9 Insider Tips From A Travel Nurse Staffing Agent
Being a travel nurse can be rewarding on multiple levels — career advancement, great pay, and the ability to explore the country. But, it’s not as straightforward as becoming a staff nurse. There are inherent differences and challenges that you may not be aware of.
To help you navigate the world of travel nursing, we sought out advice from a travel nurse staffing professional. Mike Wilder is a senior career consultant and team lead for Medical Solutions in Omaha, Nebraska. He’s been working with travel nurses and finding them placements for over eight years.
“In our line of work, no one candidate is the same. I talk to people from all walks of life — from those who just graduated nursing school to those with 20 years experience,” he says.
His biggest piece of advice to nurses of every age, gender, and speciality is to simply keep an open mind. It’s how you get the most out of your experience, he says.
Here are some of this other tips for those interested in travel nursing:
1. Don’t follow the crowd
There are a lot of requests for assignments in Hawaii, but there are far less jobs available than other beach communities. Georgia, the Carolinas, and even Texas have some wonderful beaches, so make sure you consider those too.
Like Hawaii, California is also high on the list of placement requests, especially in the winter. But competition isn’t the only thing that might make you reconsider the Golden State for your next travel nursing assignment. “There are a lot of jobs there because of a nursing shortage, and their pay rates are the highest. But the state is notorious for taking three months for an application by endorsement to go through,” Wilder says.
2. Be flexible about the facility type that you want to work
“It’s a disservice to paint yourself into being a certain type of nurse — such as one who only wants to work at a big university hospital,” he adds. “The more flexible you are, the more experience you’ll get.” So much of being a travel nurse is having a sense of adventure. Explore the opportunities that you’ll find in settings you normally wouldn’t experience otherwise. You may be surprised to discover how much you like working with children or how rewarding the ICU is.
3. Understand the application process
“There are 28 states that share a nursing compact — meaning there is reciprocity that each state accepts the nurse’s license from those other states,” Wilder says. That can make the transition from nurse to traveling nurse quite fast.
However, other states have their own rules and may require you to submit an application by endorsement or pay a fee before being verified to practice in that state. For example, California, where many nurses want an assignment, is not part of the nursing compact and has an application process separate from other compact states.
Read more: Current Nursing Compact States
Also, you’ll need to get fingerprinted and wait for a background check. Some states can issue the endorsement in 7-10 days, while others take two to three months. On average, the cost for the application is $100-$250.
4. Be prepared to wait
It can take as little as two weeks to get a nurse ready for their new job once they decide on an assignment. But, depending on other factors like how complicated the application process, you may have more downtime than expected between assignments.
5. Read your contract
On average, most traveling nurse contracts are three months. Though, some hospitals offer longer or shorter contracts dependent on needs — many have 8-week contracts to fill for maternity leave coverage.
If a nurse finds that what was promised in the contract isn’t coming to fruition at the hospital, they can contact the clinical team at their staffing agency who will step in to help with the problem. Most agencies are also flexible if there is a sickness or death that may require you to terminate your contract early.
6. Be aware of who’s paying you
The agency which placed you is usually the one paying you. The hospital doesn’t pay for any insurance or payroll taxes. All billing goes through the travel company.
“Everything is taken care of by us,” Wilder explains. “We even cover liability insurance.”
7. Ask about other benefits
Every travel nurse staffing company has different offers. Most offer non-taxable housing stipends and mileage reimbursement. Some companies such as Medical Solutions reimburse for any continuing education and certification expenses, and license renewals while being a travel nurse.
8. Be safe
The staffing agency knows all the best and safe housing options available in the places they send travel nurses. But if nurses decide to find their own housing, they can still use the travel companies’ housing departments to find locations that are convenient and in good neighborhoods.
“If the travel nurse takes housing through us, we have a very experienced housing department that finds the best housing in safe communities with a short commute to the hospital,” Wilder says.
9. Be friendly and adventurous
Don’t close yourself off from those you are working with. “Try to bring the community of traveling nurses together, and explore the area as much as possible,” he says. “Most nurse work three 12-hour shifts, so that affords you time to explore the area. Don’t just immerse yourself in the job.”
Wilder says it’s all about staying adaptable, being outgoing, having fun, and learning from the experience.
“Sometimes, travel nurses settle into where their assignment is and love the area. And the hospital feels the same way about them. They decide to keep the travel nurse on indefinitely. That has happened,” he says.
Lee Nelson is a Chicago-area writer for national and regional magazines, websites, and business journals. Her work has recently appeared in Realtor.org, Nurse.org, Yahoo! Homes, ChicagoStyle Weddings, and a bi-weekly blog in Unigo.com.