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Staff Nurse vs. Travel Nurse: What’s The Difference?

Staff Nurse vs. Travel Nurse
Written by Guest Author

Staff nurses and travel nurses are both registered nurses (RNs) who are usually employed by healthcare facilities. Both types of RNs wear nurse scrubs while on the job, but there are some key differences between staff and travel RNs.

One main difference is the length of time each type of nurse stays at a particular facility. Travel nurses spend relatively short amounts of time at facilities that need extra staff while staff nurses stay permanently at the facility they choose to work for.

Other differences between staff and travel nurses include pay rates, schedules, employer benefits, advancement opportunities, skills needed, and more. However, there are still a lot of similarities between these two types of RNs, specifically when it comes to the work or specialties performed and the RN licensing requirements.

The Job Description of a Staff Nurse

Staff nurses are nurses who are employed by one healthcare facility, and they will work only for one facility for as long as they choose to remain there. These nurses are a part of the facility’s main staff whether the facility is a hospital, doctor’s office, or school.

A staff nurse can get benefits like the chance to specialize in a certain area of nursing such as surgical nursing. These nurses can also be promoted within the facility that they work for since they stick around for quite a long time. Many staff nurses advance to management or chief nursing positions that pay more than beginning staff nursing positions.

Staff Nurse vs. Travel Nurse

The Job Description of a Travel Nurse

Travel nurses are employed by a contractor organization or nursing agencies that sends them to healthcare facilities in need of extra nursing help.

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These nurses often work for short periods of time at these facilities until their help is no longer needed, and then they will travel to a different facility as designated by their employer. Travel nurses experience some amazing benefits, including free housing and reimbursement for travel expenses.

Travel nurses are known to receive frequent bonuses, and they can gain experience in a vast range of environments and healthcare areas since they are always working at a new facility. However, there are also some challenges to travel nursing.

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The Advantages of Staff Nursing Over Travel Nursing

When it comes to the key advantages that staff nurses have over travel nurses, job stability and steady work come in at the top of the list. Oftentimes, staff nurses have set schedules of working three 12-hour shifts per week, and they will always have a facility to work for, unlike travel nurses who sometimes run into extra time off in between periods of work.

Another advantage that staff nurses have is the option to specialize in a field of nursing. They may choose to stay in one specialized area of nursing at the facility they are working for until they become a field expert.

One other key advantage a staff nurse has is the opportunity to advance in their career. Staff nurses are typically the types of RNs who go on to become nurse managers, which are nurses who oversee a facility’s unit budgets, conduct staff meetings focused on nursing topics, and hire and train new nursing staff.

Staff Nurse vs. Travel Nurse

The Advantages of Travel Nursing Over Staff Nursing

The top advantage travel nurses have over staff nurses is their average salary. Although all nursing careers expect to have high wages, travel nurses are some of the highest paid with an average yearly salary of over $108,000. Travel nurses are also known to receive significant pay for overtime work, which helps compensate them for a nurse traveling lifestyle.

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Travel nurses also have the most flexible schedules of any type of nurse because they can choose not only when they work but, to an extent, where they work. These nurses have the benefit of traveling to new cities or states within the U.S. So, anyone who likes to always be on the move and to explore different places may enjoy being a travel nurse.

Travel nurses also receive extra time off to help them acclimate to new places when they are traveling. Lastly, travel nurses are rarely required to wear a uniform, so they can choose their own nurse scrubs, including tops and bottoms, to fit their own style.

The Similarities Between Staff and Travel Nursing

While there are so many differences between staff and travel nursing careers, there are just as many important similarities. Because both staff and travel nurses are RNs, they are both required to keep their RN licensures current and must complete a set number of continuing education hours every year or two years. Different U.S. states have different continuing education requirements, though, so travel nurses who travel from state to state may need to obtain multiple state licenses. In addition, they must make sure to follow the requirements of each state they wish to work in.

Both staff and travel nurses can also expect high-paying compensation for their work, even though travel nurses receive more frequent bonuses. However, staff nurses will receive paid time off, which most travel nurses do not receive. Both types of RNs receive retirement plans and medical insurance. Additionally, there is a high demand for travel and staff nurses. And, while a few staff nurses are required to wear uniforms, most travel and staff nurses are allowed to wear their own scrubs and scrub jackets or warmups.

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