Navigating Nursing Paths: Travel Nursing vs. Internal Travel Teams

  • By Christina Archer
  • Published on December 31, 2023

Nursing is a profession that offers a multitude of pathways, with travel nursing and internal travel teams being two distinct avenues. Both present unique opportunities and challenges, and understanding the differences is key for nurses considering their next career move. Main Line Health's STAT program exemplifies a successful internal travel team model, offering a substantial pay premium and a sense of belonging within one health system.

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The World of Travel Nursing

Travel nursing is an attractive option for nurses looking for diversity in their work environment, the chance to travel, and often higher pay. Travel nurses typically work through agencies that place them in short-term positions in various healthcare settings across the country. This path suits those who enjoy frequent changes in scenery and the opportunity to experience different clinical settings.

Pros:

  • Variety of Locations: Travel nurses can explore different regions and healthcare systems, allowing for a broad range of experiences.
  • Flexibility: Assignments typically last 13 weeks, offering flexibility in when and where to work.
  • Higher Pay: Travel nurses often earn higher wages than staff nurses and may receive additional benefits like housing stipends.
  • Professional Growth: Exposure to diverse facilities can accelerate skill development and adaptability.

Cons:

  • Instability: The transient nature of assignments can lead to feelings of instability and a lack of continuity.
  • Licensing: Nurses may need to obtain licensure in multiple states, which can be time-consuming and costly.
  • Benefits: While pay is typically higher, benefits like health insurance or retirement contributions may vary and are often tied to the travel agency.
  • Integration: Travel nurses must quickly adapt to new teams and protocols, which can be challenging.

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The Internal Travel Team Model

An internal travel team, like Main Line Health's STAT program, is a unique model that blends the flexibility of travel nursing with the stability of a permanent position within a single health system. Nurses in these programs are employed by the health system and rotate among its facilities as needed.

Pros:

  • Premium Pay: Main Line Health's STAT program, for instance, offers up to $15.00 per hour premium on top of base pay, recognizing the flexibility and expertise of these nurses.
  • Consistency: Nurses benefit from being part of one health system, ensuring consistent policies, procedures, and values across all assignments.
  • Professional Development: Internal travel teams provide access to system-wide resources for education and career advancement.
  • Full Benefits: Nurses enjoy full employee benefits, including health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off.

Cons:

  • Limited Location Variety: Nurses are limited to the facilities within the health system, which may restrict the breadth of clinical environments experienced.
  • Less Flexibility: Assignments may be based on the system's needs, offering less choice in when and where to work.
  • System-Specific: Nurses develop a deep understanding of one health system, which may not translate as broadly should they choose to leave.

Main Line Health's STAT Program as a Model

Main Line Health's STAT program stands as a successful example of an internal travel team. Designed to meet fluctuating staffing needs, the STAT program allows nurses to serve across the health system's facilities while earning a lucrative pay premium.

Key Benefits:

  • Competitive Compensation: Up to $15.00 per hour premium is a significant financial incentive.
  • Camaraderie: Nurses develop relationships within the health system, fostering a sense of community and teamwork.
  • System Familiarity: Working exclusively within Main Line Health allows nurses to become intimately familiar with the system's culture and operations.
  • Career Stability: The program offers the stability of permanent employment with the health system.

Choosing Your Path

When deciding between travel nursing and an internal travel team, consider your career goals, desired lifestyle, and what you value most in your work environment. Here are some tips to guide your decision:

1. Assess Your Adaptability: If you thrive on change and adapt easily, travel nursing might be more appealing. If you prefer consistency, an internal travel team could be a better fit.

2. Evaluate Your Financial Goals: Consider the pay structure and benefits that align with your financial needs. Travel nursing might offer higher wages, but internal travel teams often provide more comprehensive benefits.

3. Consider Your Long-Term Career Path: Think about how each option will contribute to your professional development and long-term career aspirations.

4. Reflect on Your Personal Life: Your personal commitments and lifestyle preferences should play a significant role in your decision. Flexibility and travel might be more suited to some, while others may prioritize stability and rootedness.

5. Research and Network: Speak to nurses who have chosen each path. Learning from their experiences can provide valuable insight into what might suit you best.

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The choice between becoming a travel nurse and joining an internal travel team like Main Line Health's STAT program depends on personal and professional priorities. Travel nursing offers freedom and variety, while internal travel teams provide consistency and a solid support system within one health system. Both paths offer unique opportunities for growth, adventure, and financial reward. Whichever you choose, you're embarking on a journey that will shape your nursing career and enrich your professional life.