5 Women On What You Should Know Before Becoming A Travel Nurse

If you're looking for a career that will let you travel the country, becoming a travel nurse is a viable option.


A good friend of mine recently became a travel nurse, and since then she's been able to live in 4 different cities and meet new people - all while having a housing stipend and a pretty nice paycheck too.

If you're looking for a career that will let you travel the country (or even the world depending on the agency), becoming a travel nurse is a viable option.

However, just like any career, being a travel nurse isn't perfect. As this career field is becoming more popular, there have been more talk about the benefits of being a travel nurse, but not enough real talk around this profession. Recently, we were able to catch up with 5 travel nurses and they shared information about their work experience and the things that they wish they would've known before becoming a travel nurse.

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Breanna Mays

Courtesy of Breanna Mays

Number of Year(s) as a Travel Nurse: 1

Current Assignment: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Favorite Assignment: Washington, D.C.

The Hiring Process:

"After many Google searches, reading travel nurse blogs, and frequent postings on travel nurse FB groups I landed the best agency for my needs at the time. However, I quickly learned that having multiple agencies in my back pocket usually serves me better in the long run. This provides me the opportunity to negotiate contracts and ensures that I am getting optimum pay and accommodations during my stay."

What She Wished She Knew About Changing Locations & Switching Hospitals:

"When I finally made the decision to work contracts at different hospitals around the U.S., I quickly learned that every facility was not the same. Of course that sounds like a pretty obvious fact but realizing every hospital's policies and procedures varied from place to place was definitely an adjustment. Learning how to take care of patients with different levels of acuity was the easy part."

Lessons She's Learned:

"One of the most important things I've learned was oddly enough one of the things I was actually prefaced with before becoming a travel nurse. Sometimes loneliness settles in without warning or contrition. Moving to new places is great, but not knowing a single person within a 1200-mile radius can be quite an unsettling feeling. However, the time for self-discovery is truly limitless during these times. I have learned to embrace the quiet times but I have definitely learned when to speak up when I needed to see a familiar face."

Her Advice to Aspiring Travel Nurses:

"One piece of advice I would give anyone aspiring to work as a travel nurse is to remember that flexibility is a necessary attribute. Nothing is always set in stone. Contracts/shifts get cancelled, pay is not the same in every location, safe and affordable housing can be hard to find, and floating to other units in the hospitals can become routine. Before booking your contracts, remember that you are your best advocate. Do not settle for less than your worth when negotiating contracts and do not settle when recruiters don't seem to be working in your best interest."

Colea Owens

Courtesy of Colea Owens

Number of Years as a Travel Nurse: 3

Current Assignment: Dallas, Texas

Favorite Assignment: Dallas, Texas

The Hiring Process:

"When I started travel nursing, I was so excited to begin traveling that I took the first offer that was given to me. Travel nursing has extremely complicated packaging. You get a base rate which is taxed and paid by the company and a per diem food and travel stipend rate which is untaxed and paid by the government. I had let my recruiter convince me to take an extremely low base rate in order to have a higher per diem rate. For companies, they can pocket a higher overhead because they are taking less money to pay you since the majority of your income comes from the government stipend. It may not be illegal but it's definitely unethical. I had naively fallen into the trap, but thank God I learned early and never made that mistake again."

What She Wished She Knew About Changing Locations & Switching Hospitals:

"Switching new hospitals is fun and I enjoy meeting new people and exploring new locations. I wish I would have known that staff are sometimes very critical of travel nurses. You have to really work hard to prove yourself and be considered a part of their team, particularly because they may resent that you make more or have the flexibility in your lifestyle that they don't have. You also may get the harder patients and most difficult assignments. Be ready to jump right in, be a team player, and don't complain!"

Lessons She's Learned:

"People think travel nurses have it easy and make all this money. In reality, you may make more but you have a different set of challenges. You don't always know if you will have another assignment lined up and your current contract can get cut at any moment. You are also the first one to get floated or canceled for a shift, so you lose hours. You are also held to higher standards than the staff nurses or anyone else. When I was driving 17 hours to my assignment in Dallas, I had to pull over in Tennessee to do a mandatory stroke scale certification that they gave me less than 6 hours to complete or my contract would be cancelled! It was 9 at night and I was on the road looking for a place with internet so I could comply. Be ready for all challenges!"

