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Traveling Nurse: Job Duties, Responsibilities and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a traveling nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Traveling nurses move between patient homes, hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities. They perform the typical nurse duties, particularly administering medication and initiating routine medical tests. To become one, you must either be a licensed practical nurse or a registered nurse.

Essential Information

A traveling nurse is a healthcare professional who assists chronically-ill or homebound patients, or helps medical facilities with staffing shortages. Along with the many duties associated with nursing, individuals employed in this occupation must also travel from location to location, including patients' homes. Some traveling nurses move between hospitals, clinics and schools. Education prerequisites for this job vary, though a basic requirement is a nursing license. Voluntary certifications are also available.

Required Education Licensed practical nurses: certificate or diploma in practical nursing
Registered nurses: diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree in registered nursing
Other Requirements Licensing required in all states; nurses must be certified at the appropriate level by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 11% for licensed practical and vocational nurses; 12% for registered nurses
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $46,240 for licensed practical and vocational nurses; $71,730 for registered nurses

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties for Traveling Nurses

Traveling nurses have a wide array of duties to perform, such as administering medication and preparing nutritionally-specific meals. Many nurses who travel to different locations also teach family members and caretakers about proper patient and medical care. Additional responsibilities for traveling nurses might include follow-up procedures after surgery or administering physical therapy.

Traveling Nurse Responsibilities

Caring for patients who cannot leave their homes, traveling nurses administer medical care and monitor patients' needs. Some school districts employ traveling nurses as a cost-cutting measure to administer medication to specific students. A traveling nurse can work independently, or for a health services organization.

Requirements for Traveling Nurses

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the education requirements vary for individuals employed as traveling nurses (www.bls.gov). Most employers prefer to hire candidates who are licensed practical (LPN) or registered nurses (RN). An LPN must have a high school diploma and a certificate from a nursing training program that has been approved by an official government agency. To become an RN, individuals will have to earn a diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing. A limited number of practicing traveling nurses will have graduate education in physical rehabilitation or gerontology.

Various local jurisdictions and employers have different certification and licensure standards for traveling nurses. To complete certification as an LPN or RN, candidates must demonstrate professional competency through an examination process, known as the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Certification for nurses is administered by state agencies responsible for governing health occupations.

Additional professional certification for home healthcare workers (who aren't necessarily nurses) is offered by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), which requires membership fees and an entrance test. The NAHC also require candidates to finish 75 hours of specialized coursework focusing on home healthcare.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The BLS projects that employment of registered nurses will increase much faster than the national average through 2018, the same for licensed practical and vocational nurses. In May 2018, the BLS reported that registered nurses in the 90th percentile or higher earned $106,530 or more per year, while licensed practical and vocational nurses in the 90th percentile or higher earned $62,160 or more per year.

The duties of a traveling nurse vary by patient and place of employment, though all perform basic medical tasks and possibly handle meal-planning as well. The educational requirements also vary, but a certificate or degree from a nursing program is needed. Licensure is mandatory.

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