The Life of a Nurse Traveler

We talked to Phil Light, who is an RN traveler who works in Emergency Departments. He is also the President of the Professional Association of Nurse Travelers (PanTravelers), the national association serving the interests of travelers. Here’s what he had to say about this exciting field.

What role does the Professional Association of Nurse Travelers play in a traveling nurse’s life?

The Professional Association of Nurse Travelers, founded in 2005, is the national association for traveling health care professionals. We are the leading voice and advocate for health care travelers in the U.S and our larger vision is to improve the conditions for Healthcare Travelers, hospitals and patients. is the official website of the Association, and it provides professional development, tools, and resources for health care travelers. The Association identifies issues of concern to nurse travelers, researches solutions and defines standards that foster safe, healthy, and humane work environments.

What do you see as the future of the traveling nurse profession?

Although the number of travel assignments has been down due to the recession, the national nursing shortage remains and is projected to increase in severity as thousands of aging nurses reach retirement age. In the long term the demand for travel nurses should increase.

How do you think the traveling health care industry will affect the current and future shortage of nurses in our country and the world?

Travel nurses comprise a minute percentage of the total number of nurses working in this country. We have little impact on the national nursing shortage. The inverse is true. As the nursing shortage increases, the demand for travelers will also increase.

What do you see as the number one benefit of working as a traveling nurse?

I see three primary attractions to traveling. The first should be to satisfy one’s spirit of adventure. Without this as a foundation the experiences of traveling are unlikely to be satisfying. Another great reason is professional development. Few other career choices can allow you to include on your resume such diverse positions as working at a major Level One research hospital or in a remote tribal clinic. You will gain invaluable experience as a traveler, making you a better practitioner. Finally, traveling can be financially more lucrative than working permanent time staff, especially if your home practice area is in a part of the country with traditionally low pay for nurses such as the South and Southwest.

What do you see as the biggest drawback?

The most often mentioned drawback is a lower quality of benefits. Travelers do not typically get paid vacation or sick days. Health insurance is seldom as good a quality as that offered by hospitals to full time staff.

If someone were considering the traveling nurse field as a career choice, what would you say to them?

There are many good reasons health care professionals may choose to travel, including professional development, financial growth, and personal adventure. If you have an adventurous spirit the rewards of traveling can be enormous. Get at least two years experience under your belt before embarking on a travel career and have at least six months living expenses in the bank first. Contracts can and do get unexpectedly canceled.


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