Travel Nursing vs. Staff Nursing

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Pros and Cons to Consider Before Making the Switch Between Travel Nursing & Staff Nursing

If you're exploring nursing career options, you might be wondering about the differences between travel nursing and staff nursing. As a seasoned travel nurse with over 20 contracts under my belt, I'm here to simplify it all.

In this guide, we'll dissect the nuances of job security, pay rates, benefits, work-life balance, and professional growth while comparing and contrasting the two paths. So, whether you're a future nurse or a seasoned one considering a change, this post will help you make an informed decision. Let's get started!


Job security

Staff Nursing: Traditional Stability

When it comes to job security, staff nursing has a reputation for being the stable choice, while travel nursing might appear riskier. However, as someone who's navigated both worlds,  I've got an eye-opening perspective to share with you.

Staff nurses often have permanent positions at hospitals, clinics, or healthcare facilities, providing a steady source of income and job security. This stability means you can count on a regular paycheck and enjoy benefits like paid time off and sick leave. Plus, you get the comfort of knowing your workplace inside and out.

Travel Nursing: Embracing Flexibility

On the other hand, travel nursing operates on short-term contracts, which typically last about 13 weeks. This can make it seem like we're living on the edge, contract after contract. But here's the twist - that apparent “lack of job security” gives us incredible flexibility. With each new assignment, we have the power to choose our next destination, work environment, and even our work schedule. 

From my experience, I found that travel nursing actually provided me with more control over my career, leading me to feel more secure than ever. While I didn't have the traditional stability of a permanent position— I had the freedom to shape my nursing journey which led me to make more money, vacation six months a year, and even retire early.


Staff Nursing (Steady Income)

Having a steady income can give you peace of mind, knowing that you have a reliable source of money each month. This can make it easier to budget and plan for the future. However, there are also some potential downsides to staff nursing. For example, most staff nurses don’t earn as much as travel nurses, and they may be more likely to experience burnout due to working at the same facility or toxic work environment for long periods of time. Additionally, staff nurses typically have less flexibility in their work schedules and locations, so they may have limited opportunities for advancement within their organization.

Travel Nursing (Higher Earning Potential)

Travel nurses, generally speaking, earn a higher salary compared to staff nurses plus, we get tax-exempt stipends. It's one of the major perks of this adventurous career path. That higher pay isn't just a number; it reflects the unique demands and flexibility required in travel nursing.

As a travel nurse, you're taking on shorter contracts, often in areas with nursing shortages. Hospitals and healthcare facilities are willing to pay a premium for your expertise and the temporary nature of your role. So, yes, you're likely to see a noticeable bump in your paycheck compared to your staff nursing colleagues.

Factors Influencing Travel Nurse Pay

Let's dive into the factors that influence travel nurse pay. It's not a one-size-fits-all situation, but there are a few key variables that come into play. Location is a big one. Assignments in high-demand areas or places with a high cost of living typically offer more generous pay packages. Another crucial factor is specialty. If you have specialized skills or certifications, you can command a higher hourly rate.

So, when you're deciding which career path is right for you, think about your financial goals and lifestyle. Travel nursing offers a chance to earn more and see different parts of the country, but it may require more financial planning for your time off. Staff nursing provides more stability and traditional benefits but may not offer the same earning potential.


Staff Nursing (Traditional Perks)

Staff nurses typically have access to a variety of benefits, such as health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off (PTO). These benefits can provide valuable financial protection and security for nurses and their families.

Travel Nursing (Unique Advantages)

One common misconception about travel nursing is that we miss out on benefits, like health insurance, retirement plans, and 401(k)s. However, that's not the case. Many travel nursing companies, including FlexCare, offer comprehensive benefits packages that can rival those of staff nursing positions. You can expect health insurance, dental and vision coverage, retirement plans, and even 401(k) options. 

As a travel nurse, I can vouch for the fact that while we might not have the traditional paid time off (PTO) like staff nurses, the higher income we earn allows us to save up for our time off. It's all about managing your finances wisely and enjoying well-deserved breaks without worrying about unpaid time.

