Opportunities in the nursing profession abound, and job growth projections look promising for years to come. For example, employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 9% from 2020 to 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners is expected to expand by 45% during the same period ― primarily to replace workers who are moving to other occupations or retiring from the nursing workforce.
Nursing is a rewarding profession, but it can be challenging. The role sometimes requires long hours, and the work can be emotionally and physically taxing. Nurses who want more control over their schedule or simply need a change of pace may find that local travel nursing is a good option.
Learning how to do local travel nursing includes understanding what these professionals do, how to become one, and salary expectations. To become a local travel nurse, experience as a registered nurse is typically required. While a graduate degree in nursing is not necessary, it may help applicants become more competitive for the role.
Why Become a Local Travel Nurse
Motivations for becoming a local travel nurse vary. Common reasons registered nurses choose to move into local travel nursing roles include the following.
Local travel nurses typically work short contracts for health care providers in their hometowns or nearby. Such work allows them to explore different work options while remaining close to family. For example, a local travel nurse might pursue a contract with a nearby facility to try a different role or experience a different setting — without having to move or relocate. Local travel nursing can also be an option for nurses who are situated in regions where local long-term positions aren't available.
Improved Work/Life Balance
A nurse may have 12-hour shifts from Monday to Wednesday one week, then Thursday to Saturday the following. The constant change can interfere with sleep patterns, family life, and mental health. When a nurse feels too fatigued and begins questioning the value of their work, it may be time for a change. Local travel nursing roles typically work per diem, which allows them to have more predictable schedules because they are able to choose when they want to work.
Opportunities for New Experiences
The local travel nursing role can be attractive to nurses who seek new experiences. Working at different facilities and interacting with multiple patient populations can provide a change of pace. It also increases opportunities to practice transcultural nursing, which helps nurses build cultural competency skills that can improve patient outcomes.
Exposure to Different Work Settings
Local travel nursing enables individuals to explore multiple work environments, and short-term contract positions sometimes lead to other roles. A local travel nurse can discover the type of setting that works best for them should they decide to pursue a full-time role at a facility.
What Do Local Travel Nurses Do?
Local travel nurses typically perform the same duties as nurses who are employed in a single location, including assessing patients’ conditions and recording their medical histories and symptoms, administering medicines and treatments prescribed by a physician, operating and monitoring medical equipment, and more.
Depending on their experience and training, some local travel nurses might be assigned to work as generalists or as specialists, such as working with older populations in a residential care setting or with children in a pediatric unit of a hospital.
Local travel nurses work in all types of health care settings, including hospitals and private practices. The typical length of a contract is 8 to 26 weeks. However, health care organizations may opt to renew a contract, also known as an extension assignment.
How To Become a Local Travel Nurse
The pathway to entering the field can vary depending on an individual’s education and experience levels, as well as their work setting preferences. Common steps to become a local travel nurse are outlined here.
Step 1: Complete BSN
Local travel nurses typically have their BSN degrees because it is the most common pathway to becoming a licensed registered nurse. By completing a BSN program, an individual can acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to prepare for the steps involved in obtaining the RN credential.
Step 2: Obtain RN Credential
Upon completion of a BSN, a nurse must pass the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s NCLEX exam to acquire the RN credential. It is important for individuals to research other requirements in their state. For example, the process of obtaining a Hawai‘i nurse license includes passing the exam, meeting endorsements requirements, and undergoing a background check.
Step 3: Gain Experience
Organizations hiring for local travel nurse roles typically prefer candidates with some experience working as a nurse. It is common for facilities and organizations to require at least a year of experience for a candidate to qualify for the role.
Step 4: Look for Opportunities
With education, an RN credential, and experience in hand, an individual is ready to seek out potential local travel nurse assignments. They can go the direct route and check with health care facilities. This can include reviewing internet job listings. Another common route is to work through a travel nursing agency, which can provide individuals with the guidance and support to take on assignments.
Step 5: Further Advance Your Knowledge
While a BSN is often all that is needed from an educational standpoint, an MSN can help make a candidate more competitive for roles, especially for those that are similar to nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners.
Local Travel Nurse Salary
The starting median salary for a local travel nurse is approximately $80,965 based on data from the compensation source Payscale. It is important to note that local travel nurses are typically contract workers and may not receive traditional annual salaries. Instead, they may receive hourly compensation as part of a contract. The annual median hourly wage is $35.72 an hour, according to Payscale.
Compensation may vary based on different factors. For example, the annual median salary of a travel nurse in the Chicago, Illinois area is among the highest in the nation, according to Payscale. The lowest annual median salary can be found in Tucson, Arizona, and Columbus, Ohio. An individual’s experience level can determine compensation, too. For example, the average hourly compensation for nurses with 1-4 years of experience is $34.38 an hour, according to Payscale, while individuals with 5-9 years can earn $39.60 an hour.
As contract workers, it is typical for local travel nurses to work without health care benefits. However, those working through travel nursing agencies may qualify for benefits, as well as bonuses.
Other factors to consider when discussing salary include how local travel nurses may receive stipend payments for living and commuting expenses. Nurses who receive travel stipends should make sure they understand the tax implications.
Prepare for a Career as a Local Travel Nurse
Local travel nurses benefit from opportunities to explore different settings and gain new experiences. The path to becoming a local travel nurse typically involves earning a BSN and RN licensure. Candidates for nursing positions, including local travel nursing roles, become more attractive as they gain experience and training.
Hawai‘i Pacific University’s online MSN program enables students to customize their education with one of three in-demand concentrations: family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and adult gerontology nurse practitioner. Each concentration offers an advanced core curriculum, and as students take specialized electives specific to their chosen concentration, they acquire clinical hours that can provide essential experience.
Discover how this MSN program can help you achieve your nursing goals.