Here’s what to know about travel nursing in 2024

Industry experts weigh in on evolving opportunities and challenges for healthcare professionals

The landscape of travel nursing continues to evolve, prompting many health care professionals to wonder: Is this career path still viable? The answer, while nuanced, remains largely positive, according to industry experts.

In a recent episode of the Nurse Converse podcast, host Nalina Mendez, BSN, RN, explored the future of travel nursing, focusing on the changing landscape influenced by the pandemic, market shifts and rate caps. Joined by Mona Veiseh, CEO of NuWest Healthcare and adviser for prominent health care organizations, the discussion shed light on current trends and the role of travel agencies in shaping the field’s future. “The role of travel agencies is super important for the future of travel nursing,” Mendez emphasized.

Although the dramatic surge in demand and compensation during the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided, Veiseh said travel nursing

continues to offer significant advantages over permanent positions, both financially and professionally. Although pay rates have normalized, they generally remain competitive, especially when factoring in tax-free stipends and potential bonuses.

However, Veiseh stated travel nurses now need to be more adaptable and consider assignments in a variety of settings and lengths. Rural locations and federal contracts, for instance, are becoming increasingly attractive options. These positions often provide unique experiences and the chance to make a significant impact in underserved communities.

“They are so different from a traditional travel nursing position,” she said. “Often times these health systems are in rural areas in America. They don’t have the modernalities a traditional health care system might have. They may be a little backdated and require a very astute nurse or health care provider who’s willing to get their hands in there and figure it out.”

Mendez agreed: “It’s such a rewarding feeling. Honestly after going this route myself, I tell everyone to go find a federal contract.”

Both experts agreed professional growth remains a key benefit of travel nursing. Exposure to diverse health care systems and practices across different regions enhances skills and broadens perspectives in ways static positions simply cannot match. This versatility makes travel nurses invaluable assets in an industry that’s constantly evolving.

Additionally, the role of travel nursing agencies is evolving, according to Beyond just placement, many now offer comprehensive support services, including assistance with licensing, continuing education and navigating the complexities of moving between assignments. This enhanced support system is making the travel nursing experience smoother and more accessible than ever before.

For nurses considering this path in 2024, it’s crucial to approach with realistic expectations. While the exceptionally high pandemic pay rates are a thing of the past, according to the nursing website, the core benefits of travel nursing — flexibility, professional development and the opportunity to experience health care across diverse communities — remain intact.