Charting Your Course: Navigating Travel Nurse Scheduling 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

As a nurse, you know how shift work can affect your day-to-day life. Juggling days and nights can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule, your personal life, and even your health. 

So, if you’re considering whether to become a travel nurse, you’re likely going to make a list of pros and cons, and you’re most definitely going to have a few key questions. One of these questions will probably be: 

Do travel nurses make their own schedule?

The answer is both yes and no. Let’s explore the various factors involved in scheduling and what you can do to get the traveling nurse schedule you desire.


Table of Contents



Do Travel Nurses Make Their Own Schedule?

While travel nurses have control over which assignments they elect to apply for, they generally cannot choose their schedule once an assignment is accepted.

Travel nurses work with staffing agencies to find travel nursing assignments, many of which fall in high-demand areas for specific periods to address staffing shortages. Once an assignment is chosen, the healthcare facility will then determine the shifts and schedule of the nurse for the duration of the assignment.

Each assignment will have a determined number of expected hours per week with shifts that may include days, nights, weekends, and holidays. The exact schedule will vary based on the needs of the facility.

However, at the end of each assignment, travel nurses can decide if they’re going to renew the assignment, take a break, or pursue an assignment that better suits their scheduling preferences.


Do Travel Nurses Pick Their Hours?

Once an assignment is accepted, travel nurses are expected to adhere to the facility’s scheduling policies, which may include: 

  • Minimum weekly hours
  • On-call requirements; and 
  • Other scheduling considerations

However, travel nurses are often offered the option of taking extra shifts on their scheduled days off, making it possible for the nurses to control this portion of their schedule.


What About Time Off for Travel Nurses?

Travel nurses are typically scheduled for the same number of hours per week as a staff nurse. This will be determined by the facility and the hours available. 

For example, a hospital ward that runs 24/7 may have a travel nurse scheduled for four days on and five days off. Whereas an outpatient clinic that’s only open during business hours would typically have that travel nurse working five 8-hour shifts with weekends off.

In terms of paid vacation time, travel nurses have the luxury of scheduling their time off between assignments. While this time is generally not paid for, travel nurses earn more while working, making it easier to budget for time off. Not to mention, the freedom and flexibility it brings!


do travel nurses make own schedule


4 Key Factors That Contribute To Traveling Nurse Schedules


#1: Contractual Agreements

Your contract will significantly impact your travel nurse schedule. Once signed, the contract is legally binding and you will be expected to adhere to the terms of the agreement, so you’ll want to look closely at the scheduling details to ensure that you’re choosing a contract that suits your needs and wants.

Here’s what you should find with regards to scheduling in your contract:

  • Assignment duration: The contract will specify the exact start and end date of your chosen assignment. This can range from a few weeks to several months.
  • Scheduled hours: The number of hours expected each week will be clearly detailed in the contract, whether full-time or part-time.
  • Shifts and shift patterns: Expectations with regard to working days, nights, weekends, and holidays will all be outlined in your contract.
  • On-call and overtime: Contractual agreements may address on-call responsibilities and whether or not the facility expects overtime.

Some contracts may offer scheduling flexibility, allowing travel nurses to express their shift preferences or request certain days off. However, this is not typical and is at the discretion of the facility.

As a travel nurse, you’re in high demand. This may give you the upper hand when negotiating your contracts. 

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, our recruiters act as your voice during contract negotiations. We’ll advocate on your behalf for a schedule that suits your preferences while also meeting the needs of the facility.

Visit Pronto today to view job listings that match your qualifications and offer your ideal travel nursing schedule.


travel nurse schedule


#2: Assignment Location 

Travel nurses should consider the assignment location when reviewing potential opportunities, as it will have a direct impact on their schedules. Understanding the scheduling demands and shift patterns associated with a specific location is crucial for travel nurses to make informed decisions about their assignments.

Assignment location may contribute to traveling nurse schedules in the following ways:

  • Facility needs
  • Shift availability
  • Patient load
  • Specialty and unit
  • Seasonal variations
  • Staffing policies
  • Shift rotation

Maintaining clear communication with the staffing agency and healthcare facility regarding scheduling preferences and expectations will help to ensure a positive work experience.


