Travel nursing is a rewarding and exciting career option for registered nurses (RNs) who enjoy traveling, exploring new places, and meeting new people. Travel nurses work in different health care settings across the country or even abroad, filling temporary staffing shortages and gaining valuable experience and skills. Travel nurses typically earn higher salaries and enjoy more benefits and flexibility than regular staff nurses.

But how do you become a travel nurse, and what are the requirements and challenges of this career path? In this article, we will answer these questions, and provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to become a travel nurse. We will cover the following topics:

  • What is travel nursing and why is it important?
  • What are the education and licensure requirements for travel nursing?
  • What are the skills and qualities of a successful travel nurse?
  • How to find and apply for travel nursing assignments?
  • What are the pros and cons of travel nursing?

By the end of this article, you will have a clear idea of what travel nursing entails, and how to pursue this career option.

let’s start

What is Travel Nursing and Why is it Important?

Travel nursing is a form of nursing that involves taking short-term assignments in different health care facilities, usually for 8 to 26 weeks, depending on the contract and the need. Travel nurses are employed by staffing agencies that specialize in travel nursing, and they are assigned to various locations based on their preferences, availability, and qualifications. Travel nurses can work in any specialty and setting, such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, schools, or home health.

Travel nursing is important because it helps address the nursing shortage and the uneven distribution of nurses in the health care system. Travel nurses can fill the gaps in areas that have high demand and low supply of nurses, such as rural or urban areas, or certain specialties, such as critical care or emergency. Travel nurses can also provide relief and support to the regular staff nurses, who may be overworked or burned out. Travel nursing can also improve the quality and safety of patient care, by ensuring adequate staffing ratios and reducing nurse turnover.

What are the Education and Licensure Requirements for Travel Nursing?

The education and licensure requirements for travel nursing are the same as those for regular staff nursing. Travel nurses must be registered nurses (RNs), which means completing a nursing program, passing the NCLEX-RN exam, and obtaining a state nursing license. Travel nurses can have either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), but some employers and specialties may prefer or require a BSN degree. According to my research from Zippia, 47% of travel nurses have a BSN degree, more than any other degree type.

Travel nurses must also obtain a license in each state where they plan to work, which can be a time-consuming and costly process. However, there are some options that can make this process easier, such as:

  • The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC): The NLC is an agreement among 34 states that allows nurses to practice in multiple states with one license, as long as they meet the uniform requirements and follow the laws and regulations of each state. The NLC is especially beneficial for travel nurses who work in states that are part of the compact, as they do not need to apply for a new license each time they move.
  • The Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC): The eNLC is an updated version of the NLC that was implemented in 2018, and that includes 33 states and one territory. The eNLC has the same benefits as the NLC, but it also has more stringent requirements, such as a federal and state criminal background check, and no disciplinary or encumbrance actions on any license. The eNLC aims to increase the mobility and safety of nurses and patients across the country
  • The Walk-Through States: The walk-through states are states that allow nurses to obtain a temporary license within a short period of time, usually one or two days, by presenting their credentials and paying a fee. The temporary license is valid for a limited time, usually 30 to 90 days, and it allows nurses to work while waiting for their permanent license. The walk-through states are especially helpful for travel nurses who need to start their assignments quickly, or who work in states that are not part of the NLC or the eNLC.

What are the Skills and Qualities of a Successful Travel Nurse?

Travel nursing requires not only the clinical skills and knowledge of a regular staff nurse, but also some additional skills and qualities that are essential for this career path, such as:

  • Adaptability: Travel nurses need to be adaptable, as they have to adjust to different work environments, cultures, and policies, and deal with various challenges and changes. Travel nurses need to be flexible and open-minded, and willing to learn new things and try new approaches. Travel nurses also need to be resilient and resourceful, and able to cope with stress and uncertainty.
  • Communication: Travel nurses need to have excellent communication skills, as they have to interact with different people, such as patients, families, staff, managers, and agencies, and convey information clearly and effectively. Travel nurses need to be respectful and courteous, and able to establish rapport and trust with others. Travel nurses also need to be assertive and confident, and able to advocate for themselves and their patients.
  • Independence: Travel nurses need to be independent, as they have to work with minimal supervision and guidance, and make decisions and solve problems on their own. Travel nurses need to be self-motivated and self-directed, and able to manage their time and tasks efficiently and effectively. Travel nurses also need to be responsible and accountable, and able to follow the rules and regulations of each facility and state.
  • Experience: Travel nurses need to have experience, as they are expected to be competent and proficient in their specialty and setting, and able to perform their duties without extensive orientation or training. Travel nurses need to have at least one year of clinical experience in their field, but some employers and specialties may require more. Travel nurses also need to have a current and valid certification in their specialty, such as BLS, ACLS, PALS, or NRP.

How to Find and Apply for Travel Nursing Assignments?

