As you look to expand your nursing career, you may have considered if travel nursing might be right for you. And depending on your current certification, you may have also wondered: Can LPNs be travel nurses?
The answer is: Yes, you can become a travel nurse as an LPN, although there are a few things you need to consider before searching for your first LPN travel job. Here’s what you need to know about going from LPN to travel nurse.
The first step to working as a travel nurse is to explore options for you to expand your current credentials into a Registered Nurse (RN) license. While your LPN degree serves as a professional degree that is appropriate for many clinical settings, most travel nursing agencies do require nurses to have an RN license as a minimum requirement.
Why is it required for travel nurses to have their RN certification? Because as a travel nurse, you will be responsible for working in a wide variety of settings and it’s imperative that you have the leadership and critical thinking skills offered through an RN degree program.
Fortunately, if you’re already an LPN, you have plenty of technical and practical nursing skills — you’ll only be improving your abilities by furthering your education. Also as an LPN, you may be able to take the fast track to obtaining your RN degree with a nursing school bridge program. Many schools, both online and in-person, offer bridge programs to help LPNs connect their existing skills to the RN program, which helps LPNs to earn their degree faster. In some cases, you can get your RN degree an entire year faster through a bridge program, although it will depend on what prerequisite courses you need and if you choose to enroll full or part-time. Once you complete your degree, you will also have to pass the NCLEX to get your official licensure as a Registered Nurse in your state.
Pro tip: You may want to consider earning your Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. While many travel nursing jobs don’t require a BSN, nurses who have one often have a leg-up in getting hired and have more desirable career choices.
Depending on where you would like to work as a travel nurse, you may also have to apply for a nursing license in your work state as well. When you obtain your RN license, you can check if your home state is classified as a compact state, which means that one license from your state is good for any other state classified as a compact state. If your work state isn’t a compact state, however, you will need to apply for a nursing license in the new state, a process that the staffing agency will be able to help guide you through.
Read more: Current Nursing Compact States
Obtaining your RN or BSN/RN degree is the first step in transitioning from LPN to a travel nurse, but the next step to become a travel nurse is to gain at least one to two years of bedside experience as an RN.
Even if you have years of experience under your belt as an LPN, you will start from scratch as an RN to reach that year mark. Fortunately, with experience as an LPN and a new license as an RN, you should have no trouble getting hired for a new job or continuing your current role with your expanded credentials. If you know you would like to specialize in a certain area when you do move on to travel nursing, it’s also a good idea to gain experience in that field when you’re making your job choices.
As you gain experience working bedside as an RN, your next step to becoming a travel nurse is to build up your nursing resume with advanced specializations and credentials in your specialty field. Because travel nursing agencies are hired to fill specific needs for hospitals, clinics, and facilities, it’s always more desirable for the agency to hire nurses with specialized skills that they can call on to fill those roles.
If you haven’t already, start thinking about what area of nursing you are interested in specializing and research the advanced credentials offered for your specialty. For instance, you could earn credentials such as Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) for pediatric nursing or Circulating Nurse Operating Room Nurse (CRON) for surgical nursing.
Pro tip: Check to see if your current employer offers payment reimbursement or stipends for continuing education as travel nursing agencies expect their nurses to pay for all of their own education expenses.
In additional to any advanced credentials in your specialty field, you’ll also want to be sure you are maintaining your Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), as well as any physical and immunization requirements before working with a travel nursing agency.
Once you have your RN license, your one to two years of bedside experience, and any specialized credentials to your name, your next step should be to connect with a travel nursing agency, which you can easily do online. A reputable travel nursing agency will connect you with travel nurse opportunities across the country and guide you through the next necessary steps to start your first assignment.
As you begin your journey from LPN to travel nurse, don’t forget to take a minute to congratulate yourself on taking this exciting step for your career. Advancing your education as an LPN to RN travel nurse means that you will have more opportunity to exercise your nursing skills, make a difference for your patients, and further your career with more skills and increased pay advantages.
If you’re an LPN dreaming of becoming a travel nurse, your dream is entirely in reach — and you can take steps today to make it a reality.
Chaunie Brusie is a Registered Nurse, journalist, and busy mother of four. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Real Simple, and more.
She’s also a published author and the founder of the Stay Strong Mom Project, which donates money to mothers struggling to pay their medical bills following a loss or miscarriage. Find her at chauniebrusie.com.