Travel nurses are also known as district nurses. They are specialist nurses who give who work in the community providing care and support to vulnerable and sick patients. They are an important part of the health family of the UK. You would usually work in the community, paid for by the National Health Service (NHS). In this role you will play a vital role in keeping hospital admissions and re-admissions to a minimum. By doing this you will also ensure patients can return to their own homes as soon as possible. The role of travel nurses has been developing for around one hundred and seventy-five years. The first people were employed in this specific role in the 1850s. A shortage of travel nurses (as with other health professionals) in recent years means the position is increasingly well-regarded.
What Does a Travel Nurse Do
All travel nurses work extensively with older people. However, you will also regularly care for others including those recently discharged from the hospital. You will also work with people who are terminally ill and those who have physical disabilities. Travel nurses are expected to play a leading role in the following activities:
- Provide emotional support and advice to patients and their families.
- Support and listen to patients in a community setting, often in their own homes.
- Give drugs and injections and treat wounds.
- Monitor breathing and take temperatures and blood pressure.
- Work in teams to help doctors with physical examinations and set up drips.
- Monitor the quality of care a patient receives and update patient records.
In addition to providing direct patient care, travel nurses have a teaching and support role. You must always work with patients to enable them to care for themselves. You also support family members and teach them how to give care to their relatives.
Who Employs Travel Nurses
In most circumstances, travel nurses in the UK work as part of the NHS team within primary care linked to General Practitioners (GPs). You would be employed through an NHS contract. Travel nurses work closely with wider health teams including social services, voluntary agencies and other NHS organisations.
Job Salary for a Travel Nurse
The salary levels of travel nurses are set based on National Health Service (NHS) pay and conditions between Bands 6 and 7. These bands are re-negotiated every year. The current pay rates for the different bands in England are: Band 6 <2 years’ experience – £35,392 2-5 years – £37,350 5+ years – £42,618 Band 7 <2 years’ experience – £43,742 2-5 years – £45,996 5+ years – £50,056 Some other figures are useful to allow you to compare salaries. In the UK, the national average wage is estimated to be around £30,000 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The current National Living Wage (which must be paid to people aged 23 and over) means the minimum untaxed income for a 40-hour week is over £21,000 per year.
Geographic Weightings in Pay
Some travel nurses get additional pay to help them with the cost of living in areas where things cost more. Recent geographical weightings are:
- Inner London: 20% of basic salary, subject to a minimum payment of £4,888 and a maximum payment of £7,377.
- Outer London: 15% of basic salary, subject to a minimum payment of £4,108 and a maximum payment of £5,177.
- Fringe: 5% of basic salary, subject to a minimum payment of £1,136 and a maximum payment of £1,915.
How Often is a Travel Nurse Normally Paid
Travel nurses can normally expect to be paid a salary every month. This is the standard method of payment for employees of the NHS.
Who Negotiates a Job Salary for a Travel Nurse
Salaries are based on the NHS pay band system. Travel nurses are paid between Bands 6 and 7 depending on experience and seniority. These pay bands are negotiated between the government and trade unions operating in the NHS that represent nurses.
What Sort of Contracts Do Travel Nurses Have
Travel nurses will have set contracts that guarantee a minimum number of hours per week. These contracts will also be clear about where you should work and to whom you should report to.
After completion of the training, travel nurses will be paid at least on NHS pay band 5 with the chance for additional payments linked with career progression and length of service. Additional payments based on geographic weightings to deal with higher costs of living also exist for those living in London and the surrounding area.
How to Become a Travel Nurse
Understanding the educational and training requirements to become a travel nurse is important if you want to become one. You first need to qualify as a nurse. Once this is done you can then take an apprenticeship to become trained as a travel nurse.
Qualifications/Courses – Travel Nurse
To qualify as a travel nurse, you first need to get a degree qualification in nursing. To get onto a nursing course you will usually need:
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science.
- 2 or 3 A levels, including a science, or a level 3 diploma.
Full-time nursing degree courses usually take 3 years to complete. Some people can fast-track to a second year of study if they already have a degree in a health-related subject, psychology, life sciences or social work. Another potential route is to take a degree apprenticeship in nursing if you work in a healthcare setting like a hospital. Training as a nurse can also take place within the armed forces. Once you have your degree in nursing you will need to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council as a registered nurse. You then need to have worked for one or two years as a nurse before you apply for an apprenticeship as a travel nurse. The qualification you will need to work toward is Specialist Community Public Health Nursing – District Nursing. The apprenticeship will usually be funded through the NHS and will last between 1 and 2 years before you qualify.
General Skills Required
- You will always be accountable for your own patient caseloads so effective time management and decision-making are essential.
- As a travel nurse, you must have the willingness to learn about medicine throughout your working life.
- Strong emotional resilience, a calm temperament and the ability to work well under pressure are all needed by nurses.
- Excellent communication skills are needed because you will be working with a wide variety of different people from different walks of life and, usually, a wide variety of ages. This will include the families of patients as well as the patient themselves.
- You will also need to be able to put patients at their ease and gain their confidence. This includes the ability to work sensitively and constructively with patient fears.
- Excellent problem-solving and diagnostic skills are essential.
- Well-developed counselling skills are needed. This includes active listening and a non-judgemental approach.
- You must be a good team player. This means having the ability to work constructively with others carrying out aligned tasks in the healthcare team.
- Some computer literacy to record information relating to patients.
- Confidentiality relating to patient records.
- A clean Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is required for this job. This is because you will be working with children or vulnerable adults.
Challenges of Being a Travel Nurse
- You’ll also be accountable for your own patient caseloads. This means the job is a responsible one.
- Travel nurses must also be proactive in caring for patients. You need to use your own initiative to contact other NHS and social services professionals.
- Maintaining a professional outlook is essential. You must treat the public with respect at all times. It is essential to maintain this no matter how difficult a patient is being.
- You will always need to wear protective clothing and a uniform.
- Exposure to unpleasant sights and smells is part of the job.
- You must always be prepared for the unexpected. This can be exciting but also challenging at times.
Type of Person Suited for this Work
- A person with a commitment to the values of the NHS and a genuine interest in healthcare.
- Someone with a calm and patient outlook is required. This includes the ability to deal with stress.
- You must be able to deal with losing patients.
- Nurses must be team players. You must also be able to work with direction from more senior team members.
- You must be a responsible person. This means being dedicated to the care of a patient for the duration of their treatment.
General Expected Working Hours
You can expect to work around a forty-hour week. The days of your work will also sometimes change. Evening work, weekend work and Bank Holiday cover will also sometimes be needed.
Location of Work
The majority of travel nurses usually work in the community, making visits and supporting patients. This means you will need to be ready for regular and extensive travel. Some travel nurses are based in health centres and most people employed in this role will spend at least part of their time in health centres.
Experienced travel nurses can make an excellent career. Within the service, there are promotion opportunities to become a senior district nurse or a community matron. You might also look to move into general health service management or become head of community nursing, or move into an aligned discipline such as research, education or health promotion. Some travel nurses also choose to find work overseas.