Her Advice to Aspiring Travel Nurses:

"One piece of advice I would tell aspiring travel nurses: set a standard and negotiate your pay. After my first assignment, I didn't take less than $20/hr for a base rate (remember base isn't your take-home rate) which is a safe zone for auditing and other government items. I got a tax accountant to cover my numbers. I knew the tax laws in each state I traveled to. And I didn't submit information to a recruiter until they sent me a pay package I liked."

Reneisha Walker

Courtesy of Reneisha Walker

Number of Years as a Travel Nurse: 5

Current Assignment: Birmingham, Alabama

Favorite Assignment: Northern California

The Hiring Process:

"When I first began traveling, I traveled within my state of Alabama. I did not go through a travel company. Instead, I took an internal contract with the hospitals. I prefer to do it that way. I can stay in the comfort of my own state and make double the amount of money. You don't have a low hourly rate, like if you go through an agency, which I prefer because I like to work a lot of overtime. If the facility is close enough, I can stay in the comfort of my own home or with a friend. When I travel out of state, I use an agency. I have used several different agencies and most are pretty much the same. I just compare the jobs and pay packages available and choose the best one for me."

What She Wished She Knew About Changing Locations & Switching Hospitals:

"Research your cost of living. If you still have a home to maintain, is it going to be worth going to another state and having to find somewhere to live and rent a car if you don't get yours shipped? Travel companies give you the option of taking a tax-free stipend or letting them find housing for you. It's best to take the stipend and find your own housing. But before you take any assignment, look on sites like Airbnb, Craigslist, and travel nurse housing, and see how much it will cost you to move there. Do a budget of how much you will make there, subtract how much it cost to live there, then compare that to how much you already make. If I am leaving the comfort of my home, the magic number for me is always double what I'm currently making. Have a set number in mind when you talk to recruiters and don't take anything less than that."

Lessons She's Learned:

"A misconception that I hear all the time is that you can't travel with your family or if you have a family. Definitely not true. I have friends who bring their whole family with them on assignments and they get to enjoy a new city with their loved ones. I only travel out of state during the summer, so that my daughter can come with me or stay with her grandparents. If you have children and you want to travel, find other nurses with kids as well and split housing."

Her Advice to Aspiring Travel Nurses:

"Some of the staff at hospitals will not like you because you are coming in to do their job and make twice as much. They label travelers as incompetent very quickly if you don't go in on your p's and q's. They will even try to get your contract cancelled. It's best to stay to yourself and take great care of your patients."

Deanna Wallace

Courtesy of Deanna Wallace

Number of Years as a Travel Nurse: 4

Current Assignment: Houston, Texas

Favorite Assignment: Houston, Texas

The Hiring Process:

"The interview process as a travel nurse is always different with each location I apply to. I usually apply directly through a staffing agency. A recruiter calls me back to go over the details of what I am looking for, and the details of the jobs they have available. When the managers are available, they will call to interview you. During the hiring process, I feel like the hardest part is being available when the manager tries to call for the interview. Sometimes you are at work, and you can't answer the phone. Due to that, I sometimes lose out on that job because there are 10 other nurses that the manager is interviewing that same day. By the time I am able to get the manager back on the phone, they have already hired someone else. I would recommend setting a time and date on an off day so you can give the best answers possible for your interview. If you have to do your interview while you're at work, you should definitely do the interview on your lunch break to avoid distractions."

What She Wished She Knew About Changing Locations & Switching Hospitals:

"I wish someone had told me before I started travel nursing to pack lighter. Whenever it is time to move, I always regret having so many items to pack back up. Pack light but also remember to pack enough clothes for when the weather changes from hot to cold, outfits to explore the city, or a beach day to relax. Be ready to explore each new city to build memories because you may never visit that city again."

