Travel to Build Skills, Enhance Your Nursing Career


By Melissa Hagstrom, contributor

In today’s competitive job market, even nurses need to be at the top of their game, professionally speaking. One way to do that is with travel nursing?a great career path that allows nurses to work at prestigious healthcare facilities and gain valuable clinical experience at temporary assignments, all while exploring the country.

Gaining clinical experience

Most travel nurse assignments require job candidates to have at least one or two years of experience in the requested specialty. Once a nurse starts traveling with a staffing agency on his or her first assignment, the options for new assignments and permanent jobs will only increase.

Travel nurses can choose to work in a variety of work settings, including academic medical centers, community hospitals, clinics, specialty hospitals, surgery centers, physician practices and more. As they gain travel experience, they can demonstrate to prospective employers and nurse managers that they can adapt quickly to a new situation and have the experience to be comfortable in a diverse range of practice settings.

Heather Murray, a senior recruitment manager with leading nurse staffing company American Mobile Healthcare, said that travel nursing experience helps to enhance a résumé and may give a nurse the edge they need when applying for a new position.

“Having travel experience today is key,” Murray explained. “When a nurse manager reviews a résumé for an open position, that is almost always one of the first things they look for. A nurse who has traveled before is more likely to have the key characteristics they are seeking: flexibility, versatility and the ability to adapt quickly to new environments.”

Learning new skills and techniques

Travel nursing offers the unique opportunity to see how different units and facilities operate. Every hospital and clinic has different ways of doing everyday nursing tasks, and traveling gives nurses the opportunities to learn new skills and techniques at each facility.

Johnathan Clevinger, RN, said that his favorite part of being a travel nurse with American Mobile is learning new techniques and exchanging best practices between nurses in different regions of the country.

“Nursing practice and nursing culture differs from region to region and facility to facility. This really facilitates learning and growing as a nurse and an individual,” Clevinger said. “You then take your new knowledge to the next assignment and pass on the best of what you know with the next group of nurses you work with. It's a wonderful exchange of information for both yourself and the nurses and physicians you work with.”

Experiencing different specialties

Travel nursing also offers the chance to experience different units and specialties. Oftentimes, travelers have the opportunity to float to different units during their assignments, further enhancing their clinical specialty scope and gaining experience caring for a wider variety of patients.

After seeing new opportunities within the field of nursing on their assignments, some travelers decide to pursue an advanced degree, get a certification or even branch out into a different nursing specialty.

Achieving personal and professional growth

Above all, travel nursing gives nurses the chance to live life to the fullest. Each assignment means new opportunities and new experiences. Travelers must be flexible, prepared and ready for anything—and there is no better career experience than being immersed in a new unit every few months.

“Travel nursing is an excellent way for nurses to enhance their careers,” Murray concluded. “As a traveler, there are numerous possibilities to expand your skills, because every hospital and every assignment is going to be a little bit different.”

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