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Careers In Focus
Job Title: Traveling Nurse, Trauma/ER

Name: Nicole A. Kapalko, R.N., B.S.N.

Job: Travel Nurse

Place of Employment: American Mobile Healthcare, San Diego, CA.  I am currently on assignment at Gwinnett Medical Center in an Atlanta suburb.

How did you find the job? Did you know someone who helped you get your foot in the door?
A fellow nurse referred me to American Mobile—one of the biggest travel companies. When I first started traveling, location was the most important thing for me and they were able to get me to the city that I wanted to go to.  You fill out an application and provide all necessary documentation to them. Then they can send out your profile to a hospital that is posting an RN need. Usually that hospital will call you for a telephone interview.

How much do you make an hour? And what benefits do you get?
It depends on where I am working.  California and NYC are the highest paying because the cost of living is so much greater. Unfortunately, the South is probably the worst paying, even though in the past couple of years I have seen the pay go up!  Generally, I receive anywhere from $27- $40 an hour. Some companies might pay even more, but you might not get certain benefits.

I receive medical/dental insurance coverage that costs me nothing per month. My housing is furnished (that is, it’s free to me). If I travel somewhere and live with family and friends, or find housing on my own, I am paid a living stipend, which is money per month for living (which also varies according to the cost of living in that area). For example, I am working in Atlanta right now. It’s my hometown, so I am living with my mom and step-father.

My company gives me $1400 per month for living, which I pocket each month, on top of my hourly pay.  If I were to find housing on my own that was cheaper than the living stipend ($1400/month), I could pocket the extra.

I also can put money aside in a 401K, and my company matches a certain percentage of it.  You get $1000 if you refer another RN who completes a work assignment with the company.  You also get reimbursed for travel, from $300 to $600 in arrival travel (to get to a new assignment) and again in ending travel (once you finish the assignment). Some assignments even give you an ending bonus. Usually, it comes with stipulations, like you have to work all required shifts, or you can't call in sick or miss a day of work.

How many hours a week do you work?
I usually work 36 hours per week, which is three 12-hour shifts.  Some assignments demand 40 hours per week, or rotating shifts.  But a majority of them are 36 hours per week.

What shifts do you work?

It depends on the hospital’s needs.  Usually, they have holes in the night shifts, but they could have needs in any of the other shifts.  I have worked mostly nights, but have have worked some swing shifts as well.  Some people get lucky enough to work a day shift.

How much vacation do you get?

You do not get any paid vacation or time off!  If you stick with the same travel company, you will not lose any of your benefits, like medical/dental insurance, as long as you take no more than 30 days off in between job assignments.  If you do not care to keep insurance during the time that you are not working, you can take as many days off as you would like—or can afford.  Once you return to work, you will get day one insurance again.  If you call in sick or miss a day of work, they will deduct so much money per hour missed, which varies depending on your housing/living stipend.

What experience did you have prior to landing this job?

Usually travel companies require you to have eight months to a year of experience in your area of practice.  I worked a year in the ER/Trauma Center.  Every travel position has been in that area.  I also have experience with both adult and peds, so I am more marketable and have more job opportunities available when looking for a new job assignment.

Some hospitals require more experience than that. For example, a busy Level 1 trauma center situated in the inner city might require you to have two years experience in a Level 1 trauma center and certain certifications, such as TNCC.

What do you love about the job?

What do I not love about this job?

I have been traveling as an RN for six years.  I have traveled to almost every place I have ever wanted to visit—on someone else's dime.  It is as if you are on a vacation all the time, except that you have to work 36 hours per week.  You get paid to go on vacation.

Read more Careers In Focus articles

2 Responses to “Job Title: Traveling Nurse, Trauma/ER”

  1. pat Says:

    This is exciting. I have not done this type of nursing. I would like to give it a shot. How can apply and where do I apply to? Could you please refer me.

  2. nursing career Says:

    how long will you continue to do travel nursing?

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