Lessons She's Learned:

"One misconception about travel nurses that I have found is the same at each hospital is that travel nurses are lazy, we never want to help staff nurses, and that we aren't as smart as the staff nurses. My advice to you is to just continue to be a great nurse as you have always been. Do not let anyone's opinion of travel nurses put you down when you know you're doing an awesome job. With travel nursing you will have to always prove that you are a good nurse through excellent patient care, helping out other staff nurses, and communicating well with the doctors."

Her Advice to Aspiring Travel Nurses:

"The best advice I can give to any nurse looking to start travel nursing is to make sure to pack light, make new friends with staff nurses and travel nurses to explore the city with, save money each time you get paid, and travel to one new country or city each time you take a break in between assignments. Trust me, you won't regret it."

Leia Osbourne

Courtesy of Leia Osbourne

Number of Years as a Travel Nurse: 4

Current Assignment: San Diego, California

Favorite Assignment: Both Los Angeles and San Diego, California

The Hiring Process:

"One challenge about the hiring process is keeping up with current assignments and getting references! Sometimes it is hard to get a reference from a charge nurse or manager that you have worked with temporarily, but you need one to move on to the next assignment."

What She Wished She Knew About Changing Locations & Switching Hospitals:

"Not every hospital is travel-friendly. You would think that if the hospital needs help with staffing needs, that employees would be grateful...but not always. You need tough skin, and need to know how to advocate for yourself and navigate the system if anything happens (such as a canceled contract/wrongful termination, unpaid wages, housing difficulties, etc.)."

Lessons She's Learned:

"A misconception about travel nurses is that we are rich because we travel! There are definitely ways to secure the bag as a travel nurse, but we have bills, families to take care of, and expenses just like everyone else."

Her Advice to Aspiring Travel Nurses:

"Be flexible, shop around for the best pay package (you don't have to accept the first offer), save and invest your money. And don't be afraid to say "no" to a recruiter, assignment, pay package, manager, or anything/anyone else that is not in your best interest."

If you're interested in becoming a Travel Nurse, be sure to take note of the tips above! If you're a Travel Nurse and would like to share your experience, tweet us at @xonecole.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here to receive our latest articles and news straight to your inbox.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

Earlier this spring, I wrote an article about the several reasons why marriage is quite different from dating. One of the things that I mentioned was sex. Listen, I know that you've probably heard that the leading causes of divorce center around things like poor communication and financial drama and yes, while that is certainly true, intimacy challenges rank right on up in there as well.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

To say that I love Saweetie is basically an understatement at this point, as time and time again, she's in the news or on my timeline giving me all of my life. Whether she pops up on a thread with her signature, "I know that's right!" or she's seen purchasing an item that an up-and-coming designer made for her just because "everything costs money," like. I mean. She's everything.

Keep reading... Show less

It's Pride Month, and what better time to highlight amazing Black LGBTQ leaders and advocates killing it in business? Yep, now is the perfect occasion. These entrepreneurs and executives are providing spaces for inclusion, disrupting and innovating in fashion, tech, entertainment, and finance, and giving voice to the struggles, issues, and vibrancy of LGBTQ communities. They are exemplary examples of brilliance we all can admire and take a nod from in our own lives both professionally and personally.

Keep reading... Show less

When Kara Stevens started Frugal Feminista, she was on a mission to offer something she didn't see enough of as a young Black woman looking to become debt-free. She'd taken her personal finance matters into her own hands, turning to library books and other free resources to get out of $65,000 in debt. "During that process, I'd found books—some written by Black women, some by white men—and they were all helpful, but I noticed that there was a dearth of literature really speaking to what Black women in their 20s and 30s were facing. I couldn't relate," she recalls.

Keep reading... Show less

You know, love is a funny, funny thing. I once read that 90 percent of it is based on the friendship developed by the two of you, and only 10 percent is actually based on love. And oftentimes, your marriage will boil down to the work put into maintaining and nurturing that 90 percent. Ain't that sumthin?

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

Michelle Williams On Depression, Healing & Why It’s Important To Check In With Yourself

"Now, the only label I've got that matters is God's: God's creation. God's work. God's child."

Do you have a story to share?

Latest Posts