Burnout among nurses is a main cause of emotional exhaustion, deteriorating mental health, and poor patient care, and has been an increasing issue among health care staff in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey from March of this year reported that a third of the nursing workforce in the United States plan to leave their jobs this year, with 44% citing burnout and high-stress workplaces as the reasons for their desire to move on from their nursing roles. Another report from the National Academy of Medicine shows that 35% to 54% of nurses and physicians have experience burnout symptoms due to extra pressure experienced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides burnout, the second leading reason for nurses to consider leaving their positions is the low pay and/or minimal benefits that they receive in their position.
Travel Nursing on the Rise
As nurses are quitting their positions at a faster rate than health care facilities can hire new ones due to stress and burnout, many are leaving their hospital positions for travel nursing jobs. Travel nurses are recruited by health care facilities across the country that may be facing staffing shortages to take on temporary nursing positions in hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices.
Nurse Hannah Stone decided to leave her staff nursing position to become a travel nurse, saying “I experienced a lot of burnout in my staff job before travel nursing. The desire for something new was definitely needed at the time…I’ve really enjoyed the lifestyle and freedom it has allowed for me to live.”
The Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing
Travel nursing jobs can offer better pay than traditional permanent nursing jobs—up to 50% more, due to high demand—and some may even offer paid housing and transportation. Travel nurses also have more control over their work schedules, as they can rest in between nursing assignments which helps to maintain mental health and reduce burnout. The potential of travelling to different areas across the country may be seen as desirable for some nurses as well.
At the same time, travel nursing jobs are typically located in high-paced and chaotic environments. As travel nurses are called in to work at already understaffed facilities, these nurses must jump directly into roles without receiving specific training regarding the context of the care that they will be performing. A travel nurse may have to pick up details as they go, such as information on certain patients, where supplies are kept, learning the chain of command, and even the layout of a hospital, as staff nurses may not have bandwidth to provide proper training. Travel nurses are expected to have a varied and strong skillset to be able to adapt to whatever their next nursing job may entail.
Not all travel nurse jobs provide paid housing and transportation, leading some nurses to struggle when finding short-term affordable living among recent inflation. Travel nurses also may go weeks or months away from family and friends back home.
The pros and cons of travel nursing should be weighed when considering a change in the nurse’s career. While travel nursing can have benefits, stress can remain high in any nursing job, and maintaining resiliency and good mental health practices can be more essential in the long run for a nursing career.