Chaunie Brusie
Chaunie Brusie
January 26, 2022 - 10 min read

How To Become A Travel Nurse | 4 Requirements 2022

What exactly is a travel nurse?

Your immediate vision of travel nursing may be traveling to exotic destinations, but that’s not necessarily true. Being a travel nurse simply means that you are employed by an independent nursing staffing agency instead of by a single hospital. This means you could travel as far as a different country, or you could work at your local hospital in need of temporary nurses. The choice is up to you on when and where you work, but travel nursing doesn’t necessarily mean faraway travel.

Click here for available high-paying travel nurse opportunities!

Travel nurse requirements 

All travel nurses will have to meet several requirements before applying for contracts. These include licensure, degree, certifications, and experience.  

License requirements 

Travel nurses are required to have an RN license in the state they are contracted in. Now, if your permanent residence is one of the states that are currently part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC) then you are lucky. You will not need an individual state license if you are contracted to work in another eNLC state. However, if your home base is not an eNLC state – you will be required to apply for an individual state license. This must be granted prior to the start of your contract.

Degree requirements 

Most travel nurses can expect to be required to have a BSN. The minimum requirement for travel nursing is an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). However, depending on the hospital or facility, a BSN may be preferred. For this reason, some travel nurse agencies will only work with nurses that have completed a BSN degree.

Certification requirements 

Certifications will depend on the unit and the specific job requirements. All nurses are required to have a Basic Life Support (BLS) certification and most will have either a Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) or Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS). Any other job-specific certifications will be discussed in the contract. Earning additional certifications will increase your job opportunities and earning potential.

Years of experience 

Most travel nursing agencies will require a minimum of two years of relevant bedside experience. This is usually required because the hospital or healthcare facility will also want an experienced nurse. Travel nurses get very few orientation shifts so they must have the skills and knowledge to jump right into any assignment or situation. New nurses may not be able to do this. The more experience you have, the more desirable you are.

Benefits of travel nursing

There are many benefits to travel nursing but at the top are getting to see and experience new parts of the country and getting paid a higher wage. 

Travel nurses have the opportunity to garner top wages in some of the top hospitals in the country. Typically, the demand is so high for nurses in a specific location and/or unit, the contracted wage will be significantly higher than a full-time staff nurse. Travel nurses also have other compensated benefits such as housing, meals, incidentals, and travel reimbursement. These additional stipends make the earned wage some of the highest for nurses. 

Other benefits include traveling the country, building your skill set, job security, personal growth, networking with healthcare professionals around the country, and the opportunity to make new friends and experience new places.

Click here for available high-paying travel nurse opportunities!

What are travel nurse agencies looking for? 

Travel nurses are looking for nurses ready to take off on their next adventure! Contracts typically move pretty quickly, especially in popular locations such as California, Hawaii, and Alaska. While you can reach out to a recruiter if you are ready to take the next step toward travel nursing – know that most recruiters want to work with you once you are fully committed to submitting a contract offer. 

Generally, travel nursing agencies are looking for nurses who: 

–       Have a minimum of two years of relevant bedside experience

–       BSN prepared

–       BLS, ACLS, PALS certifications (as required for the position)

–       Flexible

–       Personable

–       Ready for an adventure

Travel nurse salaries

Travel nurse salaries can be confusing. It’s important to figure out your weekly take-home pay because it might be significantly smaller than what is advertised. In order to determine your pay, subtract the estimated weekly taxes from the weekly taxable wage and add the remainder to the total weekly tax-free stipends to calculate the weekly net pay for a contract. 

According to ZipRecruiter.com, the national average for travel nurses is $85,190 per year or $41.00 per hour. Travel nurse pay, just like staff nurse pay, varies greatly by location and healthcare system. Nurses in California earn some of the highest wages in the country and travel nurses are compensated equally.

The national average for travel nurses is $85,190 per year.

In more desirable locations, like Hawaii, the pay is often not as high. 

