Why New Grad RNs Need to Think About Travel Nursing Now


New grad RNs should consider travel nursing

By Jennifer Larson, contributor

Newly minted nurses, what are your career goals? If you recently graduated from nursing school, or you’re a student nurse who’s preparing to graduate in the next few months, it’s worth your time to start thinking about your future. Where do you want to be in two years, five years, or even 10 years? 

You might consider travel nursing as one possible career option. But it’s a good idea to think about that now, so you can prepare.  

How travel RN jobs can broaden your horizons

Travel nursing offers nurses the opportunity to take short-term assignments in various locations around the country. A typical travel nursing job is about 13 weeks long, although each contract can vary. And some nurses can extend an assignment beyond the original contract period, if agreed by both parties.

Some nurses get into travel nursing as a way to see the country and explore new locations on their off days. Some do it for the money, as most travel nurses enjoy a healthy paycheck and benefits like free housing, health insurance and continuing education opportunities. And many take on travel nursing as a way to learn from other healthcare professionals, building their skills and enhancing their resumes to become more attractive to future hiring managers. 

“I encourage all of my students to try travel nursing either on contract or per diem assignments,” says Tracy Jones-Darnell, EdD, MSN, RN, CNE, who worked as a travel nurse prior to becoming a faculty member for the RN-to-BSN program at Walden University, which is headquartered in Minneapolis. “It allowed me to form a wider view of the healthcare system and learn best practices at a variety of facilities instead of having a narrower lens from one specific facility.”

Get some clinical experience first

Think you’re ready to apply for a travel nursing gig right now? As a new grad, you may need to log some time at the bedside first. 

You’ll find that most hospitals and healthcare organizations require travel nurses to have some post-graduate experience, typically ranging from 12-24 months in the specialty they are hiring. But that is actually a good thing. Why? Because it gives you a long-term goal, and can provide the impetus to get the experience and self-confidence that you will need.

With this timeline in mind, you’ll want to focus on landing a solid first job out of nursing school where you can get some bedside experience. 

This experience is crucial, says critical care nurse practitioner Anne Dabrow Woods, DNP, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC, AGACNP-BC, FAAN, because you want to show hospitals that you are an expert when you do apply for a travel nursing position later on. 

“[Nurses should] find a job, get some experience under their belt, become confident with their skills and clinical decision-making,” says Woods, chief nurse of health, learning, research and practice for Wolters Kluwer and an adjunct faculty member in the graduate nursing program at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Jones-Darnell credits her years of medical–surgical nursing experience as helping her succeed as a travel nurse. 

“Travel nurses are often given the most difficult patient assignments on the unit and have to be able to critically think through intense patient situations,” says Jones-Darnell. 

Assess your strengths and weaknesses

Whether or not you’ve already logged the suggested amount of on-the-job experience, you can still take stock of what you bring to the table so you can discuss that with a travel nurse recruiter or hiring manager. You can also figure out what weaknesses you might need to shore up between now and submitting your application. 

Patricia Donohoe, BSN, RN, co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit Nightingale 2030 Resilience Fund, recently spoke to a young nurse who had about a year’s worth of experience and was thinking about trying travel nursing. 

She suggested that the nurse do her own personal self-assessment. “What are your strengths and skills, now that you have (a certain) period of time under your belt? What can you bring with your level of expertise?” she asked.

She noted that nurses considering travel RN jobs should know what they are currently capable of, including how many patients they feel comfortable managing at one time. Then they can think about how to build on their experience. 

NursingJobs.com has thousands of travel nursing jobs across the U.S.

FIND TRAVEL RN JOBS or APPLY TODAY to connect with a travel nursing recruiter.

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