Traveling Nurse Job Description:
The duties of a travel nurse are very similar to those of a non-traveling nurse. I am currently on an Orthopedic and Neurology floor where I attend 5 to 7 patients per 12 hour shift. When I first arrive at work, I am given a report of the status of the patients I am going to attend from the nurse on the shift before mine. The report generally includes the name, age, current medical problems and medical history. After the report I visit each of the patients to introduce myself and assess their conditions.
During a typical shift, I am required to administer medicine (oral, via injection, etc.), document medical information, receive and discharge patients, coordinate patient care with other departments such as physical therapy, respiratory therapy, speech therapy and others. Sometimes a patient will “Code” which means they go into respiratory and cardiac arrest.
For instance, last week a patient on my floor stopped breathing after a tracheotomy was removed from his throat. The patient stopped breathing and did not have a pulse. I started CPR on the patient and had to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation using a plastic device that has a valve to allow air into the patient’s lungs, but prevents the patient from exhaling back into the nurse’s mouth. After thirty minutes of CPR, the patient’s pulse returned and the patient recovered.
In addition to the traditional nurse duties, I also have to deal with several traveling nurse employment agencies I work with. That can require filling out paperwork, moving from assignment to assignment, negotiating contract provisions, etc.
What were your steps in choosing a traveling nurse career?
The schooling required to become a travel nurse is the same required for a non-traveling nurse. However, most agencies require you to have worked as a nurse for a certain amount of time before taking a travel assignment. When I first started as a nurse 12 years ago, the time required was one year. It is probably less than that now, given the need for nurses around the United States.
The way I found my first agency was word of mouth from another travel nurse I worked with. I have also searched Google and clicked on Google ads for travel nurse agencies. I find it best to contact a number of agencies before making a decision. Not all agencies have contracts to provide travel nurses to all facilities. It is best to pick a facility and then see which agency supplies that facility. Also, three of the agencies I use send me updates of jobs and locations via e-mail and some call me.
What are the drawbacks and benefits of a traveling nurse career?
Some of the benefits of working as a traveling nurse include being able to visit different parts of the country every 6 weeks and going on little mini-vacations. I also have my agencies pay for my relocations, utilities, housing and bonuses. Depending on the length of my assignment, my agencies will pay up to $3,000 to take an assignment.
One of the biggest disadvantages is having to deal with two different employers (my agency and the assignment facility). The provisions in my agency contract often conflict with the rules of the assignment facility. I recently ran into a problem when the facility I am now working in required me to attend a larger number of patients than the number outlined in my contract.
Also, when a non-travel nurse finds out I am a travel nurse they automatically know that I am being paid more to do the same job they are doing. This can result in resentment, but often creates an interest in the non-travel nurse to check into travel nursing.
What advice would you have for those interested in a traveling nurse career?
The job outlook of a travel nurse is GREAT. There are now numerous travel nurse agencies recruiting travel nurses. The competition among agencies has driven travel nurse salaries and benefits up. I would advise anyone who wants to be a travel nurse to start out by taking a shorter assignment; maybe 6 weeks or so. Also, make sure you have everything in writing that you discuss with your agency representative. Remember: if it isn’t in writing, it never happened.
What is the average traveling nurse salary?
Depending on your location you can earn an hourly wage of $30 to $40. Typically, California pays more, but the cost of living is higher. Sometimes the benefits are a major part of a traveling nurse salary. For example, you can negotiate with your agency to pay for your relocation, utilities and a sign-on and renewal bonus.
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