The Beginner's Guide to Becoming a Travel Nurse


Travel Nurse Primer

By Anita Wong, contributor

Do you want to snowboard in Colorado, surf in Hawaii and whale-watch in Alaska, all while pursuing your nursing career? If you love nursing but want more flexibility over when and where you work, a travel nurse career could be a perfect fit. You can take on short-term assignments in desirable locations, putting your patient care skills to work as you explore different regions.

Here's how to get started as a travel nurse.

Find a travel nursing company to work with

Hospitals partner with staffing agencies to fill temporary nursing positions. There are many travel nurse agencies to choose from, so be sure to do your research to find a stable and reputable company.

You may want to ask for personal recommendations from friends and colleagues and confirm that the agency is accredited by the Joint Commission for healthcare staffing services. You should also see what kind of travel nurse positions the agency offers to ensure there's a good variety of locations and specialties to choose from.

Apply to work as a travel nurse

Once you've chosen an agency to work with, submit an online application to be considered. Typically, you're require to have at least one year of clinical experience, although certain positions or specialties may require more. You may also need Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support certifications, and if you're pursuing a specialty, additional certification in that specialty.

Your application helps the recruiters to evaluate your skills and the kinds of assignments that best suit you. Once your application has been reviewed, a placement specialist should be in touch to discuss your goals and qualifications and answer any questions you have. It's important for you to feel comfortable with your recruiter, as you're relying on them to find you the best opportunities and support you through your travel nursing career.

Decide on your goals

To make it easier for your recruiter to find you the perfect assignment, be as honest and clear as possible about your goals. What are your preferred destinations, and where are you willing to work while you're waiting for a position in your dream destination? The more flexible you are, the more likely you can be placed. Let your recruiter know about preferences for salary and shifts as well.

Get your licenses in order

Travel nurses must be licensed in the states in which they want to work. If you live in a state that participates in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) you should have a multistate license that lets you practice in all of the member states.

If your primary residence is not one of the NLC states or you wish to practice in a non-NLC state, contact the nursing board in the state in which you want to work to ensure you meet eligibility requirements. You can apply for licensure by endorsement, which involves verifying your current licenses before receiving a new state license.

Your recruiter can provide guidance on applying for the appropriate licenses. You can also check the status of your licenses on NURSYS.

Apply for jobs

Now it's time to find the perfect opportunity. When your recruiter has identified positions that are a good match, you can review details such as location, facility, unit and salary, and decide if you wish to apply. Your recruiter will forward your application for any positions you're interested in.

Ace the interview

At this stage, the job application process is like any other. You must interview with the hiring manager and demonstrate that you're the best nurse for the job. Travel nurse interviews are usually done over the telephone, but you can still use these interview tips to help you confidently answer questions and make a good impression.

Review the contract

You're almost there. If the position is a good match, your recruiter will present you with an offer. Read your contract carefully before signing, and confirm that the length of the assignment, hours, salary, overtime, bonuses, reimbursements and other benefits are as you discussed. Be sure to ask your recruiter if there's anything you don't understand, as the contract is binding.

Start your adventure

Congratulations! Once the contract is signed and your paperwork is in order, you're ready to begin an exciting travel nursing career.

Intrigued by the idea of working as a travel nurse? Take a look at current job openings for travel nurses and take the first step toward launching your travel adventures by submitting an online application.

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