Agency Nurse vs. Travel Nurse: Breaking Down the Differences

Agency Nurse vs. Travel Nurse: Breaking Down the Differences

Choosing a career in nursing can be rewarding, but it’s important to know the differences between different types of nursing jobs. Two such positions that are often compared to each other are agency nurse vs. travel nurse.

While both professions involve working outside of hospitals, there are some key differences between the two. In this blog post, we will dissect the responsibilities, requirements, and salary comparison of agency and travel nursing. 

We will also be highlighting the necessary skills required for both positions and the benefits that come with them. So whether you’re looking to become an agency nurse or a travel nurse, read on to learn more about these exciting career paths in nursing.

Understanding Agency Nurse and Travel Nurse

As healthcare facilities continue to experience staffing shortages, agency, and travel nurses have become increasingly valuable resources. First, let’s try to understand how these two professions differ from each other.

Agency nurses work with various healthcare facilities on a temporary basis and have more control over their assignments and schedules. In contrast, travel nurses are typically contracted to work in different cities or states for longer periods of time but may receive higher pay rates and benefits.

Both types of nurses play critical roles in ensuring that patients receive high-quality care, regardless of the staffing challenges faced by healthcare organizations.

Agency Nurse vs. Travel Nurse: Job Duties and Responsibilities

Job Duties and Responsibilities of agency nurses

Job Duties and Responsibilities of agency nurses

The job duties and responsibilities of an agency nurse can vary depending on the specific role and setting in which they are employed. However, some common responsibilities may include:

  • Providing skilled nursing care to patients in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities.
  • Administering medications and treatments as prescribed by physicians or other healthcare professionals.
  • Monitoring patients’ vital signs and symptoms, documenting changes or concerns, and reporting any issues to the appropriate healthcare provider.
  • Educating patients and their families about their conditions, treatments, and self-care strategies.
  • Collaborating with other members of the healthcare team to develop and implement patient care plans.
  • Adhering to all relevant policies, procedures, and regulations related to nursing practice and patient care.
  • Maintaining accurate and up-to-date patient records and documentation.

As an agency nurse, it is important to be flexible, adaptable, and able to work effectively in a variety of settings with different patient populations. Strong communication skills, attention to detail, and a commitment to providing compassionate care are also essential qualities for success in this role.

Job Duties and Responsibilities of Travel Nurses

job duties  and responsibilities of travel nurses

As established before, travel nurses are registered nurses who work temporary assignments in a variety of healthcare facilities across the country. Their job duties and responsibilities may include:

  • Providing high-quality patient care to individuals in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities.
  • Administering medications and treatments to patients according to established protocols.
  • Assessing their patients’ needs and identifying any changes in their condition that require immediate attention.
  • Working closely with other healthcare professionals, including physicians, therapists, and social workers, to develop individualized care plans for their patients.
  • Educating their patients and families about their conditions, treatments, and self-care techniques to improve outcomes.
  • Documenting all patient information accurately and in a timely manner to ensure that medical records are up-to-date and complete.

Overall, travel nurses play an essential role in providing high-quality patient care across the country while gaining valuable experience working in different healthcare settings.

Agency Nurse vs. Travel Nurse: Job Requirements

Job Requirements for Agency Nursing

If you wish to have a career in agency nursing, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Valid nursing license in the state where the agency is located
  • Minimum of one year of nursing experience 
  • Ability to work independently and adapt to various healthcare settings 
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills 
  • Knowledge of medical terminology and procedures 
  • Ability to prioritize tasks and manage time effectively 
  • Availability to work flexible schedules, including nights, weekends, and holidays 
  • Willingness to travel within the agency’s service area 
  • Compliance with all agency policies and procedures, including documentation requirements and confidentiality protocols.

Job Requirements for Travel Nursing

If you’re aiming to be a travel nurse, then you must complete the following requirements:

  • A valid nursing license in the state(s) where you plan to work
  • A minimum of one year of experience working as a registered nurse in your specialty area
  • Current Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certifications
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • The ability to adapt to new environments, work independently, and learn quickly
  • Willingness to travel and work in various healthcare facilities, often on short notice
  • Flexibility with scheduling, including working weekends, holidays, and night shifts as needed
  • Proficiency with electronic medical records (EMRs) and other relevant software programs. 

It is important to note that specific requirements may vary depending on the employer or staffing agency. It is always a good idea to review job postings carefully and reach out to recruiters or hiring managers with any questions or concerns.

Agency Nurse vs. Travel Nurse: Required Skills

Required skills for agency nurses

Agency nurses are highly skilled professionals who work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. Some of the required skills for agency nurses include:

1. Strong clinical knowledge: Agency nurses must have a thorough understanding of medical terminology, disease processes, and treatment options.

2. Excellent communication skills: They should be able to communicate effectively with patients, families, and other members of the healthcare team.

3. Flexibility: Agency nurses must be able to adapt to different work environments and patient populations.

4. Time management and organizational skills: They should be able to manage multiple patients and tasks simultaneously while maintaining accuracy and attention to detail.

5. Critical thinking and problem-solving abilities: Agency nurses must be able to quickly assess patient needs and make informed decisions about their care.

6. Emotional resilience: They should be able to handle stressful situations with composure and maintain a positive attitude in challenging circumstances.

