Most nurses enjoy travel nursing for 3 reasons:
Applying with one of over 340 U.S. travel nurse companies only occurs once although many travelers float among multiple companies. Nurses do not need to fill out all of their information for each position within one company. This enables nurses to apply for many positions concurrently. In addition, travel nurses can continue to live at their current residence while being provided a taxed subsidy for their mortgage/rent if they do not want to move, although many hospitals do not allow permanent residents within a certain radius to work as a Traveler.
If the nurse's home state has joined the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLCA), the nurse can work in any compact state using their home state license. The nurse must have a license (RN or LPN) in good standing in their resident Compact state. There are currently 23 states participating in NLCA with no states pending implementation.
The housing is typically arranged by the travel nursing agency in the company name. Some companies allow the travel nurse to participate in the search and selection process. Some parts of the country are much harder to secure reasonable housing than others.
Nearly all agencies will offer a housing stipend if the nurse decides to secure housing independently of the agency. Some companies require the traveler to take the housing stipend and set up housing in their name rather than in the name of the company stating that they will make more money, which depends on the housing costs being less than the stipend. The housing stipend or provided housing will be taxed as part of the pay if the traveler does not have a "permanent tax home".
Some agencies offer healthcare insurance or reimbursement for insurance held elsewhere, the ability to contribute to 401(k)accounts (sometimes with matching funds), licensure reimbursment, referral bonuses for referring other travelers and loyalty reward type programs. Some companies are even starting to add vacation and sick days, stock investment options and continuing education reimbursements.
There may be tax benefits, commonly called "Tax Advantage" or "Per Diem" pay, if the traveler maintains a "permanent tax home" while working and living away from that home. The tax-free reimbursement covers meal and incidentals as well as lodging. Some companies only offer the tax free lodging component, while others provide both. A "permanent tax home" is a dwelling that you live in, maintain and return to between assignments.
Tax-free money is a complicated subject and many travel companies have little understanding of the tax implications for the traveler, often encouraging travelers who do not qualify to take it, leaving them at risk in an IRS audit. It is highly advisable to consult a travel tax expert prior to accepting tax free money.
Often nurses will dream of traveling as a way of getting financially ahead and seeing the world. That dream can turn into a nightmare though if a traveler is not prepared and educated. Being a successful traveler requires using good financial planning, a flexible outlook, knowing what companies and recruiters to deal with, what questions to ask, and how to negotiate.
The Professional Association of Nurse Travelers is the non-profit national organization representing nurse travelers in the US. The best inside advice covering pitfalls and workarounds comes from traveler-produced websites, blogs and forums on the web.
Presently there are over 480 and Travel Nurse Companies, US & International, also staffing Allied Healthcare Professionals.