Andrew Wettengel / Monday, June 22, 2020 / Categories: Work World


Travel nursing isn’t an easy profession. It requires people who are already in a highly-specialized, demanding profession to add in additional stress factors, including learning new processes, meeting new colleagues, and moving every few weeks. While this can be too daunting for some nurses, others either love the new adventures the job takes them on or the sense of purpose they feel when they help out those who need it the most. Plus, the pay is typically higher than a staff nurse, and you get to travel to your preferred location, and explore the country. Who doesn’t like to travel, and get paid more money to do it? 

In fact, travel nursing is critical to the medical community. Travel nursing began nationwide in the 1980s; however, the idea can be traced back much further. In the early 20th century, the first director of the Federal Children’s Bureau Julia Lathrop proposed a federal public health program to help care for and promote prenatal and infant health and hygiene. Traveling nurses would lead this charge.

Government public health programs lead to some of the first travel nurses in the United States to help treat Native American patients with typhus fever, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, and more illnesses. Over the rest of the 20thcentury, traveling nurses helped patients all across the country, including remote Alaskan villages where medical care is extremely limited.

The national need for traveling nurses reached its boiling point in 1978 in New Orleans. At this point, hospitals brought in nurses from other places to help deal with the influx of patients seen during Mardi Gras. Since the late 1980s, these types of positions have been widely available, which has dramatically benefitted hospitals across the country.

Today, the demand for travel nurses is ever-growing, and they are a critical piece of the healthcare puzzle throughout the United States.

Why Is Travel Nursing So Important?

Travel nurses fulfill a unique role in medical facilities, including hospitals. The primary purpose of travel nurses, and what makes them so important, is to provide short-term support for short-staffed healthcare facilities. This is vital in facilities that naturally have a hard time meeting mandatory staff-to-patient ratios. To ease the burden on finding permanent local nurses, many of these facilities employ travel nurses.

Additionally, having an appropriately staffed medical facility leads to better overall retention of nursing staff members. While some of these nurses will be on short-term contracts, they allow facilities to stick to proper nursing staff ratios, which leads to better job satisfaction, as well as patient outcomes.

The Impact of Travel Nursing

From advocacy to quality control, travel nurses have a profound impact on society. These individuals make positive improvements to hospitals because they increase the access to high-quality care and can help improve patient outcomes.

Another positive aspect of including travel nursing on staff is that they bring different educations, experiences, techniques, and areas of expertise to existing programs and staff. Sharing knowledge helps everyone on the team grow and learn from the experiences of others.

Many travel nurses specialize in a certain part of medicine, such as surgery or emergency. Travel nursing allows these specialists to bring expertise to areas that may not otherwise have it. For example, facilities in rural areas may not have many nurses who specialize in prenatal care. When a travel nurse comes to this healthcare facility, they can share their knowledge with the permanent nurses at their assignment; therefore, increase overall care for patients. 

Travel Nursing During National Crises

When large-scale natural disasters or disease outbreaks occur, hospitals and other medical facilities in the affected areas are often overwhelmed with patients. During these types of national crises, the travel nursing community becomes more critical than ever. Since many travel nurses already have multi-state licenses, they can quickly and easily help out in the areas that most need aid from additional medical professionals.

Travel nurses are crucial pieces of the puzzle when large-scale disasters or illnesses hit the United States. There are a few different reasons that travel nurses are so important to the country during these times of crisis. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Nurse Shortages in Urban Areas

Large cities are home to large populations. When a disaster strikes in an urban area, the disaster is even more severe as more people are displaced from their homes. In fact, Eastern Kentucky University found that urbanization is to blame for displacement during natural disasters, not the natural disaster itself. The issue lies in the fact that large cities tend to be improperly zoned and ill-prepared for a mass evacuation during a time of crisis, which is often due to poor urban planning.

As people move around, there are likely to be nurse shortages in major cities and surrounding areas. In some cases, as people disperse, numerous cities might see an influx in people visiting hospitals.

Lack of Resources

As resources are drained in the hardest-hit areas, often blood, equipment, and even medical professionals need to be brought in from other parts of the country to help care for patients. Nurses can help by bringing resources (and their own two hands) from other facilities to be used in areas that need them the most.

Experts Providing Aid

Not every nurse has the same training, and some nurses have in-depth experience helping with critical ER patients who have been victims during a specific type of disaster. In the case of the coronavirus pandemic of 2019 and 2020, nurses who helped treat the virus early on could move on to other hot spots as the virus spread across the country. The same is true for all kinds of crises around the United States.

How Can You Help?

If you are a travel nurse interested in helping during times of crises, let your recruiter know about your interest as soon as possible. Even if you are already under contract with another facility, they might release you early to help the facilities that are most in need. The goal in these times is to send nurses to overburdened hospitals to alleviate stress for the existing staff. For some nurses, working within a hospital is their chosen path during these times, but there is another option as well.

For some nurses, volunteering with the American Red Cross or RN Response Network (RNRN) is a rewarding way to help others. While on the front lines, life can be challenging. Often, these organizations ask nurses to provide care in pop-up tents, and crisis care is a challenge in and of itself. This unique stress isn’t for all nurses.

Donating blood is another key way that nurses—and anyone else—can help others during crises in the United States. For nurses who can’t get out of a contract to help right away, donating blood provides a way to give back.

If you aren’t currently a travel nurse but are considering a change, this is the perfect time to get started. Travel nurses are always in demand, and our recruiters can help you find an assignment that allows you to help those in need at a hospital or medical facility in nearly any state across the country. Learn more about what it takes to become a travel nurse here. To get started, contact us today at 877-783-1483.

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