Should You Become a Cruise Ship Nurse?

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Written by Ayana Dunn, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A cruise ship nurse prepares for work.

Do you like travel or environments centered around enjoyment? If so, the life of a cruise ship nurse could be an exciting option for you.

Cruises are like floating resorts, enabling you to see a variety of locations within a short time span. They’re an affordable alternative to landlocked resorts, providing everything you need, including delicious food, entertainment, activities, and medical care.

People from all walks of life travel on cruises to various regions of the world. Just like working in a healthcare facility, you must be prepared for anything at any time. Let’s explore what this specialty entails, its pros and cons, and more.

What Is Cruise Ship Nursing?

Cruise ship nurses work with the medical team to provide care to the passengers and crew. They’re also responsible for managing any staff under their supervision. They address minor ailments, answer health-related questions, and respond to medical emergencies. In other words, you can liken their work to a floating first aid clinic.

What Does a Cruise Ship Nurse Do?

Despite the unique environment, many of the tasks for which these nurses are responsible overlap with those of nurses in ambulatory care settings. Their responsibilities include:

  • Addressing minor injuries and illnesses
  • Responding to medical emergencies
  • Administering vaccinations when necessary
  • Providing health education unique to each destination
  • Assessing and triaging medical situations
  • Administering medications
  • Ensuring equipment and medicine are functioning and up to date
  • Assisting with transferring patients to medical centers

Cruise Ship Nurse Salary

How much do cruise ship nurses make? Some cruise ship nurses can earn between $85,550 to $101,882 per year. The average salary is $93,689 annually. Your salary may vary based on the cruise line for which you work, your certifications, and your years of experience.

The Pros and Cons of Cruise Ship Nursing

Every job has its positives and negatives. Below, we describe the perks and pitfalls of this specialty.

Pros of Cruise Ship Nursing

1. World Travel

What more is there to say? Exposure to different landscapes and cultures is a dream for many. In this specialty, you also get to hone your nursing skills and earn a wage at the same time.

2. Interesting People

You’ll meet a variety of people through your crew alone. On top of that, you’ll encounter passengers from various backgrounds and meet people at your destinations when you have time to explore off the ship.

3. Low Cost of Living

You’re living on the ship, so you don’t need to pay rent nor utilities. Avoiding those costs allows you to save more of your earnings.

4. Flexible Work

Contracts can last six months, which enables flexibility. If you don’t like your current gig, it won’t be long before it ends. You can work where you wish between contracts or renew your current job. The beauty is, it’s all up to you.

Cons of Cruise Ship Nursing

1. Little Privacy

You often share a room with at least one cabin mate, so you rarely have much space to yourself. If you value privacy, it might be wise to pursue another option.

2. Seasickness

If you’re prone to seasickness, working on a big boat for months at a time probably isn’t a great idea. If you’re still set on this career, ensure you have reliable ways to cope with the discomfort.

3. Long Hours

Cruise ship schedules vary, but you may have to work seven days a week. Sometimes, your shift can be 10 to 12 hours. If you’re not up to it, this lifestyle can wear you down after a while.

4. Homesickness

Working on a cruise ship often requires you to spend months away from home. Are you okay with that? If not, a stationary position might be more suitable.

How to Become a Cruise Ship Nurse

Starting this career takes time. Here are some typical cruise ship nurse requirements:

1. Attend Nursing School

Nursing school provides the foundation for nursing practice in a variety of settings. Successfully completing your nursing education shows you have what it takes to pass the NCLEX-RN.

2. Pass the NCLEX

The NCLEX-RN tests you on your ability to synthesize the nursing knowledge you acquired in school. Passing this exam proves you’re able to work as an entry-level nurse.

3. Gain Hands-On Experience

You never know what you’ll encounter on a cruise ship, so being confident in your skills is a must. Jobs may require at least two years of experience, preferably in acute care, such as the emergency department or critical care.

4. Obtain Your ACLS and PALS

You’ll be caring for patients of all ages with a variety of conditions. Getting certified in Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) expands your ability to assist during emergency situations.

5. Learn a Foreign Language

Learning a foreign language is optional, but will be useful in this role. You’ll be meeting people from around the world, so knowing more than one language could ease your ability to help others. In addition to English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, and Arabic are especially common around the world.

Are You Ready to Become a Cruise Ship Nurse?

This exciting career path can satiate your wanderlust while you advance your career. Regardless of the path you choose, explore IntelyCare today to find a specialized nursing opportunity that meets your needs.