How to Become a Travel Nurse

How to Become a Travel Nurse

While much is required to become a registered nurse, there is not much additional work beyond that to become a travel nurse. Most travel nurse requirements vary by geographic location, or facility family.

You may be surprised at how easy it is to start working in this exciting field. All of us at Elite Specialty Staffing are here to help make the change an easy transition.

Why are Travel Nurses Needed?

To begin, it may help to understand “why” hospitals, care centers and other healthcare facilities need travel nurses to assist with clinical care. For most of the last few decades, there has been an active shortage of registered staff nurses in most area’s of the country. The shortage of nurses, causes hospitals and other healthcare facilities to actively seek short term outside help from highly skilled, nursing candidates to ensure the facility can continue to provide excellent on-going quality care to their patients. Travel nurses work with nursing staffing agencies, and other resources to help fill these shorter term gaps in a variety of clinical settings, and cost centers.

Travel Nursing Benefits

Because of the gaps created, which travel nurses fill, the first and foremost benefit of travel nursing, is knowing that you are filling a need for hospitals and patients! A need for highly skilled, quality nursing exists in every corner of the country, and globe. Due to those needs travel nurses are regularly able to choose where they want to work, which specialty they want to work in, and the length of time of their travel contract.

Travel nurses are generally paid very well. When compared with United States Department of Labor staff nurse wage averages  a highly skilled travel nurse can expect higher paying “regular time” rates. Once acclimated to the differences in schedule and opportunity, experienced travel nurses receive some of the highest pay of all nurses in all 50 states. Experienced travel nurses are regularly in high demand.

Another outstanding benefit is that travel nurses regularly have their housing and travel costs covered. There are also distinct tax advantages for a travel nurse who travels more than 50 miles away from their home to work. Travel nurses can also receive a full benefits package as well. Available medical, dental, and vision healthcare along with 401(k) retirement benefits, paid time off and other deals or sponsored benefits make travel nursing an enticing opportunity to expand your skillset and experience.

Bonuses for starting a contract, continuing a contract, taking an assignment at a “high need” facility,  or fulfilling multiple contracts with a single staffing agency are also among the benefits that a travel nurse can expect.

And they wouldn’t call it “travel” nursing without a purpose. At the root of the profession, being a travel nurse allows you an opportunity to see and explore the country or the world to the fullest. We think travel nursing is better than vacation though, because spending 3 months in each city that you take a contract in allows you to not only meet new friends but establish great relationships with those you meet. Exposure to different cultures, new and interesting foods, and local entertainment allows you to really get invested in the local community to learn and grow while you are on a contract assignment.

Being in a new location, with a new team also allows you as a travel nurse to gain valuable insights and skills from different healthcare delivery systems, and practices. Those new professional experiences will help you become a more independent, flexible, and experienced nurse.

All things considered, these are just some of the fantastic benefits that await you in a travel nursing career.

How a Travel Nurse is Made!

You’ll need to complete a couple basic steps before signing up for your first travel nursing contract. You must first attend a nursing school of your choice and earn at a minimum a degree as a registered nurse, or RN. Nursing school is no easy feat and can be incredibly competitive. It will require anywhere between a two to four year commitment depending on your program and your place of study.

Once you have triumphantly conquered a nursing program, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam. As soon as you’ve passed the exam, you’ll need to work for a minimum of one year in a hospital or trauma center setting in the specialty which you wish to practice long term. A large majority of healthcare facilities will require that you have at a minimum an Associate of Science in Nursning (ASN) degree.While you can work as an RN with an associate’s degree, nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree are typically given more responsibility, supervisory roles and higher pay. The same generally applies for travel nurses.

Depending on the specialty you would like to focus your work in, there are a number of other certifications that may also be necessary to acquire, and maintain over time. At this point, when you’ve got all that work accomplished and all that paperwork in order, you’re ready to begin working with a travel nurse staffing company like Elite Specialty Staffing to find your first travel contract and begin conquering the world as a travel nurse!

Your First Travel Nurse Contract

As you engage with a Nurse staffing company, and start to work with a nurse recruiter to help find your assignment, there are a couple of additional steps to keep in mind. Before you begin fulfilling travel nursing jobs, most agencies will also require you to share a resume, and updated medical records. You’ll likely need to get a TB test, additional immunizations and complete additional skills testing and training in your specialty.

You’ll then work through choosing the best contract with your nurse recruiter and the “travel” transition will begin to feel more real! Finding a job as a travel nurse is usually the easy part. With the demand for nurses so high, the best way to find a job, is to work with a staffing agency who can offer you multiple job opportunities at once to allow you to compare your options.

Many travel nurse agencies offer benefits such as healthcare, housing, retirement, travel reimbursement, as mentioned above, so once you have selected where you want to work, you will be able to compare offers and interview at various locations and decide which position is best for you and your career.

There might not always be options in the specific city you choose but it is almost guaranteed that there will be plenty of options in the state you choose, so keep a slightly open mind when working through the assignment list. Occasionally working in another state means getting another state license, however your recruiter can help walk you through all of the specific details with each travel nursing job available to you. Ask your recruiter about “compact RN licenses” which allow you to work in many states without obtaining that specific license.

Once you have selected the right contract for your first travel nursing assignment, the interview process will begin. Interviewing with a facility to fill a travel nursing need is much simpler than it is for a staff position. Usually a nurse manager from your staffing agency will interview you prior to jumping on with the facility. In most instances, the nurse staffing agency interview will suffice, but be open to a facility interview as well prior to beginning work at the facility.

After those final interviews you’ll be packing your bags and heading to your first high paying travel nursing assignment! Most travel nurse assignments last 13 weeks, and if you decide you don’t like where you are working, your commitment will not extend beyond the length of the contract. If you do like your travel nursing job and location, many nurses are offered extensions at the end of their assignment.

Remember, this is also an opportunity for you to decide if you want this position so write down specific questions you want to ask them, like how often they have travel nurses at their facility, what the cancellation policy is, if you will have to take call, and if there are opportunities for overtime.