Emily Bryant MSN, RN
Emily Bryant MSN, RN
December 21, 2022 - 3 min read

​​What would it take for a travel nurse to return to a hospital?

The demand for travel nurses continues to remain consistent throughout the country due to staffing shortages, and hospitals are constantly trying to fill their open staff positions rather than hire travel nurses. Travel nursing provides endless benefits to nurses that the typical staff job at a hospital fails to offer. So what would it take to make a travel nurse stop signing high-paying contracts and return to the weekly grind of a staff nurse position?

1. Healthy Work Environments

One of the benefits and challenges of travel nursing is being exposed to many different types of management, hospitals, and state regulations with regard to their specific units. In some cases, it provides an enlightening experience of some horrendous working conditions. However, after experiencing a few places with poor working conditions, travelers recognize and appreciate how rare it is to find a hospital that provides safe patient ratios, allows time for adequate breaks, values its employees, provides educational opportunities, and has respectable relationships between coworkers of all hierarchies within the hospital system. When a nurse can confidently walk into the hospital feeling supported, excited, and refreshed in his or her profession, they want to continue working there because they see and value longevity in a healthy work environment.

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2. Family

Many nurses decide to embark on their travel journey knowing that they have a set amount of time for which they want to be a nomad. Some travel as a couple knowing that in two years they want to move back to their place of origin to start their own family. Others see traveling as their opportunity to see the country for a set amount of time before returning to their roots where they hope to remain forever. Nurses who place a high emphasis and importance on proximity to their families are often more willing to return to their staff jobs in order to remain in a predictable and consistent environment near their people.

3. Location

Even though many travelers have learned to work the system and stay at places they love for as long as possible while remaining in a contracted role, some will agree to take a hospital position simply due to the geographic location of the facility. Many people enter travel nursing intending to find a place to settle down or to spend an extended amount of time exploring, and the local interest of the city might be enough of a draw to make them consider leaving their high-paying travel contracts. Even if the hospital doesn’t provide them with their ideal working condition, if they have the mindset that they “work to live and not live to work,” then they will prioritize their life outside the hospital doors with greater emphasis.

4. Value

Travel nurses know if they become a staff nurse they will generally suffer a dramatic pay cut to do so. Thus, hospitals need to make up for the difference in other forms. Even though their take-home pay might be significantly lower, incentive pay or sign-on bonuses can certainly help convince nurses to stay. Many travel contracts also function by filling the most undesirable shifts, and many travel nurses are tired of working nights/weekends/holidays. By providing more desirable shifts to staff nurses, you can give them an opportunity to work consistent hours that fit their needs. This might be enough of an incentive to convince them to stay and revert to a full-time position.

The pandemic has catapulted travel nursing into the spotlight of our country’s healthcare crisis, and hospital management needs to find ways to improve staff retention if they want their demand for travelers to decrease. Many contracted nurses enter into their assignments knowing their end location. But for the nurses that are searching for a new home, hospitals need to start providing a healthy work environment to persuade travelers to stay.

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