Travel nursing is an exciting and deeply fulfilling career path. This niche profession combines the adventure and freedom of an extended road trip with the stability and altruism of a role in the field of medicine. Sounds great, right? We all know it takes a lot of hard work to be a nurse, and travel nursing is no different. Travel nurses should be experienced, passionate, organized, and willing to go where they are needed most.
In order to be signed by a staffing agency, travel nursing candidates must:
Have all of the necessary credentials, including basic life support certification, advanced life support certification, and any peripheral certification relevant to their speciality of choice.
Have 1 – 2 years of experience with bedside nursing in a hospital or inpatient clinic.
Have a license to practice (RN) in their state, and in all other states which they wish to work in.
If this sounds like you, then you’re already halfway there! Below is a varied collection of tips and advice from nurses who have lived it, to help you take the next steps towards your travel nursing destiny.
Advice for Travel Nurses
Travel Nurse Advice for First Timers
This section is for those of you who are just getting started in your career as a travel nurse.
Organize! Get all of your ducks in a row before you even think about applying. Make sure that your license is valid, and that all of your vaccines are up to date. Get all of the paperwork you think you might need, and bring it with you on your first day. Seriously, there’s no such thing as being over prepared in this game.
Arrange to be away from home. Answer all the mundane questions well in advance. Who’s going to feed your pets? Are you going to forward your mail to your new location, or is someone going to collect it for you? Will you be subletting your house? Make a list of everything you’ll be leaving behind and make sure it’s taken care of before you go.
Choose a comfortable place for your first assignment. It can be tough starting a new job no matter where you are. So for your first travel nursing gig, you should consider working in a town that you’re already familiar with. Whether it’s somewhere you go for vacation regularly, the home town of a few family members or friends, etc. it’s easier to land if you already know the territory.
Travel Nurse Advice for Saving and Making Money
If you’re working assignment to assignment, financial planning and management can be tricky. But it doesn’t have to be if you do your due diligence.
Sign up for rapid response jobs. If you’re a little short on cash and rich in time, taking on a short term nursing assignment can be a great way to boost your bank account. Rapid response positions usually last 1 – 4 weeks, and pay up to 70% more than a traditional travel nursing job.
Remain flexible. Often the most lucrative travel nursing assignments are the ones no one wants. Hard-to-fill positions, such as those in rural areas etc., often pay their temporary staff more than another high demand hospital. If you need money, you might decide where to go by looking at where no one else is going.
Maintain a compact license. If you plan to work out of your home state, you will need to hold either multiple licenses, or a compact license. The cost of holding a different license in each state you visit can add up quickly, so it’s worth the little bit of extra effort to have one that allows you to practice across the country. Be advised however, that compact licenses are not functional in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island.
Travel Nurse Advice for Avoiding Hidden Costs
The routines of a traditional nursing job are upended when you throw travel into the mix. It can be easy to rack up a hefty bill between locations if you’re not careful; here’s how not to.
Plan ahead! Some travel nursing gigs may come at a moment’s notice, but in most cases you should have some time to organize travel and housing, and budget your expenses. As we all know, flight tickets and lodging can get extraordinarily expensive if purchased at the last minute, so it’s best to buy ahead of time, and have a working understanding of what money you need to spend once you’re there.
Find housing on your own. Free living space is a major perk of travel nursing, and staffing agencies often shell out for nicer accommodations. It’s possible for you to ask for a housing stipend and waive whatever is on offer, so that you can choose a lower price point and save. Not all staffing agencies allow this, so check with yours.
Visit your friends. If you know you’ll be working near a friend or family member, why not pay them a visit? Along the way, or upon arrival, couch surfing can cut the budget way down for travel nurses, and also give you an excuse to see your loved ones.
Final Thoughts: Travel Nurse Advice
Travel nursing is an exciting way to do what you love and see the world at the same time. After your first few positions we know you’ll be an expert too; in the meantime, make sure to reference this list whenever you need some advice.