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Travel Nursing: A Growing Specialty

Have you ever thought about pulling up stakes and going on the road? You may be able to do just that. AMN Healthcare reports that demand for travel nurses is on an upward swing, increasing an estimated 15 percent in 2016 and 17 percent in 20171.

Travel nursing offers many benefits to nurses, whether they are just starting out or preparing to retire. For example, the short-term contracts of travel nursing offer more flexibility in life decisions. Nurses can try living in a new area before committing to a permanent move. They might look for positions in areas where they can partake in hobbies and activities such as skiing, hiking, sailing, and so on. It may also help cut down on housing costs, as some jobs offer free or low-cost accommodations.

Travel nursing also offers the opportunity to experience varied work environments, people, and responsibilities. In more rural locations, travel nurses might have more autonomy over their work. In other situations, they might learn how to work with different personality types and adapt to various management and communication styles. (And if they decide they don’t like the work environment, they know they can move on.) More densely populated areas might offer more diverse populations and challenging cases. Nurses can try out different specialties and add new skills to their resumes — leading to new opportunities later on in their career.

Certain personal and professional characteristics are more suited to travel nursing. Being self-motivated and a self-starter are key traits, since you will be put in many different situations and expected to get up to speed fairly quickly. Being open to learning from new experiences, both good and bad, is also essential, as is the ability to adapt to different expectations and environments.

A shortage of nurses is feeding much of the demand for travel nurses who can provide vital patient care, even temporarily2. Technologies that are changing the nature of work are also behind the growth. Many hospitals and facilities are now using Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems. EHRs do not require the same amount of hands-on training as other systems, and they can prevent many medication errors. The widespread use of EHRs helps illustrate that travel nurses who keep up with technology as lifelong learners will have an easier time adapting to different facilities as they learn new applications and software. Each new skill makes them more appealing in the job market.

Specialty and Geographic Demand

Certain specialties are seeing more demand for travel nursing. Medical-surgical nursing, which covers many areas of patient care, is one, as is intensive care nursing due to its specialized nature. Other areas with plentiful assignments for travel nurses include the ER, the OR, and labor and delivery3.

The aging U.S. population is drawing nurses to areas with greater numbers of older people, such as Florida, Arizona, and states with other warm climates. Other states need nurses to help fill ongoing shortages. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 10 states with the highest demand for nurses are4:

StateEstimated Job Growth (2012-2022)
North Dakota21%

Most employers hiring nurses today prefer candidates with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to show that they have the critical thinking and communication skills to meet the challenges of today’s health care environment. Earn yours though the University of Saint Mary’s online RN-BSN program and be ready to take on the exciting life of a travel nurse.

1 “NursesRx: The Top Health Care Trends for 2016,”, accessed May 16, 2016.

2 American Association of Colleges of Nursing press release, available at

3 “Exciting nursing trends discussed with a healthcare staffing expert,”, accessed May 16, 2016.

4 American Nurses Association, Nursing Job Growth and Salaries by State – 2013,”, accessed May 16, 2016.