Additionally, travel nurse pay will also include housing stipends and other miscellaneous things. That is not factored into the hourly wage. Therefore, when looking at travel nurse pay it’s important to look at all aspects of the contract.

Taxes for Travel Nurses

Travel nursing recruitment often focuses on the benefits and perks, such as housing stipends or sign-on bonuses, but it’s also important not to overlook the tax implications that come with travel nursing. In order to become a travel nurse, you will need to have what’s called a “tax home” in the eyes of the IRS. That simply means you have to prove that you have a full-time residence when you’re not working as a travel nurse.

If you don’t have a full-time residence that you maintain and pay for when you’re not working as a travel nurse, don’t worry — you can still work, but you will have a tax status as an itinerant worker, which means you have to pay taxes on all of your income, including any stipends or reimbursements. For non-itinerant nurses who do have a tax home, your base wage pay is taxable income, while all “extras,” including meals, housing allotments, or travel reimbursement is non-taxable.

That means that you will save on paying taxes on that income, but it also means your adjusted income will not be as high in the eyes of say, a loan officer or for Social Security purposes. If you anticipate needing a loan soon, or are approaching retirement, it may be more advantageous to you to have a higher taxable income reflected on your paycheck.

Read More: Comprehensive Guide to Travel Nurse Taxes

How to find travel nursing jobs

To find a travel nursing job, a nurse must work with a travel nursing agency that will help secure their contract and negotiate with the hiring hospital or healthcare facility. It’s important to work with a recruiter and staffing agency that understands your needs and the contracts you’re interested in. 

Working with a recruiter will also make sure that your contract has must have such as:

  • Specific days off
  • Vacation time
  • Sick time/pay
  • Cancellation policy
  • Desired shifts

6 steps to becoming a travel nurse

 Becoming a travel nurse can be easy. Follow these six steps:

  1. Earn your BSN and pass the NCLEX to become a Registered Nurse.
  2. Get at least two years of bedside experience.
  3. Find a travel nursing agency and recruiter to work with.
  4. Get the proper state license and certifications.
  5. Pick an assignment and sign a contract.
  6. Land housing and begin your adventure.

Maintaining Your Nursing License as a Travel Nurse

For nurses with a compact license, maintaining your license as a travel nurse is no different than meeting the requirements of the home state where you received your original license. Once you renew your home state license, your license for the new location is considered updated, too.

If you had to obtain an additional state license, however, you will have to renew your home state license (if you want to keep it, that is) and meet the requirements for license renewal in the state you are working in as well. Certain states, such as Florida and Washington, also require all nurses to obtain Continued Education Units (CEUs) in the specific areas of pain management and HIV awareness, so you will need to make sure you fulfill the CEUs for your home state and/or work state as well.

In general, while it’s also good to prepare yourself as much as possible, becoming a travel nurse can be a straightforward process. Once you’re a nurse with an active license, have at least one to two years of bedside experience under your belt, and are ready to take on the challenge of a new location and work environment, you can take on the adventure of being a travel nurse.

If you’re interested in becoming a travel nurse, you can take the next step by learning more about travel nursing here.

Tips for your first travel nursing assignment

Accepting your first travel nurse assignment can be scary and overwhelming, but also exciting!

It’s important to remember, travel assignments are short-term and if the location, hospital, and situation are not a good fit, you can always try somewhere new for the next assignment. If the assignment is not a good fit, speak to your recruiter about possibilities for future assignments.

Here are the  top tips for first-time travel nurses to make the transition a little easier:

  • Triple-check your contract.
  • Embrace the unknown of this new adventure.
  • Get organized.
  • Make copies of ALL of your licenses and certifications.
  • Open a checking and savings account at a national bank (ex. Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America, PNC).
  • Downsize your belongings, especially clothes and shoes.
  • Join local Facebook groups for an easier transition to a new location.
  • Don’t be afraid to take your first assignment closer to family and friends.
  • Arrive at your new location ahead of the start date so you can get settled before your first day and orientation.
  • Make friends with co-workers at your assignment.
  • If you have a pet, prepare to take them with you by setting up dog walking services, doggie daycare options, and a new veterinary practice.
  • Make sure your vaccinations and health screenings are up to date.
  • If you own a home, prepare to rent or sell — depending on your situation.
  • Go in with an open mind!
  • Don’t be afraid to explore on your own.
  • Be patient with your coworkers and new work environment.
  • Have an open mind with patient assignments.

