What is a Travel Nurse?

travel nurse

What is Travel Nursing?

A travel nurse is a nurse who is hired to work at a specific location for a designated period of time. Travel assignments vary in length of time but are typically between 13 and 26 weeks. Due to nursing shortages, there are often openings in various locations which allow the nurse to choose his or desired location. Hospitals often fill maternity and medical leaves with travel nurses and may also use travel nurses to fill in while new nurses are being trained. Travel nurses fill the nursing shortage gaps around the country and internationally.

Requirements to become a Travel Nurse

The basic requirements to be a travel nurse include the following:

  1. Have a current RN license in the state you plan to work. Note that some states have a compact agreement which will allow you to work in multiple states with the same license. Other states will require you to apply for a license through reciprocity. Once you have completed an RN program, passed the NCLEX-RN and been issued a license, you can apply to another state for a license. The requirements and length of time for the individual states to issue an RN license varies, so you will need to check and plan in advance. You will also want to see if the travel company will reimburse you for the numerous costs you incur when applying for numerous licenses.
  2. Have at least 1 to 3 years of experience in the field you plan to work in. A travel nurse will receive minimal orientation focused on the hospital policies and charting systems and will be expected to work independently within a few shifts.
  3. Be sure all your immunizations, including your TB test, are up to date. Keep a copy on hand.
  4. Some institutions will require you to have a physical or provide a note from a qualified healthcare provider stating that you are capable of performing all of the job requirements.
  5. Keep all certifications current. This will vary depending on your specialty but may include BCLS, PALS, ACLS, TNCC, or chemotherapy certifications. Keep all of your licenses and certifications in one binder and create a list in the front displaying the expiration dates so that you can be sure to renew them on time.
  6. Most institutions will require you to pass a pre-employment drug screening.
  7. Pass a criminal background check. Typically, if you have a current RN license, this is not an issue, but this could be an issue if anything has happened in the recent past or a state has higher standards.
  8. Have three solid references that include at least two of your recent supervisors. A manager is more interested in speaking with your recent supervisor rather than a professor from 5 years ago. Be sure that those listed as references are aware and have agreed to speak on your behalf as for then they tend to respond more quickly and give a positive reference.

Benefits of being a Travel Nurse

The major advantage of being a travel nurse is you get to choose where and when to work. You have the ability to move around and experience different locations and cultures frequently. If you prefer warm locations, you can travel during the winter months to an area with warmer weather and avoid every lifting a shovel. If you are unsure of where you would like to eventually settle down, travel nursing offers you the opportunity to test out an area for a short period of time. Many times, the travel nurse will have the opportunity to extend a contract if they wish to stay in one location for a longer period of time.

Travel nurses are paid competitive wages and typically the cost of travel and living arrangements are included in your contract. Since your travel and living expenses are covered, you have the opportunity to save more money for future investments or desires. You will also have the opportunity to meet many new co-workers and friends while experiencing different lifestyles and cultures.

The company that the travel nurse works for will provide benefits for the nurse and negotiate contracts. When negotiating contracts, the travel nurse can often specify required days off as long as they are within reason. For example, if they need to attend a wedding, they can have those dates built into the contract. The contract will also specify the shift and required number of hours or days per month which the travel nurse must work. If an institution is very short staffed, you may have the opportunity to pick up extra shifts allowing you to earn extra money.

If this sounds like an exciting opportunity for you, you should certainly give it a try. There is much to explore and one should truly enjoy working and exploring on their time off.