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The pros and cons of being a 29-year-old nurse making six figures who works just 9 months a year

A nurse fills test tubes with blood to be tested during a bloodmobile in Fullerton, CA on Thursday, January 20, 2022.Three years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses are still opting to travel the country for a higher paycheck over staying at a single facility for a year or more.

Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

  • Aspen Tucker, 29, has been working as a travel nurse since earning his associate’s degree in 2020.
  • Tucker earned $187,000 in 2022, yet works only 9 months out of the year, CNBC reports.
  • Many nurses have turned to travel contracts as a way to combat burnout and earn more money.

One travel nurse got candid about the ups and downs of working all over the country, and, spoiler alert, there weren’t many downs.

Aspen Tucker, 29, has been working as a travel nurse for the last three years after leaving his South Carolina hospital job at the height of the pandemic. He was lured away by an offer of $6,700 per week in Amarillo, Texas, according to CNBC.

“I hate to say this, but I didn’t give notice. I got my stuff, went to Texas, and told my manager when I got there, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve got to go. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,'” Tucker told the outlet.

He added that the staff nursing job he left behind paid about $2,000 biweekly. In 2022, two years after becoming a travel nurse, Tucker brought home about $187,000 for the year, per CNBC.

Tucker, who began his career after getting an associate’s degree, also told CNBC that he works between 48 and 60 hours per week to allow for time off. His current schedule means he works about nine months each year and spends the rest of his time in his hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina, or vacationing.

Tucker isn’t alone in opting to be a contract travel nurse with higher pay, rather than in a staff job. Ali Brown, a travel nurse from Baltimore, Maryland, began working around the country in 2014.

In November 2022, Brown, a travel nurse for eight years, said that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a good contract was about $2,000 per week, but she saw the number skyrocket to $6,000 in 2020.

On average, travel nurses make about 50% more than staff nurses due to high demand. However, the big paydays come with some guidelines, according to Brown.

Travel nurses get a living expense stipend and a housing stipend, which are considered reimbursements, not income, she said.

“Travelers have to be really careful to follow the rules, though,” Brown told Insider. “You need to show that you’re really paying a mortgage that is fair market value, not just taking the money for other uses.”

She continued: ” If you get audited, you’ll end up having to pay taxes on that, which will be a lot of money.”

While staff workers may turn to travel nursing as a way to lessen burnout, Tucker warned that not every facility will feel friendly, especially when working with staff nurses who likely are getting paid a lot less.

“In their mind they’re thinking, ‘This company doesn’t want to pay us, but they’re willing to pay somebody to come here for a short period of time to make this kind of money.’ It creates a little bit of animosity there,” he told CNBC.

Additionally, Tucker said, being away from his family and having unreliable health care are also downsides. While under contract, travel nurses have health insurance, but not when they’re between jobs. 

 “I used to play a lot of basketball and stuff. And now I’m like, ‘If I don’t have health insurance, I can’t go ahead and break my leg,'” Tucker said to CNBC.

Read the original article on Business Insider