What Are the Differences Between Flight, Travel & Registered Nursing?

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Nurses play a vital role when it comes to promoting public health. They improve patient outcomes, keep communities healthy and provide emotional support to patients and their families. In short, they are the eyes and ears of healthcare. Over the years, the nursing field has expanded, which means that you are no longer limited to working in a hospital, a physician’s office or other similar settings if you are a nurse. Having said that, here are some of the differences between travel nursing, registered nursing, and travel nursing.

Flight Nursing

Are you looking for a nursing career that is both gratifying and exciting? If so, then you should consider working as a flight nurse. Flight nurses are registered and certified nurses, who are specially trained to provide pre-hospital care to patients on an aircraft. They can work for the military or for private healthcare companies. As a travel nurse, you will be working together with a team of flight physicians, medicals and other medical providers in rescue flights and other similar situations, to provide medical attention to ill or injured patients in emergency situations. It’s the duty of flight nurses to stabilize such patients as much as possible before the airplane arrives and during transit. They must also prepare the patients for treatment. Duties include performing basic first aid, administering medication as well as performing advanced resuscitation. Other skills that you should have as a flight nurse include patient assessment skills, sound clinical judgment, complex problem solving, advanced field skills as well as resourcefulness.


Just like other nursing fields, you first need to be a registered nurse before you can be hired as a flight nurse. Apart from that, you need to have worked as a registered nurse for at least five years, especially in trauma and emergency settings. As for education requirements, you can earn your nursing degree through a 2-year associate degree in nursing (AND) or a 4-year Bachelor of Nursing Degree (BSN). After graduating, you also need to sit and pass the National Council Licensure Examination, popularly known as NCLEX-RN so that you can be licensed as a flight nurse. Also, you will need certifications like the Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN), as well as basic life support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, Certified Emergency Nurse, and Critical Care Nurse, among others.

Travel Nursing

Travel nurses are registered nurses, who are hired by healthcare facilities who have short-term staffing needs. The staffing needs may arise due to an unexpected leave of absence, a sudden increase in patients or a lack of experienced nurses in a hospital. Travel nurses can work in any city, or state in the country. They can also work in other countries as international travel nurses. Their higher-than-average pay, combined with the excitement and adventure of new opportunities makes this career an attractive one for many registered nurses.

As noted above, travel nurses are normally hired whenever there are short-term staffing needs in a hospital. Their contracts are approximately 8 to 26 weeks long. Generally, most contracts for travel nurses run for approximately 13 weeks. However, if there is a continued need for nurses in the hospital and the available ones are not adequate, the hospital may offer to extend the initial contract. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether you want the flexibility that comes with working as a travel nurse or the stability of working a long-term contract. It’s important to note that a contract is a legally-binding document. Therefore, you cannot opt-out of one before it ends. If you are not sure whether you should sign a short-term or a long-term contract, it’s highly advisable to choose one that runs for 10 to 13 weeks, and then explore your options after that.


To become a travel nurse, you first need to be a registered nurse in a certain state or city. As long as you are a registered nurse, you will not require any additional education or training. But with that said, holders of a bachelor of science in nursing or BSN, tend to be more marketable, compared to those who only have an associate degree in Nursing or ADN. Large academic hospitals and the majority of magnet hospitals usually prefer travel nurses who have a BSN.

Apart from being a registered nurse, you should also have practiced as a nurse for at least 2 years. Once you’ve been hired, you will undergo a short orientation session of at least 2 to 3 shifts. The orientation sessions give you an opportunity to learn more about your unit, the expected patient population, and the charting system the hospital uses. Also, you should use this time to interact and get to know your colleagues more.

As a travel nurse, you must also be licensed in the state where you intend to work. However, if you have plans of working as a travel nurse in the long-term, it’s highly advisable to get the Enhanced Nursing License or eNLC. With this permit, you can work in at least 30 states across the country, which means that you don’t have to apply for a new license every time you move to a new state. Also, this license will make you more desirable both to the healthcare facilities and the staffing agencies.


  • Enhance your nursing skills and build your resume
  • Travel to exciting, new places
  • Earn a higher salary and other perks
  • Enjoy career flexibility

If you would like to work as a travel nurse, you should do so through a reputable travel nursing agency. Make sure you check the benefits that the agency offers. You should also check the agencies’ location and housing options, contract length, as well as the available or open travel nursing jobs. With that information, it will be easier to choose an agency that aligns with your needs.

Registered Nursing

A registered nurse is a healthcare practitioner who assists doctors, physicians, and other nurses to provide medical care to patients. The duties of a registered nurse will depend on where they work. But generally, can expect to be assigned duties like running and analyzing diagnostic tests, assessing and determining treatment plans, dressing incisions and wounds, helping doctors and physicians during surgery, providing emotional support to patients, administering medications to patients and operating medical equipment. Registered nurses fall under various categories, depending on the area of specialization. They include acute care, geriatric, family nursing, cardiovascular, neonatal, infectious disease, parent-child, oncology, psychiatric, perinatal, women’s health and rehabilitation, among others.


To become a registered nurse, you should complete at least a 2-year Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). However, an increasing number of healthcare facilities are requiring nurses to have a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, if you want to be on the safe side, it’s highly advisable to complete the 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). After graduating, you will also need to sit and pass the NCLEX exam. If you pass the NCLEX exam, you should now proceed to apply a registered nurse license for the jurisdiction where you want to work. Different jurisdictions have different requirements. You can also opt for the nurse licensure compact or NLC, which allows you to work in different states.

Closing Remarks

As you can see, there are different types of nursing fields that you can choose. Besides that, the nursing field is constantly evolving and the demand for registered nurses is not slowing down any time soon. Regardless of the field or area of specialization that you choose, you are assured of a decent salary, plenty of opportunities to grow your career as well as numerous other perks that come with this job.

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About the author


Hi, I’m Brian Bradshaw. I’m a super duper mega hiking enthusiast, with a love for everything that has to do with outdoors, hiking, gear, footwear and more.

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