bello agrees and adds that you need to love the profession. Working while studying is challenging but rewarding, and it helps that the RN to BSN program is well organized, he acknowledges.
“You need to be a good multitasker and have a caring heart—those are the two most important things,” underscores Bello.