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Pros and cons of being a travel nurse

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- I'm not exactly sure why I can't get the phrase, "Everyone's dying to get in" out of my head as I consider the funeral home business as a sound choice for employment. The problem is that this article has very little to do with that industry . . . just the soundness of employment part.

For the past several years, nursing has been the "write your own check" line of business given the major shortage of nurses. My sister is a nurse and I have several friends who are nurses. It's hard work, emotionally and physically. And, as a hospital Chaplain, I regularly see what the nurses go through with mean patients, those who are mentally drifting from a condition or medication, and then, of course, those who happily see their situation as less perilous than the nurse who is helping them. It's my strong opinion that it takes a kind heart and a titanium resolve to do this particular job, especially if you are dealing with children or the elderly.

Having gushed about the ability to endure in this position leads me to my point (yes, finally). While it sounds as though it must be entirely a labor of love, nursing can have perks, especially if you are a traveling nurse. Most nurses don't get into the industry to make the big bucks, but as a travel nurse you can pad your pockets a bit better. Some of the benefits include:

*Getting to see the country - if you are tired of the scorching heat, go to a cooler climate. Or, reverse that -- if you are freezing all the time, enjoy Arizona, California, or Hawaii!

*Insurance benefits - many travel nurses are able to get better benefits than their non-travel counterparts.

*Housing benefits - wherever you are sent, the housing specialist will find you a furnished apartment in a safe, conveniently located area near your assignment.

*Discount programs - some agencies used by travel nurses partner with big names in order to offer significant discounts on items such as cell phone, luggage, roadside assistance and even gym memberships.

*Continuing education - it can't be said for all agencies but some offer free continuing education so that nurses can stay abreast of important changes in the industry.

*Politics - not the kind the you see mud-slinging all over the television, but office politics. Most assignments are about 13 weeks long. If you are a traveling nurse you don't have any obligation to participate in or care about the long-term office politics of your home base or your assignment base. Nice!

*Pay - saving the best for last, the pay can be very generous with sign-on and completion bonuses, referal bonuses, loyalty bonuses, and even longevity bonuses. Some contracts pay more per region ($35-$45 per hour in Alaska, $35-$38 per hour in the Northeast, for example) and some contracts pay different amounts contract-to-contract.

The top five most recruited for locations are California, Florida, Massachusets, North Carolina and New York.

But what about the downsides? It can't possibly be all roses, right? Right. If you aren't the kind of person who can orient yourself to new environments quickly and easily, including reaching out and making new friends, this might be a lonely job for you. But if you are outgoing and don't mind being alone some of the time, this could be the perfect opportunity.

If you are considering advancement or promotion in the nursing field, this type of position would likely hinder that. Most travel nurses remain at the same level for the duration of their career.

The last bit of advice is to research your recruiters carefully and read all the fine print. There are many agencies that can get you started but they aren't all equal. Check them out carefully.

Do your own research but a quick internet search for the terms "travel nurse" immediately brought up the following agencies (just a few of the hundreds):

www.travelnursing.com
www.americantraveler.com
www.nurse.tv
www.ayatravelnursingjobs.com
www.crosscountrytravcorps.com
www.fastaff.com
www.nurserx.com
www.ultimatenurse.com
www.studentdoc.com/travel-nursing.html

In the meantime, happy travels, and thanks for your commitment and hard work!

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