What is an Internal Travel Nurse?

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An internal travel nurse is a new form of travel nursing that involves working directly for the hospital without the agency middleman.

Today I’ll be exploring why hospitals are moving towards internal agency nurses, what it means for current travel nurses, and what the main pros/cons are.

Hospitals are changing the way they are hiring nurses, and retaining staff. This new type of travel nursing has become very popular among healthcare systems due to the increasing popularity of pay caps. Internal travel nurses are paid directly by the hospital instead of the traditional “staffing agency” middleman.

While it is becoming more and more popular, there are definitely pros and cons to this approach.

What is Travel Nursing?

Travel nursing or agency nursing is when nurses don’t work for a specific hospital, but a staffing agency instead. These staffing agencies place their nurses wherever hospitals require them.

In turn, travel nurses get paid significantly more than staff nurses, however, there can be a few short falls. Working for a staffing agency typically means you won’t receive as good of benefits as you would with a hospital. Insurance, retirement, and vacation time can be significantly restricted or in some aspects eliminated altogether.

But, travel nurses can make a lot more money. They can often earn $2,000-5,000 per week for a 13-week assignment, and in many cases much more. The most lucrative travel jobs can reach upwards of $10,000 per week.

What is an Internal Travel Nurse Agency?

Internal travel nurse agencies are typically staffing agencies that are ran or owned by the hospital system. In some cases, hospitals might have special contracts with specific agencies that provide them with much less markups.

For example, a typical staffing agency might charge the hospital $200/hr for a nurse, but then pay the nurse $100/hr and keep the profit. But, when the hospital owns the agency, they can just pay the nurse $100/hr without loosing the extra $100/hr to the outside agency.

You might see hospitals contracting with specific agencies to negotiate lower markups. However, in essence this doesn’t eliminate the problem hospitals are trying to resolve.

Internal vs External Travel Nurse

Internal Travel Nurse

  • Make more money
  • Full retirement/benefits packages
  • PTO/vacation time
  • Work for the hospital directly
  • Usually local assignments

External Travel Nurse

  • Make way more money
  • Limited retirement/benefits packages
  • NO PTO/vacation time (usually)
  • Work for an agency, contracted through the hospital
  • Local/national assigments

Should You Be an Internal Travel Nurse?

In my experience with internal travel nursing, they pay significantly lower than typical staffing agencies. Although you might get better retirement or benefit packages, the bump in pay from a traditional staff agency is significant.

In the future, hospitals might phase out external staffing agencies entirely. However, as of now, there is no evidence that this could actually happen. Big hospital systems have tried, but have been met with a mass exodus of travel staff, and needing to rehire the same nurses to recover.

One big pro to internal traveling is the ability to work for the same institution without loosing your existing benefits and retirement. You basically would work the same job you work now, but you’d be floating between different hospitals within the institution. For those nurses who don’t want to actually “travel”, this can be a huge benefit. You can make more money than being traditional staff and keep your existing benefits.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, internal travel nurses are becoming more and more popular. It is an easy way for existing staff to make more money without sacrificing their existing retirement or benefits. This can be especially useful for older nurses with big retirements or nurses with families who don’t want to be away for days at a time.

Regardless, the way nurses are hired, paid, and work is changing. And, there will be constant change until the nursing shortage can be solved (read more).

Internal travel nursing is a great way to give opportunities for nurses to make more money while not having to leave their hospital system. Traditional staffing agencies might see a dip in their staffing numbers. However, in my opinion, I don’t think the nurses who will travel internally would even be candidates for the traditional agencies.

But, if you are interested in how to start travel nursing, I wrote a great guide based on my experience as an operating room travel nurse.

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Full Time Nurse

Striving to help nurses and nursing students succeed.

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