Travel nurse requirement FAQ

How do I become a traveling nurse?

Starting a career as a travel nurse can be scary and overwhelming, especially leaving friends and family behind but it can be a very rewarding and exciting career.

There are six easy steps to becoming a travel nurse:

  1. Find a travel nursing company
  2. Work with a travel nursing company
  3. Check out all your options
  4. Have the proper state license
  5. Pick an assignment
  6. Land a job and find housing

Is it hard to become a travel nurse?

It’s not hard to become a travel nurse because there currently is a nationwide nursing shortage. More and more nurses are leaving the bedside for other types of nursing jobs and to become travel nurses. Actually working as a travel nurse can take some adjustments, especially for those that have ever worked as a staff nurse. But it is a fun and exciting opportunity for many.

What skills does a travel nurse require?

Travel nurses need to have a different set of skills than staff nurses. Why? Because they are constantly changing hospitals and always are the first to be floated to another unit. For that reason, travel nurses must be flexible and adaptable more than anything. They also should have a solid nursing foundation, critical thinking skills, strong communication skills, a love of travel and be personable.

Are travel nurse companies requiring the COVID vaccine?

Currently, all travel nurse companies require the COVID vaccine because all healthcare institutions require the COVID vaccine.

What are the requirements to be a travel nurse?

The requirements vary from agency to agency and contract to contract. Generally speaking, you will need a minimum of two years of bedside nursing experience. Most will also require a BSN as well as certifications in CPR, PALS, ACLS, etc. The final requirement will be either a compact nursing license or an individual state license.

Are nurses required to travel?

Nurses are not required to travel. Travel nursing is a unique aspect of nursing that allows individuals to take short contracts at different hospitals around the country.

What do I need to be a travel nurse?

 To be a travel nurse, first and foremost you must be ready for an adventure! You will also need a minimum of two years of bedside experience. Now, not every travel agency or position will require this, but with minimal orientation to a unit, more experience is always better. You will also need a license in the state you are applying to (unless you have a compact nursing license). Most recruiters and agencies will assist with the paperwork in obtaining a new state license.

Can travel nurses bring their spouses, children, or pets?

Of course! In fact, many travel nurses are accompanied by their families and pets. If you are traveling with pets – it’s important to make sure your housing accommodations allow for animals. At times and in certain locations it may be more difficult to find reasonable housing but with planning, it is very possible.

Are travel nurses eligible for health insurance and retirement benefits?

Travel nurses generally can obtain health insurance and retirement benefits such as 401Ks through their travel nursing agency. However, it is important to note that not all agencies will offer benefits starting on day one of a contract and others will terminate health benefits in-between contracts.

What’s the difference between travel nursing and per diem nursing?

There are several differences between travel nurses and per diem nurses. The main difference is that, unlike per diem nurses, travel nurses’ hours are guaranteed. Generally speaking, they are not canceled and if they are most are still paid their contracted rate. Per diem nurses are used on an as-needed basis and can be canceled whenever they are not needed and without pay.

Click here for available high-paying travel nurse opportunities!

Travel nursing holds a lot of appeal for many people interested in the healthcare field because it offers perks like the chance to visit new places, competitive pay, and career flexibility. It’s also the perfect opportunity to gain valuable skills, get out of your comfort zone, and of course, make a difference in the lives of your patients.

But what exactly does it take to become a travel nurse?

Learn more about travel nurse requirements to see if this career choice might be right for you.

Click here for available high-paying travel nurse opportunities!

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