Work-Life Balance

Let's talk about work-life balance, one of the essential aspects of any nursing career. As someone who's been down both paths, I understand the significance of finding that sweet spot between your professional and personal life. 

Travel Nursing (Flexible Scheduling)

One of the biggest reasons I love travel nursing is that it allows me to align my work schedule with my personal life in a way that staff nurses often can't.  Here are a few reasons why: Flexibility is the name of the game here! 

When you're a travel nurse, you have the power to pick your assignments and decide when and where you want to work. Need a week off for a mental health break? Go ahead. Or maybe a month off to vacation and explore a new destination? Go for it. Wish you could spend more time with family during the holidays? You can make it happen. As a travel nurse, you have the power to strategically plan your assignments around your lifestyle.

But, of course, it's not always perfect. The flip side of flexibility is adaptability. As a travel nurse, you might find yourself working weekends, holidays, or night shifts, depending on the assignments available. It's part of the deal when you're stepping into new healthcare settings. So, while you have the power to choose when and where you work, you should also be prepared to embrace shifts that might differ from your comfort zone.

Staff Nursing (Structured Routine)

Now, let's talk about life as a staff nurse. With most permanent staff positions, it's pretty common for nurses to be scheduled for work during weekends and holidays. Healthcare doesn't take days off, and patient care is a round-the-clock commitment. So, if you choose the staff nursing route, be prepared for the possibility of working during these times, as they're often required.

On the flip side, when you're a travel nurse, weekends, holidays, and shifts are all negotiable. You have the freedom to discuss your preferences with your agency and find assignments that align with your desired work schedule. This flexibility can be a significant advantage, especially if you have specific days you'd like to reserve for personal or family time.

Ultimately, both paths offer opportunities for a satisfying work-life balance. It's about what suits your lifestyle and priorities. If you value flexibility and are ready to adapt to different work environments, travel nursing might be your ideal choice. On the other hand, if you prefer a more consistent schedule and traditional benefits, staff nursing could be the right fit.

Professional Development

Travel Nursing (Versatile Growth)

Travel nurses are like the chameleons of the nursing world. We're adaptable, versatile, and eager to take on new challenges. With each contract, we step into a different healthcare facility, often in a new city or state. This constant change not only keeps things exciting but also helps us grow as professionals.

By experiencing different healthcare systems, working with diverse teams, and treating various patient populations, travel nurses continuously expand their skill sets. This versatility becomes a valuable asset, making us sought-after by employers. If career growth and a dynamic work environment are what you're after, then the seemingly unconventional job security of travel nursing might be your golden ticket to flexibility, adventure, and professional development.

Staff Nursing (In-Depth Training)

However, new grads or nurses looking to train in a new specialty may benefit from the stability and support of a permanent staff nursing position. Staff nurses are more likely to have the opportunity to work with experienced nurses who can mentor them and help them learn the ropes, as well as access to in-house training and development programs. Additionally, staff nurses have the option to specialize in a particular area of nursing, which can lead to career advancement opportunities within the same organization.

Ultimately, the best path for professional development depends on your individual goals and preferences. If you are looking for stability and support, staff nursing may be a better option for you. If you are looking for a dynamic work environment and the opportunity to learn new skills and experiences, travel nursing may be a better fit.

Now that you've learned about the key differences between travel nursing and staff nursing, you're one step closer to making an informed decision about which path is right for you.

If you're feeling ready to make the leap to travel nursing, FlexCare can help you get started. With a wide variety of assignments to choose from and a team of experienced recruiters to guide you, FlexCare is the perfect partner for your travel nursing journey. 


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Sarah Gaines Travel Nurse
Sarah Gaines, MSN, RNC-OB

In the ever-evolving world of travel nursing, Sarah is the go-to expert, helping nurses secure top-notch contracts, work fewer hours, and travel more often, all while accelerating their path toward early retirement. Through her Instagram @sarah_gaines, she shares a glimpse into her nomadic lifestyle along with helpful advice and resources for travelers. Learn more about how you can become a part of the global community of Six Figure Travel Nurses at