Did you know that travel nursing in Canada can be a viable and rewarding career?
Not only is it a sure possibility, but travel nurses throughout the country are in high demand as of 2022.
Since 2020 and the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s healthcare system has experienced an uptick in patient care and an ever-increasing shortage in skilled nursing staff. Travel nursing has provided prospective healthcare applicants with more flexible options to be a part of improving patient care and taking on satisfying career choices.
Travel nurses in Canada have the opportunity to get well compensated, explore the country, and expand their career while contributing to better patient healthcare. Read on to learn more about what a travel nurse is and how to get started.
What is a travel nurse?
A travel nurse is hired to fill a temporary nursing position at a healthcare facility, including a hospital, outpatient clinic, nursing home, or other facility that may require the need for a registered nurse.
A travel nurse fulfils an employment contract with the facility when there is a staff shortage, and then travels to the next contracted position where they are needed.
The key feature of a travel nurse is their ability to move from place to place across a state, province, country, or even on a global level to provide high-quality nursing care.
How does a travel nurse differ from a traditional nursing position?
Travel nurses adopt the exact same roles that a registered nurse would perform in a healthcare facility because they are certified and licensed to do so.
The only difference is that the travel nurse is contracted at the facility for a short duration, usually filling in when there is a staff shortage or when a full-time staff member or members steps out (resigns, gets terminated, leaves for maternity leave, etc.).
While a traditional nurse often stays at one facility for several years at a time, a travel nurse moves from place to place fulfilling contracts across the country every few weeks or every few months depending on the need and their unique schedule.
Who can work and how to become a travel nurse in Canada?
Most Canadian contracting travel nursing agencies require that each applicant have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing from a North American university or college.
Applicants must obtain a RN licence for the province you wish to work in.
International nursing graduates who wish to work in Canada must be able to speak the native language, have all of the necessary immigration paperwork (passport, visa), and all of the appropriate and required immunizations.
Most agencies also require that each applicant have at least one year of hands-on nursing experience prior to becoming a travel nurse. Like any nursing position, research job postings, apply with the travel agency you are interested in, and wait to see if you get an interview.
How does travel nursing work?
Once a travel nurse is hired on with a travel agency, they can typically choose their contract.
There are short and long-term contracts as well as deciding the location (province, healthcare setting, etc.). The travel nurse is then sent to that healthcare setting to fulfil the agreed upon contract.
Some agencies will cover moving costs, locate housing, provide healthcare benefits, and provide certain work-related discounts. Once the contract is finished, the travel nurse moves on to the next contracted position.
How long are travel nursing contracts in Canada?
In Canada, many travel agencies are typically very flexible and allow for their travel nurses to decide their contract lengths and schedules.
Travel nurses may work anywhere from 5, 6, 8, to 12 weeks at a time. Some travel nurses may even extend their contracts if there’s a need at their specific facility.
What is the typical travel nurse salary in Canada?
The annual salary for a travel nurse working in Canada varies, depending on experience, the province, and the healthcare setting.
As of 2022, the annual salary ranged from $61,200 to 122,120.
How much do travel nurses make in Ontario?
Just like the average salary across the entire country, the salary for a travel nurse working in Ontario will vary based on experience, location, and the healthcare setting.
In 2022, travel nurses in Toronto were making approximately $62 per hour while travel nurses in Grey were making $43 per hour.
Do travel nurses make good money?
Compared to traditional nursing positions in Canada, travel nurses typically make good money.
However, prospective travel nurses need to do some regular mathematics to make sure that their annual salaries are still comparably good by examining the following:
- Benefits: Is your agency covering travel expenses, housing, malpractice insurance, continuing education?
- Does your annual salary outweigh your cost of living?
- Is your annual salary higher than local nurses you currently work with?
Can a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) do travel nursing in Canada?
Although some agencies accept applicants who’ve completed 1-2 years, or an associate’s degree in nursing, a bachelor’s degree in nursing is preferred.
An RPN requires an associate’s degree, has a limited scope of practice, and must work under the supervision of an RN in Canada.
The increased educational experience for a RN paves the way for more job opportunities in travel nursing.
What are the benefits of travel nursing?
Travel nursing comes with numerous benefits, including:
- Meeting new people and fostering professional relationships
- Travelling the country on the agency’s dime
- Amazing work benefits (bonuses, insurance, housing coverage, continuing education, stipends)
- Work and schedule flexibility
- Building up the resume
- Less likely to experience work-related burnout in one position
Are you the right fit for travel nursing in Canada?
Travel nursing is not necessarily for everyone. For some individuals, they have families and loved ones to think of, and constant travelling may not be an easy option.
Some nurses don’t like feeling rushed into a new contract, and having minimal time to orient to a new facility can be very distressing.
