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Written by Maegan Baker, BSN RN CCM

When disaster strikes, who responds? The Red Cross, FEMA, and first responders are heroes who arrive immediately to render aid and provide medical care. But nurses are also tasked with providing life-saving treatment in crisis scenarios. If you’re a nurse who thrives in high-stress situations and has years of experience with exceptional medical talent, crisis response nursing may be your calling.

What is Crisis Response Travel Nursing

A crisis nurse responds to natural disasters and other healthcare emergencies and outbreaks that overwhelm hospital systems.

Examples of when crisis response nurses are needed include:

  • Mass shootings
  • Seasonal surges (respiratory syncytial virus)
  • Pandemics (covid-19)
  • Earthquakes
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Bombings

What Type of Nurse is Needed Is a Crisis

While any and every type of nurse is beneficial in a crisis, nurses with advanced skills are needed most. Emergency, critical care, and intensive care nurses are the most utilized specialties. Nurses with surgical, pediatric, and cardiac backgrounds will also have a place in crisis nursing.

Requirements for Crisis Response Travel Nursing

Crisis nurses possess, at the very least, an Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree in nursing and an active RN license. It is detrimental that crisis nurses have years of experience in their specialty. There will be very little if any, training once arriving at the location, so nurses must be confident in their skills and ready to jump in.


During a crisis, the requirement for a license in that particular state may be waived. At any rate, your agency will assist with obtaining any necessary licensure.


Advanced certifications are especially useful in crisis nursing. Along with Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support certifications, these additional certifications are in high demand:

Challenges of Crisis Response Travel Nursing

Crisis response nursing is not for the faint of heart. It requires strong assessment skills, attention to detail, emotional resilience, and quick action. You should be prepared for the following in crisis nursing:

1. Unpredictability:

A crisis nurse must be willing to drop everything and go. Unlike regular travel nursing, you don’t plan your assignment weeks in advance. Once you learn about the crisis, you may arrive on the scene within days.

2. Unsafe environments:

As mentioned previously, the crisis could be a natural disaster or terrorist attack. The environment you are working in may be hazardous. You may not have access to the required equipment and supplies and must be comfortable in unstable working conditions.

3. Long shifts: 

You must be prepared to be available when needed. The number of patients requiring treatment may outweigh the staff available to provide care. Shifts may be extended, random, and require flexibility.

4. Traumatic situations:

A crisis nurse may see and care for patients who have experienced trauma and suffering. Burns, fractures, gunshot wounds, and death are the realities of catastrophes. The crisis nurse must be prepared to support patients through anxiety and fear while maintaining their own mental fortitude.

Benefits of Crisis Response Travel Nursing

Nurses who are prepared and willing to respond to a crisis are rewarded with the following benefits. 

1. Higher Pay:

The main draw to crisis nursing is the pay. Your immediate response and advanced skills deserve premium compensation. According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary of a crisis nurse is $101,174, or $49 per hour. ZipRecruiter sees rates much higher than this and lists the job title “RN Crisis Response,” with an annual salary of $166,808. Pay will depend on the type of crisis, the number of people affected, and the staff needed.

2. Flexibility:

Your flexibility is required when responding to a crisis, but it is also a perk of this type of nursing. A crisis assignment may only require the nurse to work for a few weeks, compared to the usual 13-week assignments of travel jobs. This allows for extended periods of time off if the nurse chooses.

3. Experience:

Your resume is sure to impress any hiring manager or facility after completing a crisis assignment. You will strengthen your leadership and critical thinking skills and become a more confident nurse after serving those impacted by a disaster.

4. Saving lives:

The core of nursing is caring for others. Whether in a crisis or not, nurses selflessly offer their expertise to ensure the safety and comfort of patients. Crisis response nurses make a difference in times of tragedy and uncertainty and will receive the priceless gift of saving lives.

Is Crisis Response Travel Nursing Right For You?

A successful, prepared crisis nurse possesses the following skills and traits:

  • Ability to respond immediately to a crisis need
  • Remains calm in emergency situations
  • Does not require lengthy orientations or training
  • Exceptional critical thinking skills
  • Emotionally resilient to cope with disaster scenarios
  • Years of experience in a critical care specialty

Looking for a Crisis Response assignment?

Medical Edge Recruitment is ready to help you find your dream travel assignment. We pride ourselves on loyalty and maintaining long-term relationships with our clinicians. As a smaller agency, we can devote time to your needs and offer individualized support to ensure your success.



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