10 Incredibly Relatable Challenges for Travel Nurses

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Travel nursing has gained more popularity throughout the pandemic, as more and more nurses are willing to move around the U.S. to work in different environments for significantly increased pay. Some travel companies even include a housing stipend in addition to the fat paycheck.

While there are definitely benefits to taking on a travel position, these roles pose unique challenges that differ from more traditional nursing roles. Luckily, if you’re resilient enough to be a travel nurse, you’re likely resilient enough to laugh it off.

Sometimes, you have to laugh to keep from crying. Be sure to prepare yourself for some of the common challenges associated with travel nursing positions:

1. Having to be flexible all the time

Travel nurses need to be able to go with the flow. They are often expected to acquire new skills very quickly and may have to float among different units.

Some departments will give travel employees heavier patient loads, which is especially challenging when you are new to the setting.

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2. Getting stuck with the most difficult patients

It isn’t right, but we all know it happens—travelers get paid more, and this is often used as an excuse to give them the patients requiring the most TLC. Whether it’s the level of acuity, the aggressiveness of the family members, or the patient’s lack of respect for the medical staff, travel nurses always get the hardest patients.

When you have 8 different call lights buzzing at the same time, an angry family member on hold at the front desk, and you’re an hour behind on giving meds, just remember that the situation is temporary, and you’ll take home a huge chunk of change at the end of the day.

3. Dealing with resentment from other staff members


Travel nurses tend to get a lot of hate from full-time staff members because the pay difference is quite different for virtually the same job. This can really breed resentment and result in a toxic work environment.

Try to let it roll off your shoulders if other nurses are rude to you. It says a lot more about them than it does about you, and at the end of the day, you can only be accountable for your own actions and attitudes.

4. Constantly being harassed by recruiters

There is nothing more annoying than getting constant phone calls, texts, or emails from people you don’t care to hear from. It’s even worse when it’s from the same recruiter over and over. You can silence your phone and start blocking numbers, but they always seem to find you.

Travel nursing recruitment agencies can start to feel the same as telemarketers. It’s one of the drawbacks of entering the travel world.

5. Not having rapport with staff

It can be challenging to work in an intense environment and not feel like you can truly get to know and trust your coworkers. After all, 12 hours is a long time to spend next to other professionals who you hardly know.

Finding that key nurse or tech who is willing help you navigate your travel placement is gold. You may not understand all of the unit inside jokes, but at least you know that someone has got your back.

6. Having to go through training constantly

No matter how much you’re getting paid, hospital orientations and training modules are the worst. Some hospitals make you sit through hours of lectures on benefits you won’t be eligible to receive and policies that are pretty standard everywhere.

And then there’s the online modules with riveting information on how to use a fire extinguisher and how to input allergies into the documentation system. It’s a never-ending cycle at every single placement.

7. Not being able to take PTO

One of the benefits often offered to full-time employees is paid time off. This is not typically a reality for employees contracted through a travel nurse agency, so you may want to plan your vacations accordingly around your contracts.

Although not having PTO is a drawback, the benefit of having an above-average hourly pay definitely helps compensate. After all, PTO is really just a day of pay without working, and travel nurses make quite a bit on the days that they do work.

8. Having to buy new scrubs for each position

Why does every hospital have to utilize a different scrub color for nurses? We all know that scrubs are much more expensive than they look, even when purchased from discount stores. Travel nurses may have a closet full of dark blue, silver, light blue, purple, and red scrubs, each of which can only be worn at specific placements.

Open up a travel nurse’s closet to see hundreds of dollars’ worth of scrubs—a rainbow of scrubs—none of which can be worn for anything other than work. On the upside, your required “forest green” sets will only be worn for your 3-month placement, so you won’t have to worry about them becoming ragged from overuse.

9. Being away from family for long periods of time

We cannot forget that some travelers are making big sacrifices to be away from their families so that they can quickly make the amount of money they need. Although the pay is a great benefit, nothing replaces being around the people that you love.

This is one of the reasons some travelers don’t stay on contracts for too long. It can also be pretty lonely working as a travel nurse, as you may not know anyone in your contract city and will likely be living alone.

10. Missing your coworkers

Most travel jobs are short-term in nature, which means you’ll have to keep moving to keep earning more money. While some placements may not be your cup of tea, you’re likely to meet a few coworkers along the way that you’ll miss when you leave.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what is best for yourself and your family, but you’ll always remember the people who helped you get through your difficult shifts.

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