Travel nurses and allied professionals go where the wind takes them. Or rather, where there is a shortage or immediate need for their skills.

Travel nursing was created to address shortages of registered nurses in various parts of the country. There is always demand for qualified nurses anywhere you go, but there’s not always enough personnel to meet the demand. This is even more true in times of a medical crisis. 

Because travel nursing and allied pro assignments are run as-needed, the length of time and the kind of work you can expect to do as a travel nurse will vary from post to post. You might find yourself filling in for a nurse on parental leave for 6 months on one job. Then turn around and help an overloaded ER for a week on your next assignment. What you need to take with you and how you prepare for each job will change with each assignment.

In this article, we’ll go over need-to-know information to help you prepare for your next adventure as a travel nurse.

How Does Travel Nursing Work?

Before we jump in, let’s talk about what it takes to be a travel nurse. The basic qualifications to become a travel nurse are the same as standard nursing. Travel nurses must hold an associates or bachelor’s degree in nursing, be certified in BLS and ACLS, and hold an LVN or RN certification. Here at Medely we also require a minimum of one to two years working in the specialty of the specific assignment. 

The most common length of travel nursing and allied pro assignments is around 13 weeks, although shifts can vary from 1 week to upwards of 26, depending on the need and your preferences. Many agencies, including Medely, allow travel nurses to search for assignments with specific time parameters.

Getting travel assignments with Medely works essentially the same as any other job-hunting platform. Positions are posted by the facilities, allowing you to browse potential assignments. Urgent needs may be highlighted or promoted. Nurses and allied pros can apply for your ideal position with the click of a button, which will kick off an interview and approval process. Once the facility approves your application and you sign your contract, you’re off on your adventure!

But before you hop on a plane, there are a few things to get in order: 

  • Housing – Staying in a hotel gets old fast. The good news is, there’s better options.
  • Pet/Plant Sitting – Do you have plants or animals that will need care, either with you or while you’re away?
  • License – Travel nurses have to be licensed in the state they are working in. Make sure your license and other credentials are up-to-date for the state your assignment is in.?
  • Travel – How are you getting to your new assignment? Does your agency offer reimbursement? (Medely does)
  • Expenses – What is the cost of living in the new city? How much does your agency cover? (again, Medely has you covered with the maximum tax-free stipends available for your assignment)

In the next section, we’ll talk more about specific needs and top tips to follow, no matter the length of your assignment. 

Nursing and Allied Pro Assignments by Length

1 Week Travel Nursing Assignment

Shorter assignments, including week-long jobs, typically fall under the “rapid-response” category. This means nurses working these fast-turnaround positions will need to be ready to go in as little as two days. 

These assignments are easy to pack for but the planning and financial aspect can be rough. Last-minute plane tickets get expensive fast. However most agencies reimburse travel costs, especially for rapid-response assignments. 

Housing can also be a little tricky, but you might be able to get away with staying in a hotel for such a short duration. 

If you have children or pets that need to stay home, longer assignments might be a better fit for you. 

As with all short-term assignments, be prepared for a potential extension.

2 Week Travel Nursing Assignment

These assignments are rare. But if you’ve been bit by the travel bug and only have a small window of availability, you ask your agency to keep an eye out for these short assignments. 

As with 1 week assignments, you might need to be ready to move fast as facilities will typically need you to start right away. We recommend finding housing through a travel-nursing specific website, for a more affordable and more amenity-filled home away from home during your stay.

3 Week Travel Nursing Assignment

The biggest considerations as nursing assignments lengthen are housing-related. It’s easy enough to pack everything you need for short-term assignments, but you want to start thinking about practical concerns as your job extends. Look for affordable, comfortable housing with proximity to your place of work, laundry facilities, and grocery stores or restaurants. 

4-6 Week Travel Nursing Assignment

One month is the magic number for many nursing assignments. In fact, it’s the minimum length of assignment  Medely offers. Additionally, many travel nurse housing sites also have a four week minimum. 

Four week and longer assignments typically have time between application and orientation, giving you some breathing room when it comes to planning housing and travel. We recommend looking for locations you think you’ll enjoy when considering these longer assignments.

8+ Week Travel Nursing Assignment

Nurses on tour! Home and home-away-from-home begin to blend together when you’re working in a new location for this long. But they are often easier to budget and plan for and you can take your time in figuring out next steps. Longer assignments are often a good bet for travel nurses with families and animals.  The assignment length means you have the time to make the necessary arrangements for your loved ones. 

Last Thoughts: Travel Nurse Assignments

What you need for your next travel assignment will vary by length. There’s a world of difference between a 1-week stay and a 2 month job. But by planning and preparing ahead of time, you’ll be ready to go no matter what. 

Not sure what to pack? Medely has the answers. Check out our post: The Nomad’s Packing Guide for Travel Nurses.