Travel nursing may be an excellent option for you if you are:
- A new graduate
- Not quite settled into a routine yet
- Not about a structured, predictable lifestyle yet
- Interested in travelling the country
- Want to build your work experience early
- Not worried about what the next step is
Can I accrue vacation time as a travel nurse?
This is one of the downsides about working as a travel nurse.
Most travel contracts don’t allow for traditional accruement of vacation hours, and taking time off during open contracts can be challenging.
However, the benefit of choosing your contract schedule is that you can plan for time off or for vacation time between contracts if you organize it ahead of time.
Can a Canadian nurse work as a travel nurse in the US?
Yes, but there is a bit of a paperwork process.
Canadian travel nurses can seek a temporary work assignment in the US if they seek a TN non-immigrant visa and obtain a US work permit. In order to do so, Canadian travel nurses must:
- Submit proof of their foreign educational background to the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS)
- Obtain licensure from the State Board of Nursing where they will issue an Authorization to Test if needed for the NCLEX.
- Take the NCLEX or the CGFNS qualifying exam
- Get a Visascreen Certificate
- Pass the TOEFL if you were educated in a non-English speaking province
- Once you have the passport, the nursing licence, the Visascreen Certificate, and a US job offer, you may apply for the TN Visa.
Where else can Canadian travel nurses work internationally?
Recently, there has been a call for travel nurses worldwide.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a healthcare employment shortage on a global scale.
Canadian travel nurses can work through immigration and visa processes to work in other countries such as the US, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and much more.
Creating your own business and independent travel nursing practice.
Travel nurses in Canada who wish to exponentiate their income, assign other travel nurses, and have more control over their contracts can open their own independent travel nursing practice.
Of course, there are going to be both pros and cons to starting a business venture such as an independent travel practice.
- More control over your own work
- Taking on the lead role in a business practice
- Potentially earning more than you would under a travel agency
- More administrative work
- Responsibility over finding your own contracts
- Responsible for your own credentialing, tax work (hiring your own accountant), malpractice insurance, travel costs, etc.
- Becoming a marketing expert to spread word about your practice
Many facilities tend to hire travel nurses who are associated with well-established travel nursing agencies, so it can be challenging to be hired on as an independent contractor. That’s why it’s essential to develop healthy and strong relationships with healthcare facilities across the country and to get your name and reputation out there.
How long does it take to become a travel nurse in Canada?
In combination with schooling and the recommended year-long hands-on nursing experience, applicants should expect it to take approximately 2-4 years to become a travel nurse in Canada.
Once the applicant is accepted for an interview and then accepted for a job position, it doesn’t take long after to begin a regular work schedule.
If the applicant is travelling in from another country, the process will take even longer.
In what healthcare settings do travel nurses get paid most?
Travel nursing position salaries are often ranked according to what traditional nurses are paid for their specialties. According to Personal Support Worker HQ, these are the top six highest paying nursing specialties in Canada as of 2022:
- Enterostomal therapy nurse (ET)
- Cardiovascular nurse
- Community health nurse
- Critical care paediatric nurse
- Critical care nurse
- Emergency care nurse
Specific annual salaries vary based on experience, the healthcare setting, the province, and the city in which the travel nurse is contracted to work in.
What is the highest paid travel nurse specialty in Canada?
According to Personal Support Worker HQ, travel nurses in Canada have the potential to make the most money working in enterostomal therapy.
This may change from year to year, and will depend on the individual travel nurse’s contract commitments and experience.
What is the highest salary for a travel nurse?
One of the highest salaries known for a travel nurse, as of 2022, is approximately $130,870. This travel nurse holds the position of a telemetry travel nurse, or a nurse practitioner who works with patients at risk for cardiac failure.
This salary is based on statistics mostly analyzed in various US cities.
If a travel nurse in Canada is hoping to earn a salary of this level, its recommended to run some demographic numbers to make sure that it’s worth their while, such as:
- The city they will be contracted in
- The cost of living
- The travel agency they work with an any extraneous costs you may accrue
- How long you will be contracted with that specific setting
How do travel nurses make money?
Travel nurses are paid according to an hourly rate, which is determined by their place of employment that they are contracted with.
The employer and the travel agency must reach an agreement on the salary for the travel nurse before proceeding forward with the contracted schedule.
Travel nursing can be a rewarding career to combat burnout and stagnation that traditional nursing positions often present.
You can choose your contracts, organize your own schedule, enjoy a generous benefits package, and get well-compensated while travelling the country or even the world.
Remember that travel nursing may not fit everyone’s work style, and that a healthy amount of research is best before making any major career changes.
Hop online and search through travel nursing job postings, popular travel nursing agencies in Canada, and reviews and blogs about travel nursing careers to see if it is right for you!