Traveling licensed practical nurses (LPNs) often help hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities cover shifts because of nursing shortages. They may travel locally or assist doctors and nurses in other cities – measuring patients' vital statistics, such as blood pressures, temperatures, heights and weights, dressing and bandaging wounds and administering fluids and injections. If you want to be a traveling nurse, you'll need to complete practical nurses training at a community college or technical school. In return, you can expect to earn salaries averaging nearly $50,000 annually.
Salary and Qualifications
The average annual salary of a traveling nurse was $48,000 as of 2013, according to the job site Simply Hired. Whether they travel part of the time or regularly on their jobs, these LPNs usually earn 15 percent more when traveling, according to NurseZone.com. To work in this field, you need to complete at least a one-year practical nurse program, and then apply for and pass the National Council Licensing Examination, or NCLEX-PN, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. Other essential requirements are physical stamina, compassion, patience, an attention to detail and interpersonal and speaking skills.
Salary by Region
In 2013, average salaries for traveling LPNs varied the most within the South region, according to Simply Hired, where they earned the highest salaries of $75,000 in Washington, D.C., and lowest of $37,000 in Mississippi. Those in the Midwest made $37,000 to $51,000 in South Dakota and Minnesota, respectively. If you worked as a traveling nurse in Maine or Massachusetts, you'd earn $43,000 or 58,000, respectively, which were the lowest and highest earnings in the Northeast. In the West, you'd make the most in Alaska and California and least in Montana – $54,000 and $38,000 per year, respectively.
A traveling LPN may earn higher salaries in certain industries than their LPN colleagues. For example, in 2012, all licensed practical nurses earned the most working in junior colleges, according to the BLS – $49,320 annually. They also earned above-average salaries of $43,570 in nursing care facilities – versus the industry average of $42,400 for all licensed practical nurses. Traveling nurses may also earn more at junior colleges and nursing care facilities, while still working at other medical facilities on a rotational basis. You may also earn more as a traveling nurse in Minnesota and California, as living costs are higher in those states. If you earned $50,000 as a traveling LPN in Columbus, Ohio, you'd need to make $62,602 in Minneapolis to maintain your living standard, according to CNN Money's "Cost of Living" calculator. In Washington, D.C., you'd need to earn $81,628 for the same reason, or approximately 63 percent more.
The BLS predicts a 22 percent increase in jobs for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, including those who travel, through 2020, which is faster than the 14 percent national hiring rate for all jobs. An increase among older Americans, who typically need more nursing services, may increase jobs for traveling nurses. Most of the job opportunities may spur from employment increases in nursing homes, residential care facilities and assisted-living centers.