Travel nurses can find and apply for travel nursing assignments through staffing agencies that specialize in travel nursing. Staffing agencies act as intermediaries between travel nurses and health care facilities, and they provide various services and benefits, such as:

  • Finding and matching travel nurses with suitable and available assignments, based on their preferences, qualifications, and availability
  • Negotiating and arranging the contracts, compensation, and benefits for each assignment, such as salary, housing, travel, insurance, and bonuses
  • Providing support and assistance throughout the assignment, such as orientation, credentialing, licensing, payroll, and troubleshooting

Travel nurses can choose from hundreds of staffing agencies in the market, but they should do some research and comparison before selecting one, and consider the following factors, such as:

  • Reputation and accreditation: Travel nurses should look for staffing agencies that have a good reputation and track record in the industry, and that have positive reviews and ratings from other travel nurses and employers. Travel nurses should also need to look for staffing agencies that are accredited by reputable and recognized organizations, such as the Joint Commission or the National Association of Travel Healthcare Organizations, which ensure that the agencies meet certain standards of quality and safety.
  • Services and benefits: Travel nurses should look for staffing agencies that offer comprehensive and competitive services and benefits, that meet their needs and expectations. Travel nurses should compare the salary, housing, travel, insurance, and bonuses offered by different agencies, and look for any hidden fees or charges. Travel nurses should also look for staffing agencies that offer support and assistance, such as orientation, credentialing, licensing, payroll, and troubleshooting, and that have a dedicated and responsive recruiter or representative.
  • Availability and variety: Travel nurses should look for staffing agencies that have a wide availability and variety of assignments, that match their preferences and qualifications. Travel nurses should consider the location, duration, specialty, and setting of the assignments, and look for agencies that have access to exclusive or high-demand contracts. Travel nurses should also look for staffing agencies that have flexibility and options, such as extensions, renewals, or cancellations, and that allow travel nurses to switch or choose their assignments.

To apply for travel nursing assignments, travel nurses need to follow these steps:

  • Register with one or more staffing agencies, and create a profile with their personal and professional information, such as name, contact, education, experience, license, certification, and references
  • Search and browse the available assignments on the agency’s website or app, or receive notifications and alerts from the agency’s recruiter or representative
  • Select and apply for the assignments that interest them, and submit their resume, credentials, and documents, and answer any questions or interviews
  • Review and sign the contract and the offer letter, and confirm the start and end dates, the compensation and benefits, and the work expectations for each assignment
  • Prepare and pack for the assignment, and arrange the travel, housing, and transportation, with the help of the agency or on their own
  • Start and complete the assignment, and receive the payment and feedback from the agency and the facility

What are the pros and cons of travel nursing?

Travel nursing has many pros and cons that you should consider before deciding to pursue this career path. Here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of travel nursing:

Pros of travel nursing:

1. Great pay: Travel nurses can earn more money than staff nurses through incentives and tax-free reimbursements. According to Zippia, travel nurses earn an average of $133,376 per year, which is 42% higher than the average salary of staff nurses.

2. Travel opportunities: Travel nurses can travel to different places and experience different cultures and lifestyles. Travel nurses can choose their assignments based on their preferences and availability, and they can visit various destinations, such as beaches, mountains, or cities. Travel nurses can also explore new attractions and activities, such as museums, parks, or festivals, during their free time.

3. Variety and challenge: Travel nurses can work in different settings and specialties, and face different challenges and situations. Travel nurses can learn new skills and knowledge, and expand their resume and portfolio. Travel nurses can also enjoy the variety and excitement of changing their work environment and colleagues, and avoid the boredom and routine of working in the same place.

4. Flexibility and independence: Travel nurses can have more flexibility and independence in their work and life. Travel nurses can choose their assignments, schedules, and locations, and they can take time off between contracts. Travel nurses can also work with minimal supervision and guidance, and make their own decisions and solve their own problems.

Cons of travel nursing:

1. Loneliness and isolation: Travel nurses may feel lonely and isolated, as they have to leave their family, friends, and home behind, and move to unfamiliar places. Travel nurses may have difficulty making new friends and connections, and they may miss the support and comfort of their loved ones. Travel nurses may also face culture shock and homesickness, and they may struggle to adapt to new surroundings and lifestyles.

2. Stress and pressure: Travel nurses may face stress and pressure, as they have to deal with various issues and problems, such as finding housing, transportation, and childcare, adjusting to new policies and procedures, and handling difficult patients and situations. Travel nurses may also have to work long and irregular hours, and cope with high expectations and demands from their employers and agencies.

3. Uncertainty and instability: Travel nurses may face uncertainty and instability, as they do not have a permanent or secure job, and they may not know when or where their next assignment will be. Travel nurses may also have to deal with cancellations, extensions, or changes in their contracts, and they may have to look for new assignments frequently. Travel nurses may also have to deal with varying pay rates, benefits, and taxes, depending on their contracts and locations.

4. Licensing and credentialing: Travel nurses may have to deal with licensing and credentialing, as they have to obtain a license in each state where they plan to work, which can be a time-consuming and costly process. Travel nurses may also have to maintain and update their credentials and certifications, such as BLS, ACLS, PALS, or NRP, depending on their specialty and setting. Travel nurses may also have to undergo orientation and training, and pass competency tests, for each assignment.

Conclusion

Travel nursing is a nursing allocation concept that involves taking short-term assignments in different health care facilities, usually for 8 to 26 weeks, depending on the contract and the need. Travel nurses are registered nurses who work in temporary nursing positions in locations throughout the country or even abroad, filling temporary staffing shortages and gaining valuable experience and skills.




We hope this article has been helpful and informative for you. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us. Thank you for reading. 😊


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