For many Nurses and Allied Healthcare Professionals, travel nursing provides the freedom to move around the country, work in new facilities, and meet new peers. Its flexibility appeals to a broad range of people, from recent graduates looking for the right “fit” before finding a permanent position to experienced RNs who are ready to explore. But, you first travel nursing assignment may be overwhelming.

And, those aren’t the only benefits of travel nursing. There’s also:

  • Competitive pay. While recent pay packages may vary depending on need, travel nurses typically earn more than staff nurses when travel benefits are included—particularly those with in-demand specialties. There’s also the non-taxable housing stipend to help offset your expenses.
  • Stability. While assignments typically run from 4-13+ weeks, your hours are typically guaranteed if included in your contract, although flexibility policies will be at the discretion of the facility. Additionally, you may be able to extend the contract if the facility still needs you (as long as the total length is less than one year due to tax reasons).
  • Personal and professional development. Travel nursing offers a chance to test your skills in different facilities with different degrees of responsibility. Or you can set your sights on prestigious organizations or dream locations—it’s a “choose your own adventure” for your career.

Travel nursing is a win-win arrangement that works as well for professionals as it does for the healthcare facilities that rely on short-term staffing assignments to scale up and down as their needs fluctuate.

How can you start travel nursing? Next, we’ll take a look at how to set yourself up for success, how to find that first assignment, and tips to help you prepare for day one. 

Getting started: An intro to traveling.

While there’s no specific training or certification to become a travel nurse, there are some baseline expectations about experience and education:

  • At least 1-2 years of clinical experience in a hospital or outpatient facility is typically expected.
  • Travel nurses are typically registered nurses (RNs) or nurse practitioners (NPs); or a variety of Allied Health Pros, like Certified Surgical Techs.
  • Some facilities require at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree for RNs. If you dream of an assignment with a particular facility or in a competitive location, it can be helpful to scope out the ideal requirements well in advance.
  • Research licensing requirements for the state(s) you intend to work. Through the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), a license from one participating state will be considered valid in other member states—but not all states are currently part of the agreement.

More experience makes it easier to get assignments—as does flexibility. If you keep an open mind about potential jobs, you’ll have a much easier time finding one to start.

How to find your first travel nursing job

Travel assignments are typically found through staffing solutions like Medely or travel nursing agencies, which require that you:

  • Complete a skills checklist
  • Verify your nursing license and certifications (i.e., Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), other specializations)
  • Provide professional references. 

Depending on the staffing solution you choose, you can either keep an eye out for new opportunities and apply on your own or get matched by an internal recruiter with jobs that match your preferences (i.e., specialty, location, length, etc.).

The actual selection process isn’t notably different from any other position. First, a facility provides its requirements up-front to get a good match. Then they screen the profiles they receive and schedule interviews with their top candidates.

While the facility will want to know that you meet their requirements, an interview is your chance to check each other out. So be prepared to ask about the things that are important to you! For example, you may want to ask:

  • What kind of patients do they typically see?
  • What is the nurse-patient ratio?
  • How are hours scheduled, and will you be able to take time off?
  • What is their float policy?

When a facility is ready to hire you, they’ll submit a contract for you to consider. Please review it carefully! Once you’ve reached an agreement, you’ll be ready to get started.

Tips to help your first travel nursing assignment go smoothly

  • It helps to be friendly, collaborative, open-minded, and a good communicator. Every facility (and unit) has its own culture, dynamics, and mix of personalities, including other professionals who are there on a short-term basis. You never really know what you’re walking into, but you will need to be able to work together.
  • Be adaptable—or learn how to be! Every facility will have its systems and procedures, and at least some of them will inevitably be new to you. Be ready to learn how your new team prefers to do things (and keep the critiques to a minimum).
  • Get everything written into your travel nurse contract. Contracts will vary from agency to agency and assignment to assignment; learn what elements are included. They may consist of travel expenses, overtime/holiday/sick pay, and cancellation policies.

A career in travel nursing can be enriching. And when you’re ready, we’re here to help you get started! Medley delivers premium pay, maxed out travel stipends, and the ability to book per diem shifts while on an assignment so you can maximize your earnings. Learn more about working with Medely today.