What Do Travel Nurses Do?

4 Min Read Published August 2, 2023
What do travel nurses do?

Becoming a travel nurse can be an exciting opportunity to not only experience new places around the country but also network and build lasting connections with healthcare professionals. But if you're considering starting traveling, you may be wondering, what do travel nurses do? 

This article will take you through the responsibilities of a travel nurse, including the day-to-day duties, where you can work, and the pros and cons of the job. Keep reading to determine whether this fast-paced, exciting, and adventurous career is right for you.

>> Click here to see available high-paying travel nurse opportunities!

What Do Travel Nurses Do? 

The specific duties of a travel nurse will vary depending on the unit and department you work. For example, the expectations of an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse will vary greatly compared to those of an obstetrics (OB) nurse or an operating room (OR) nurse. In this section, we'll discuss what travel nurses do, their duties, and their responsibilities.

>> Related: How to Become a Travel Nurse

Bedside Responsibilities

Travel nurses are responsible for taking care of patients from triage to discharge. Typically responsibilities may include, 

  • Administer medications and monitor for adverse reactions
  • Assist patients with activities of daily living (ADLs), including ambulation, feeding, dressing, and bathing
  • Insert and manage IV catheters
  • Perform vital signs at required intervals and recognize abnormalities and report to appropriate healthcare providers
  • Perform physical assessments and recognize signs
  • Prepare patients for bedside procedures and surgeries


A large portion of a travel nurse’s responsibilities include education. Specifically, travel nurses will need to provide education to the patient, if applicable, as well as to family and caregivers throughout their shifts. 

Time spent educating patients and families will vary depending on your specific unit. For example, a travel nurse that works in a post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) and is discharging patients after surgery will be required to spend more time on education than other typical bedside duties. 

On the other hand, an ICU nurse will spend far less time focused on education because of the severity of their patient’s illness and disease. 

Travel nurses also may be responsible for educating new nurses and orientees. While rare, it is possible for a travel nurse to be asked to work with new nurses.

Patient Advocacy

While not the most obvious job responsibility, advocating for a patient is an important job duty of a travel nurse. This can range from speaking to healthcare providers to advocating for tests or new medications. It also can mean speaking to family members about the wants and needs of the patient. 

>> Click here to see available high-paying travel nurse opportunities!

Where Do Travel Nurses Work?

Travel nurses can work in a variety of locations. Essentially, they can work anywhere that a staff nurse may work. However, not all healthcare settings will have a need for travel nurses. Some of the locations travel nurses work in include, 

  • Hospital
  • Home health
  • Long-term care facility
  • Government agency
  • Private MD office
  • Urgent care
  • Specialty clinic
  • Surgical center
  • Academia

A Day in the Life of a Travel Nurse

Travel nurse days might look a little different than a staff nurse because they can be the first to be floated to another unit, depending on their contract. So, travel nurses will generally report to the floor they are contracted but may have to work their shift on another unit or even another hospital (depending on their specific contract).

1. Get Their Assignments

Most travel nurses will start their shifts either at 7 am or 7 pm. After getting an assignment, the first task is to get a report on your patients. This typically takes about 30 minutes but may take longer, depending on the unit and the patients! 

2. Looking Through the EMR

After the report, travel nurses will spend a little bit of time looking through the EMR to go over orders and medications, including times they are due, and to find any missing information that was not communicated during the report. 

3. Performing Physical Assessments

The rest of the morning generally consists of performing physical assessments on your patients, vital signs, assisting in ADLs, and administering medications. 

Healthcare providers typically round in the morning so it is important to try and touch base with the medical team to learn the plan of care for the patient for the day and any changes to the orders and/or medications. 

4. Repeat!

The rest of the day is similar to the morning/evening but maybe a little less hectic. There are more vital signs, reassessment of your patients, admissions and discharges (depending on the unit), and road trips for MRI or CT scans. 

While this is a brief idea of what a typical day might look like for a travel nurse, it will vary greatly depending on your specialty and work location. 

>> Click here to see available high-paying travel nurse opportunities!

Pros and Cons of Being a Travel Nurse

Being a travel nurse may sound like a great opportunity: You get to travel the country, earn a higher wage, and experience new cultures. But like every job, there are pros, and there are cons as well. 

Travel Nursing Pros

  • Higher compensation
  • New locations
  • Networking
  • Meeting new people
  • Expand your skillset
  • Adaptability 
  • Flexibility between contracts
  • Choice of contracts and location

>> Related: Travel Nurse Salary Guide

Travel Nursing Cons

  • Always the new person
  • First to float, first to cancel
  • Relocating every 13 weeks 
  • New computer modules for each assignment
  • Lack of local support system
  • Managing multiple nursing licenses
  • Finding temporary travel nurse housing

Is Travel Nursing Right for You?

Travel nurse requirements are the same as a staff nurse, except most travel nurse jobs require 1-2 years of experience and prefer a BSN degree over an ADN. Not meeting these standards can make finding travel nursing jobs in desirable locations more difficult and may dampen your experience.

Another reason travel nursing may or may not be right for you is variety. As a travel nurse, no two assignments will look the same. So, it may not suit you if you prefer stability and routine.

>> Click here to see available high-paying travel nurse opportunities!

Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

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