What is a Travel Nurse and How to Become One

What is a Travel Nurse and How to Become One

When healthcare facilities and hospitals across the country have gaps in their staffing, travel nurses are used to fill in the holes in the schedule for a specific period of time. Staffing needs are a result of a variety of circumstances which include:

  • Maternity leave
  • Seasonal population fluctuations
  • Holiday needs

National statistics predict that the need for travel nurses will only increase in the next few years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will but a shortage of approximately 1.1 million nurses by 2020. Considering this dire need for nurses – there has to be a solution to fill in the gaps! That is where travel nurses come in.

How Do Travel Nursing Jobs Work?

Healthcare facilities and hospitals work with travel nursing staffing agencies to hire nurses for their short-term staffing needs. Travel nursing agencies are the ones responsible for creating the contracts which are agreed upon by the nurse and the healthcare facility who is hiring the nurse. Essentially, the travel nursing agency serves as the middleman to make these connections and fill the staffing needs of the hospitals and healthcare facilities.

There are many different types of travel nursing jobs available that can be short-term or long-term. Most travel nursing contracts will last anywhere from eight to 26 weeks – however – the industry standard is 13-week contracts for travel nurses. If a hospital or healthcare facility has a continued need for help beyond those 13 weeks, they will offer to extend the initial contract. Due to ongoing nursing shortages, facilities are becoming increasingly flexible when it comes to travel nursing contracts.

The travel nurse has the freedom to decide whether they want the stability that comes with a long-term travel nursing contract, or the flexibility of signing onto a short-term travel nursing contract. Once the nurse and the hospital manager have signed the contract, it is a legal document and ending a contract early is rarely permitted. If you want to accept a travel nursing contract but you are not sure which length is best, you should go with a lower time frame, such as 10 or 13 weeks, and you can possibly extend or choose a different contract length on your next assignment.

Facilities and hospitals are allowed to terminate your contract early if there is not a need for your position. If this happens, you will not be compensated to the end of the contract length – however – your nursing staffing agency will work hard to place you on another assignment quickly.

How to Become a Travel Nurse?

In order to become a travel nurse, you must first be a registered nurse. Beyond that, there is no additional training or education required. However, if you do have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) you are more marketable than nurses with just an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN).

Generally speaking, you will need to have completed at least two years in your specialty before accepting your first travel nursing assignment. Your orientation period to a new unit will be very short – typically two to three shifts maximum. During this orientation period, you will need to learn the unit, get acquainted with your coworkers, learn the patient population, and get a grasp on the computer charting system. You will not be using this time to learn the nursing basics – which is why it’s important that you have some experience under your belt to start.

In order to accept a travel nursing assignment, you must already be licensed in the state where the contract is. Most travel nursing agencies will help the nurse acquire the necessary licenses, but the process could take a few weeks or even months to obtain. If you hold a license in a state that is part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), your license will be good in 29 states that are currently part of the agreement – and a few more that are set to join soon. This is a huge advantage if you plan on working in several different states.

What are the Advantages of Travel Nursing?

  • Expand your nursing skill set and build up your resume
  • When you accept contracts at top-rated hospitals around the country, you are giving your resume a supercharge
  • Gain more consideration for graduate school admission or earning staff positions at top hospitals
  • Earn a higher salary than staff nurses
  • Gain supplemental income for meals and incidentals
  • Earn money that is tax-free
  • Travel to new and exciting places
  • Take time off in between contracts
  • Enjoy professional and personal flexibility
  • Choose your own shifts and schedules if permitted by your contract
  • Obtain free or cheap dental, vision, and health insurance for nurses
  • Receive reimbursement for traveling to new locations for assignments
  • Broaden your horizons by meeting new people and experiencing new cultures

How to Search for Travel Nursing Assignments

There are tons of travel nursing assignments available across the country. You will find them in larger hospitals, outpatient centers, and smaller community hospitals. You can find travel nursing jobs in metropolitan cities and smaller rural towns as well. If you are unsure where exactly you want to go for work, travel nursing gives you the ability to try out many settings.

In order to narrow down the many options for travel nursing jobs, it’s important to determine why you want to be a travel nurse in the first place. Do you want to meet new people? Do you want to travel around the country? Are you looking for valuable life experiences? Is your goal to earn the highest possible income to pay off debts and increase your bankroll? By having a firm grip on the reasons why you want to become a travel nurse, you will be better able to search for jobs.

Allow Elite Specialty Staffing to Work with You to Find Your Dream Travel Nursing Job

Are you ready to search for travel nursing jobs? We’re here to help. Give us a call today at 208-378-1338, and one of our experienced travel nursing staffing specialists will be happy to discuss available positions with our nurse staffing agency.