Feel like spending a winter under the sunny skies of southern California, or experiencing the "big city" life of San Francisco, New York or Chicago? How about skiing the wintry slopes of Colorado or Vermont?
Each of these options may sound like a dream vacation, but it could become your daily reality if you choose to become a traveling nurse.
"Travel nurses are people looking for some adventure in their lives," says Marcia Faller, chief nursing officer and executive vice president of San Diego-based AMN Healthcare, the nation's largest temporary healthcare staffing agency. "It's a nice, easy way to experience different types of jobs without being tied down to one hospital."
Most travel nursing companies act as your personal recruiter, helping you determine where in the United States you want to work and the type of facility that's best for you.
Travel assignments usually last about 13 weeks, Faller says, but some nurses choose to extend stays for up to a year or more. Many companies, including AMN, cover moving, housing and utility costs as well as offer a full benefits package in addition to a competitive salary.
Travel nursing also offers flexibility, as there are typically no annual contracts involved and you can work for as many assignments as you'd like.
"You can go anywhere you want in the country," Faller says.
In recent years, the need for traveling nurses has grown dramatically as a way to fill a nationwide shortage of nurses at hospitals. What started in the 1980s as a short-term solution to staffing problems has blossomed into an essential part of hospital operations.
"The clinical workforce in the United States has become increasingly mobile," says Susan Nowakowski, president and CEO of AMN Healthcare. "A growing number of nurses are considering travel opportunities, filling gaps in hospital staffs caused by worker shortages. Travel nurses play a critical role in maintaining services and quality of care at hospitals and other medical setting nationwide."
Nurses interested in traveling should have at least one year of hospital-based experience, good references and a valid professional license.
Faller says nurses who are flexible, assertive, resourceful and open to change make the best travelers.
"Starting a new job every three months takes a special type of person," she said.
Working as a traveling nurse can also boost your resume, as it demonstrates your dedication to your profession, your personal adaptability and the flexibility of your clinical practice.
Also, many traveling nurses take advantage of learning new skills and practices at some of the nation's top hospitals.
Those interested in hitting the road with their career should consider seeking out a travel nurse to discuss their experiences.
"Once you start looking, you'll find travelers everywhere," Faller said.