Travel nursing is an exciting and rewarding career option that allows healthcare professionals to explore new places, gain valuable experience, and positively impact patients’ lives across the country. Whether you’re a seasoned nurse looking for a change of scenery or a recent nursing graduate eager to embark on an adventure, this comprehensive guide for travel nurses will help you navigate the ins and outs of this unique profession.
What Is Travel Nursing?
Travel nursing is a temporary nursing assignment typically lasting between 13 and 26 weeks, although shorter and longer contracts are also available. Travel nurses work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities across the United States, helping to fill staffing shortages and providing high-quality patient care.
As the demand for nurses continues to rise across the United States, both Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) will discover many travel nursing opportunities spanning various specialties and states. Specific nursing fields, such as ICU, Tele, MedSurg, OR, and LTC, are notably more sought after than others. We strongly advise nurses to possess at least two years of professional experience before starting travel nursing assignments. Travel nurses often step into roles where they are most needed, so a solid nursing foundation and adaptability to changing circumstances are essential traits for those who excel in the dynamic field of travel nursing.
Why Travel Nursing?
Travel nurses have the unique privilege of exploring the United States in ways that few others do. Beyond the thrill of adventure, travel nursing positions offer attractive compensation, comprehensive benefits, affordable or complimentary housing options, travel expenses and licensing reimbursement, and much more! Enjoying the same benefits as permanent RNs or LPNs, travel nurses have the freedom to choose their destinations, create flexible schedules, and embark on a journey of discovery with each new assignment.
Qualifications and Requirements
To become a travel nurse, you’ll need to meet specific qualifications and requirements, including:
- A nursing degree (typically an ADN and/or BSN degree).
- State nursing licensure in your home state or a multi-state NLC.
- Relevant nursing experience (usually two years or more).
- Certifications and specialties can be a plus (e.g., ACLS, PALS, TNCC).
- A sense of adventure and adaptability.
Finding the Right Travel Nursing Agency
Selecting the ideal staffing agency ensures a seamless and satisfying travel nursing journey. It’s crucial to investigate reputable agencies known for effectively pairing nurses with assignments that align with their preferences and qualifications. Seeking recommendations from fellow travel nurses can provide valuable insights to empower you in making an informed choice about the most suitable partner for advancing your career. Consider factors such as:
- Reputation and reviews.
- Assignment locations and opportunities.
- Benefits and compensation packages.
- Support and resources provided.
- Housing options and stipends.
The Application Process
Once you’ve chosen an agency, you’ll need to go through the application process. This includes submitting your resume, providing references, completing a skills checklist, and participating in facility interviews. It’s essential to be organized and thorough during this stage to increase your chances of landing your desired assignments.
Licensing and Credentialing
Each state has its own nursing licensure requirements, so you may need to obtain additional licenses for the states where you’ll be working. If you want to explore several states while working as a traveler, the multi-state Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) is the perfect fit for you. The credentialing process can be time-consuming, so start early to ensure you’re ready to accept assignments when they become available.
Benefits and Compensation
Travel nurses typically receive competitive compensation packages that include a base salary, per diem, housing stipend or provided housing, travel reimbursement, and healthcare benefits. Understanding your compensation package is crucial for financial planning and ensuring you’re fairly compensated for your work.
Housing and Accommodations
Your housing options can vary depending on your preferences and the agency you choose. Some travel nurses opt for agency-provided housing, while others prefer a housing stipend to find their accommodations. This flexibility can be a significant advantage, allowing nurses to tailor their housing arrangements to suit their lifestyle and personal preferences. Opting for a housing stipend can sometimes be a cost-effective choice for travel nurses who are skilled at finding affordable accommodations. It allows them to potentially save money or have more control over their housing budget. The decision ultimately depends on the individual’s preferences and ability to navigate housing-related tasks effectively.
Insurance and Benefits
Travel nurses often receive health, dental, vision, and liability claim benefits through their agency. However, it’s essential to understand the details of your insurance coverage, especially if you have specific healthcare needs or dependents.
Preparing for Your Assignment
Before starting your travel nursing assignment, you’ll need to prepare personally and professionally. This includes packing and planning for your journey and researching your new workplace and community.
Navigating Life as a Travel Nurse
Life as a travel nurse can be exhilarating, yet it does present its fair share of challenges. Navigating the world of travel nursing requires a blend of professionalism, adaptability, and self-care. In this section, we’ll provide valuable insights into adapting to new environments, fostering meaningful relationships with colleagues, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Additionally, consider the following essential aspects:
- Stay Organized: Kickstart your journey by ensuring all your documentation is in order. Keep your nursing license up-to-date and assemble your health records. Craft a meticulously structured resume that showcases your nursing prowess and includes references with their current telephone numbers.
- Choose Your Location Wisely: When embarking on your travel nursing adventure, consider starting in a location that’s relatively close to your home. This proximity allows for quick visits should you ever feel a longing for home.
- Demonstrate Your Skills: Remember that your co-workers and permanent staff nurses may initially regard you as being on probation. To quell doubts, consistently exhibit your above-average skill set and commitment to exceptional patient care.
- Maintain Perspective: As a travel nurse, receiving assignments that others might shy away from is common. Embrace these challenges as part of the job, understanding that you are crucial in filling staffing gaps and providing quality healthcare.
- Verify Compensation and Benefits: Before accepting any assignment, ensure that your travel nurse agency provides a detailed breakdown of your compensation package. This should encompass your basic pay, stipends, and any other entitlements. Thoroughly review your contract to understand the terms and conditions associated with your employment.
- Build Connections: Before arriving at the assigned location, connect with fellow travel nurses through social media. This proactive step ensures you have a supportive network of friends waiting for you upon arrival.
- Commit Wholeheartedly: Approach your temporary assignment with the same dedication and professionalism as a permanent position. While it may be a short-term role, remember that you are part of a larger community of healthcare professionals. Your commitment to excellence is vital in providing quality care and fostering positive working relationships.
Travel nursing offers a unique opportunity for nurses to explore the country, advance their careers, and make a meaningful difference in the lives of patients. By following the steps outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can embark on a rewarding travel nursing career with confidence and success. So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on your next adventure in healthcare!