There are various reasons why hospitals hire travel nurses; difficulty keeping skilled nurses based on a city’s location, temporary staffing for expected leave of absence, seasonal population increases (migration of snowbirds) like in Arizona and Florida, and simply because there are not enough qualified nurses in that city. Because of the shortage of nurses, hospitals and other medical centers are willing to hire skilled, qualified nursing candidates for short periods of time to help fill the gaps in order to provide excellent quality care to their patients.
Travel nurses are able to choose where they want to work, which specialty they want to work in, and for how long. Travel nurses are generally paid very well, have all of their housing and travel costs paid for, and receive a full benefits package. The pay for a typical assignment for a travel nurse is usually more than that of a staff nurse in the area of travel and much of this money is tax free because you are traveling more than 50 miles from your home. There are also many opportunities to make some extra cash after becoming a travel nurse. Many times your travel nurse agency will give bonuses for extending your contract at a certain hospital or offer other incentives for taking an assignment in a “high need” facility.
Becoming a travel nurse allows you to experience traveling the country to its fullest. Spending roughly 3 months in each city allows you to meet new friends, experience different cultures, food and entertainment. You will be exposed to different healthcare delivery systems and a variation of new professional experiences that will help you become a more independent, flexible and experienced nurse.
To become a travel nurse, one must first attend a nursing school and earn, at minimum, a degree as a registered nurse (RN). Becoming an RN is competitive and takes anywhere between two to four years depending on your program and place of study. Once these credentials have been obtained, the RN must pass the NCLEX-RN exam, and then work for a minimum of one year in a hospital setting in the specialty which they wish to practice. All facilities require their nurses to have at minimum an ASN degree. Depending on which specialty you work in ACLS, PALS, NIH stroke scale and other certifications may also be necessary. It is highly beneficial to have a certification in your specialty, such as the CCRN for critical care nurses, on your resume to validate your competency as a nurse in your specific field. Many agencies will also require you to have a current TB test, physical and specific immunizations prior to starting your first assignment. Once you have completed all of the above requirements, you are then eligible to interview for available travel nurse positions.
Finding a job as a travel nurse is the easy part. With demand for nurses so high, the best way to find a job is to work with a staffing agency who can offer you multiple job opportunities at once to allow you to compare your options. Many travel nurse agencies offer benefits such as healthcare, housing, retirement, travel reimbursement, and also provide staffing across the country, so once you have selected where you want to work, you will be able to compare offers and interview at various locations and decide which position is best for you. Most travel nurse assignments last 13 weeks, so if you decide you don’t like where you are working your commitment is minimal. If you do like your job and location, many nurses are offered extensions at the end of their assignment.
After finding an agency that fits your needs and all of your paperwork is complete, it’s time to choose an assignment. Many people have an idea of where they would like to travel. There might not always be options in the specific city you choose but it is almost guaranteed that there will be some in the state you choose, so keep an open mind when choosing an assignment. To work in other states it is necessary to have an RN license for that particular state. Ask your recruiter about compact RN licenses which allow you to work in many states without obtaining that specific license. If you do not have a compact RN license make sure you have enough time to acquire that state’s license before your start date.
Once you have selected where you want to work, you will be able to compare offers and interview at various locations and decide which position is best for you. The interview process for becoming a travel nurse is much simpler than it is for a staff position. Usually a nurse manager from your staffing agency will interview you; sometimes the manager of the unit will, but that doesn’t happen all of the time. In most instances, they will have already looked at your skills checklist that you completed with your agency and have determined whether or not you are qualified for the position. Remember, this is also an opportunity for you to decide if you want this position so write down specific questions you want to ask them, like how often they have travel nurses at their facility, what the cancellation policy is, if you will have to take call, and if there are opportunities for overtime.
Travel nurses receive many benefits including housing near or at the facility in which they will be working, competitive salaries, insurance, and retirement plans. In addition to the benefits, many travel nursing companies will offer signing bonuses once you complete your first assignment. If you are a registered nurse who is interested in working in a new area as a travel nurse, fill out the form to start working with a staffing agency who can help you find the nursing job you have been looking for!