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The Difference Between a Travel NP and a Travel RN

June 19, 2017

Like most people, I thought being a Travel NP would be more or less the same as being a Travel RN. I’ve come to realize that while they do have some similarities, they are actually quite different. In fact, Travel NPs are more commonly known as locum tenens providers. The word “locum tenens” means to hold one’s place.

Licensing

As a Travel RN, you only need to obtain one license in each state. If you are part of a compact state, then the licensing process can be pretty quick and easy.

As a Travel NP, you often have to obtain two to three licenses per state. You need the RN license, the ARNP one, and sometimes a prescribing license to order medications. Since more licenses as an NP are needed, the licensing process can take much longer.

As a Travel NP, you have to make sure your DEA certificate is changed to each state you work in or you will not be able to prescribe controlled substances.

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Scope of Practice

Both the RN and NP scope of practice varies by state. As an RN, you are carrying out orders given by an MD, NP, or PA. As an NP, some states allow full practice authority. This means an NP can work independently. Other states with stricter laws may require an NP to have a practice agreement with a physician, in which supervision is needed. The state board of nursing will need a copy of this practice agreement to keep on file.

Clinical Settings

Travel RNs typically work in acute care. They work in hospitals in various floors such as the ICU, ER, medical-surgical unit, PACU, OR etc. I do know some RNs that work in hospitals as case managers as well.

Travel NPs work in a more variety of clinical settings. We can work in schools, doctor offices, community health centers, hospitals, military bases, home health, occupational health, retail clinics, veteran’s clinics, Indian health centers, insurance sponsored clinics, and more.

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Demand

Both Travel RNs and NPs are in high demand. There are always multiple jobs to choose from. Both are unlikely to go long periods of time without finding an available position.  Travel NPs have more competition than Travel RNs for travel positions, since sites may choose to hire a locum tenens Physician or Physician Assistant instead.

Pay

Travel RNs are paid a weekly stipend which includes hourly pay with tax savings, incidentals, meal and housing allowances. Travel RNs are paid as a W-2 employee.

Travel NPs are paid an hourly rate and may be given an extra daily per diem for driving their own cars. However, housing will be paid directly to the landlord/hotel. Travel NPs can be paid as a W-2 employee or as a 1099 sole proprietor.

Most Travel NPs do not get direct meal stipends, but can easily deduct $250 worth of meal costs per week in their taxes.

W-2 positions offer benefits such as health insurance or a 401k. 1099 positions do not take out taxes and do not offer benefits. However, they usually pay more and since you are considered ‘self-employed’, you are eligible for more tax deductions than a W-2 employee.

I usually choose to alternate between working as a W-2 employee and a 1099 sole proprietor because the taxes will balance each other out.

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Assignment Length

The majority of Travel RN assignments are 13 weeks long. Travel NP assignments can vary from 1 day to 1 year, although most are about 3 months long. Both Travel RNs and Travel NPs usually have the option to extend their assignment at the end of those 3 months.

Similarities

Both Travel RNs and NPs are able to travel around the country for free. Housing and travel are paid for. Licensing fees are paid for or reimbursed. The average assignments are often about 3 months in length. Both Travel RNs and NPs are in high demand. The pay is more as a traveler than as a permanent employee. Working with an agency and recruiter is necessary as a traveler. Both have tax advantages. Both opportunities will make you a stronger healthcare professional.

As a Travel NP, I have many friends that are Travel RNs. We even sometimes choose to travel together! We mostly use different agencies but will agree to the same location. We often compare our offers and experiences. It’s always fun to be with a fellow traveler.

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Sophia Khawly is a traveling nurse practitioner from Miami, FL. After attending Florida State University for her BSN, she went on to complete her MSN at the University of Miami. She was featured in Glamour Magazine’s Top 10 College Women of the Year in 2010 and enjoys sharing her experiences and advice on her blog, TravelingNP.com.