Travel nursing is an exciting career that can provide a wealth of adventures. It’s a great way to tour around the country while getting paid and gaining work experience. Typically, these are contract assignments spanning 13 weeks, but they can be longer or shorter depending on the need.
There are, however, a few requirements that must be completed before you can dive in. If you’ve successfully completed a program to become a nurse, are licensed, and have approximately two years of experience in your specialty, this may be the perfect fit for you!
5 Steps to Becoming a Travel Nurse
1. Get Your Experience
First off, you’ll need to be a licensed nurse and have some experience before you can become a travel nurse. You will need an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) degree. Keep in mind that some hospitals are now requiring a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN).
Then, you must pass the NCLEX exam and complete the licensing with your state. It’s important to note that every state has different requirements and fees when it comes to gaining a license and as a new graduate, you can only submit application for license by exam to one state. If your home state is a member of the eNLC, you can apply for a multi-state license so you’ll be able to work in any member state without additional applications or fees.
After the licensing process, you can start working in a nursing specialty and should gain at least two years of experience before looking for your first travel nursing contract. Most facilities require two years minimum specialty experience, so once you have that under your belt, then you’re ready for the next step.
2. Decide What You're Looking For
Start with the most enjoyable part – deciding where you want to go! Whether it be traveling to a new city in your state or across the country, there are plenty of locations to choose from. You can travel somewhere warmer for the winter or check a new destination off your bucket list.
Next, you will need to decide what’s important to you in terms of pay and benefits. In general, pay rates can be affected by several factors such as cost of living, contracted hours per week, shift, and need. Travel nursing agencies can provide benefits like health insurance and a 401(k) as well as other perks. Make sure you do your research to pick the perfect partner for your needs.
3. Partner with an Agency
Working with a travel nursing agency empowers you to start a new adventure by connecting you with high-quality travel nursing positions from coast to coast. You'll be connected with exciting opportunities that match your unique skill set and offer the flexibility to explore new cities while growing your career. Recruiters will connect with you personally and help with all of your travel and placement needs, from compliance to housing and much more.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry. A travel nursing agency can help guide you through the process to make sure the transition is smooth and easy. You’ll need to do your research on agency options through job boards and social media to help determine the best fit. Speaking with a recruiter directly can also help you find a personal connection and career advocate you can trust. Ask your friends for recommendations too!
When applying for jobs, it’s important to keep an open mind and weigh all your options. Your recruiter can help guide you through the process, offer advice, and discuss opportunities with you based on your wants and needs. A recruiter has your best interest in mind and wants to match you to the right job.
You will most likely have to fill out an online profile with all your contact information and work experience as well as a skills checklist to get started. Keep in mind, you’ll need to provide clinical references as well, so make sure that your past employers know they might be contacted. Once your recruiter has all your information, they will discuss your options and submit you to jobs you’re interested in. The interview process will vary by the facility, but your recruiter can let you know what to expect.
5. Accept an Assignment
You’re almost there! There can sometimes be a lot of paperwork and preparation needed before you start an assignment, and in other situations, you’ll have to move quickly with a tighter turnaround. Sometimes you will have to complete additional certifications or an orientation, and that can vary depending on the assignment. Your travel nursing agency will make sure that you have all your documents and compliance in order before your start date, so you’ll be ready to go. Make sure to keep track of everything on your end to expedite the process.
Whether you’re moving to a big city or a rural area, you have options when it comes to housing. Many agencies have a dedicated travel nurse housing department that will assist you in locating housing that is not only safe but comfortable and affordable. Remember that you’re working with unique circumstances because of the length of most travel nursing contracts. Extended stay hotels, Airbnbs, and even RVs can be great housing options.
Start Your Assignment
Congratulations on starting your first travel nursing assignment! Once you’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s, you are on your way to an exciting career as a travel nurse. A new job, new destination, and endless possibilities. Pack your bags and get ready for the adventures ahead.