Travel Nurses’ Guide to Choosing the Best Hospital
When choosing where you want to work as a travel nurse, there’s a number of different medical facility options to consider. From hospitals, to private practices, to community educational groups, each option has its advantages and disadvantages. When it comes down to it, it depends on your professional goals as a nurse to help you decide which option to go with.
One of the most popular options for nurses is to work at a hospital; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 61% of U.S. nurses are employed by a hospital - state, local or private. For travelers, that number is likely even higher as often it’s the larger medical institutions who have the need and the funds to hire travelers.
Whether you’re looking for your first, or your hundredth travel nurse assignment, there's always a multitude of factors to consider for each opportunity that comes your way - some of which can be hard to navigate. To help you evaluate whether a hospital position is right for you, we’ve put together a guide to choosing the best hospital for you.
First key question to address:
Why Would You Choose to Work at a Hospital?
Before we dive into choosing the best hospital for you, we should first talk about why you would choose a hospital over a private practice or community educational group position.
One of the major benefits of hospitals is that they offer a more dynamic work environment and more evident job security. On average, hospital nurses make 15% more than nurses in other settings - and as a travel nurse your salary will be even higher than a hospital staff nurse. Hospitals are also a great place to learn new skills as you will see a larger variety of cases.
Though there are also the potential disadvantages of being in a high-pressure, more emotionally demanding setting, and potentially working more unconventional hours as hospitals are open 24-7, 365, they still remain one of the most common workplaces and employers for nurses.
What Are the Types of Hospitals?
There are 5,534 registered hospitals in the US, which are divided into multiple categories. Consider which of these categories appeal to you as you’re searching for what type of hospital you’d like to work in.
- Acute vs Long-Term: This will determine the type of patients you tend to see.
- For-Profit vs Not-for-Profit: Often the focus on hospitals will be determined by who is in charge.
- Community vs Non-Community: Community hospitals tend to serve a smaller community, rather than being on a federal scale.
- Urban vs Rural: Geographic location impacts things like size, services and demographics.
- Independent, System and/or Network: Mostly important in terms of how administration works.
- Teaching vs Non-Teaching: Teaching hospitals are usually affiliated with a medical school and are more focused on education.
- Federal vs State/Local: There are 1,003 public hospitals in the US run by the federal, state or local governments.
Important Factors When Selecting a Hospital
Now that you know what type of hospital you want to work in, it’s important to consider a number of factors that may impact how enjoyable your time there is. When you’re looking for a permanent job, your priorities need to align with where you are in your personal life because you will be committing to a location and lifestyle for an extended period of time.
But when it comes to a travel position, your priorities shift. The nature of your job is moving from location to location. This Nomad (😉) lifestyle means you’re only planning on staying for a short period of time - and that means your greatest focus will be in finding a medical institution and environment that you enjoy:
Location: You likely have a list of all the locations you want to explore, and that’s important! Whether you’re looking to help out an area in need, interested in exploring somewhere you’ve never been, or want to be near family for a bit, location plays a big part. Make sure to balance your location preference against other priorities. Don’t feel like you should take a less-appealing opportunity just to fit your location preference.
Culture: Make sure to ask yourself whether the work will interest you, whether you feel comfortable with the hospital’s approach to its employees and to its patient population. Ask a colleague who has traveled there before or reach out to your network to see if you can learn more about the community there. Use sources like US News World Report and Glassdoor to read reviews of the hospital. These things can give you a lot of insight into both nurse and patient experience.
Experience with Travelers: Does the hospital use travel nurses on a regular basis or do they only bring in travelers once in a while? The more experienced hospitals will likely have a structured process in place is you prefer a system made for travelers. But working in a smaller setting will give you the opportunity to pave a path for future travelers and define how that hospital handles travel nurses.
Schedule Flexibility: Many hospitals will be flexible in terms of the shifts you take and the days you work. Figure out what schedule works best for you and open a discussion with your contact at the hospital when negotiating your contract.
Hospital Reputation: The reputation of the hospital you choose can reflect on your resume. If you’re looking to expand your knowledge on the latest procedures and tests, you may want to look for a facility that has the latest technologies and research for your specialty. Newer nurses may want to look for more prestigious hospitals to increase your marketability. Use the US News Ranking or Hospital Compare to determine the best hospitals for your specialty.
Making sure you’ve found the right hospital for you is of course important. Just as you wouldn’t settle for a house that is just ok, so you also shouldn’t settle for a hospital that doesn’t feel like the right fit.
The Nomad Team