#3: Unit Needs

Your unit assignment and specialty as a travel nurse can have a significant impact on your schedule. For example, critical care units, such as the ICU, NICU, or ED, often have high patient acuity and may require 24/7 coverage. In this case, travel nurses may need to work a combination of days and nights.

However, a travel nurse in an elective or cosmetic surgery clinic will only be required to work during the clinic’s scheduled hours. This may include some evenings or weekends, but rarely holidays or night shifts.


#4: Shift Availability

The availability of shifts is determined by the specific healthcare facility where a travel nurse is assigned and the unit or department in which they work. Different units within a healthcare facility may have varying needs, and this directly affects the types of shifts offered. 

Shift availability is closely tied to the demand for healthcare services and the patient population. Hospitals, in particular, require 24/7 coverage, leading to a continuous rotation of shifts to meet patient needs. Units with high patient turnover, such as emergency rooms or surgical units, may have more frequent shift rotations and diverse schedules. 

On the other hand, units with specific specialties, like neonatal intensive care or cardiac care, may have unique scheduling patterns to address the acuity and complexity of patient cases.


travel nurses make their own schedule


5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Travel Nurse Work Schedule

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we work for you. That means we want to help you get the assignment of your dreams — schedule, and all. By following these tips, you can increase your chances of finding a traveling nurse schedule that offers the flexibility you want.


#1: Work With Your Recruiter

Your travel nursing recruiter is your key point of contact. You want to be open and honest in your communication with them. Always let them know your scheduling preferences and requirements and whether you require any specific days or weeks off.

Not only will your recruiter work with you to find the assignments that best fit your needs, but they’ll also go to bat for you during contract negotiations to help ensure your needs are met.


#2: Build a Strong Reputation

The longer you work as a travel nurse, the more opportunity you have to cultivate a strong reputation as reliable, professional, and highly skilled. As you network and build connections in the field, healthcare facilities may begin to seek you out for future assignments or offer contract extensions that suit your scheduling preferences.


#3: Seek Assignments in High-Demand Locations

You’ve built a solid reputation. You have a rockstar Trusted Nurse Staffing recruiter. Now it’s time to find an assignment.

Why not consider pursuing placement in areas that have a higher demand for travel nurses? Oftentimes, healthcare facilities in places like these are more willing to accommodate your scheduling preferences because they simply need nurses in place.

While these locations might not always be in your dream destination, they often offer higher rates of pay to help sweeten the pot. 


#4: Plan Ahead 

Before you start searching for assignments, talk to your recruiter about your scheduling requirements well in advance of your preferred start date. 

Do you have a wedding to attend next summer? Are your parents celebrating a milestone anniversary in your home state this year? Detailing the exact dates you may require off can help your recruiter schedule assignments around specific dates or find assignments that offer some flexibility.

The more information your recruiter has, the better they will be able to serve you. 


#5: Be Flexible

While you may not be able to choose your own schedule when you first start as a travel nurse, being flexible and consistent in the beginning may lead to better opportunities down the road.

Start by scheduling your first assignment when you know you can easily adhere to the hours required of you. You may be offered an extension, in which case, your recruiter can help you negotiate some time off. Or you can plan your assignments so that you take some time off between assignments.

When you’re flexible up front, you’re more likely to have the freedom to pick and choose later.


Trusted Nurse Staffing: Helping You Create a Life — and Work Schedule — You Love

Trusted Nurse Staffing works with travel nurses from all walks of life. We understand that scheduling is an important factor when deciding if, when, and where to be a travel nurse, so we will do our best to find assignments that fit your needs.

Our recruiters are available 24/7 — before, during, and after your assignments — to help you negotiate the best possible schedule and navigate any challenges you face along the way.

Consider us your partners in travel nursing. Contact us or visit Pronto to view available job postings that may just have the perfect traveling nurse schedule for you.


travel nurse schedule