In addition to these foundational skills, agency nurses may also require specialized training or certifications depending on the specific setting in which they work.

Required skills for travel nurses

Travel nursing is a specialized field that requires a unique set of skills and qualifications. Some of the required skills for travel nurses include:

1. Clinical expertise: Travel nurses must have a strong clinical background in their specialty area, including experience in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

2. Flexibility and adaptability: Because travel nurses work in various healthcare settings with different patient populations, they must be able to quickly adapt to new environments and procedures.

3. Communication skills: Effective communication is essential for travel nurses, as they work closely with patients, families, physicians, and other healthcare professionals.

4. Time management skills: Travel nurses must be able to manage their time effectively, prioritizing tasks and meeting deadlines while providing high-quality patient care.

5. Cultural competence: Travel nurses must be sensitive to cultural differences and adapt their care accordingly to provide culturally appropriate care.

6. Problem-solving skills: Travel nurses are often faced with challenging situations that require quick thinking and problem-solving skills.

7. Technical proficiency: Travel nurses must be proficient in the use of electronic medical records (EMRs) and other healthcare technology used in their assignments.

Agency Nurse vs. Travel Nurse: Salary Comparison

Salary comparison - Agency Nurse vs. Travel Nurse

Agency nurses typically work for staffing agencies and are assigned to various healthcare facilities on an as-needed basis. They may receive hourly pay rates or salaries, depending on the agency and the specific job they are assigned to. According to data from PayScale, the average hourly rate for agency nurses in the United States is $32.14, with a salary range of $44,000 to $97,000 per year.

Travel nurses, on the other hand, typically work for travel nursing agencies and are contracted to work at healthcare facilities in different locations across the country. According to data from Indeed, the average hourly rate for travel nurses in the United States is $39.35, with a salary range of $70,000 to $106,000 per year.

It is important to note that these figures are averages and may vary based on factors such as location, experience level, and specialty area. It is also important to consider other factors beyond compensation when comparing agency nurses and travel nurses, such as job security, flexibility of schedule, and opportunities for professional growth and development.

Pros and Cons of Agency and Travel Nursing

Agency Nursing: Pros & Cons

As with any career path, there are both pros and cons to consider when it comes to agency nursing.


  • Flexibility: Agency nurses can often choose their own schedules and work assignments, giving them more control over their work-life balance.
  • Variety: Agency nurses have the opportunity to work in different healthcare settings and gain experience in multiple areas of nursing.
  • Higher pay: They may also earn higher hourly rates or receive bonuses and other incentives for taking on particular assignments.


  • Unpredictability: Agency nurses may not always know where they will be working or what their schedule will be, which can make it difficult to plan ahead.
  • Lack of job security: Because agency nurses are not permanent employees of healthcare facilities, their employment is dependent on the availability of assignments from the staffing agency.
  • Limited benefits: Agency nurses may not receive the same benefits as permanent employees, such as health insurance, retirement plans, or paid time off.

Travel Nursing: Pros & Cons

Travel nursing can offer a range of benefits and drawbacks, depending on your personal and professional goals. Some potential pros of travel nursing include:


  • Flexibility: Travel nurses can often choose where and when they work, allowing them to customize their schedules to fit their lifestyle or family obligations.
  • High pay rates: Travel nurses may be able to earn higher salaries than traditional staff nurses due to the demand for their specialized skills and willingness to work in high-need areas.
  • Exposure to new settings: Travel nursing can provide opportunities for personal and professional growth by exposing nurses to different healthcare settings, patient populations, and care environments.


  • Limited job security: Due to the temporary nature of travel nursing contracts, there may be less job security compared with traditional staff nursing positions.
  • Adjusting to new environments: Travel nurses must adapt quickly to new facilities, colleagues, and protocols, which can be challenging and stressful.
  • Lack of benefits: Travel nurses may not receive the same benefits package as traditional staff nurses, such as health insurance or retirement plans.

It is important for individuals considering a career in travel nursing to carefully weigh these pros and cons before making a decision that aligns with their personal and professional goals.


In conclusion, both agency and travel nursing offer exciting opportunities for nurses who want to explore different healthcare settings, gain new experiences, and grow their careers. Both roles require specific skills such as adaptability, communication, stress management, and medical knowledge.

Ultimately, the decision between agency and travel nursing comes down to personal priorities. It’s essential to research and compares both positions before making a decision, considering factors such as job duties, requirements, skills, salary, pros, and cons.

With careful consideration and planning, nurses can choose the right path for their career advancement.


What is the meaning of agency nurses?

Agency nurses are healthcare professionals who work on a temporary basis, typically through an agency or staffing firm. These nurses are often called upon to fill in for regular staff nurses who are absent due to illness, vacation, or other reasons.

What are the differences between agency nursing and travel nursing?

Agency nurses work for staffing agencies and are contracted out to healthcare facilities on a short-term or long-term basis.
Travel nurses, on the other hand, typically work for a specific hospital or healthcare facility on a temporary basis. They are often hired to fill staffing shortages or to cover for nurses who are on leave.

Who makes more money between agency nurses and travel nurses?

The salary for agency nurses and travel nurses can vary depending on a variety of factors, such as location, experience, and specialty. Generally speaking, travel nurses may earn higher salaries than agency nurses due to the additional benefits they receive, such as housing allowances and travel reimbursements.