Lee Nelson
Lee Nelson
February 15, 2023 - 4 min read

9 Tips for First-Time Travel Nurses

If you are new to being a travel nurse, it might seem a little overwhelming with so many things to choose, research, and take care of before going on your journey.

We spoke with three travel nurses — Ellie Kanter, Michele Fitzgerald and Mario Mucurio — to get some tips to help first-time travel nurses get a great head start.

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Considerations for New Travel Nurses

The transition for new travelers can be a big one.

“I’ve moved around so much with my parents in the military and then with myself that I really don’t mind the move like other people do,” says Kanter.

She understands that it can be quite a process for first-time travelers to store a bulk of their belongings or sell them or give them away to charity.

She also knows that not everything will go perfectly at every assignment that you end up taking but with the right preparation and a positive attitude, it can be a wonderful way to travel and to further your nursing career.

9 Tips for First-Time Travel Nurses

9 tips for First-Time Travel Nurses

1. Know why you want to travel

Travel is not for everyone, and some jump in without enough thought or planning, explains Mucurio.

Ask yourself a lot of questions upfront:

  • Why do you want to travel?
  • Is it money, the travel, or the experience?
  • Can I afford to travel?
  • How does this affect my home life, kids, school, and other parts of my life?

Your reasons for becoming a travel nurse may change through the years, but doing an inventory every so often can help ensure you are set up for success long term.

2. Find an agency and recruiter

Some travel nurse agencies are known for high pay, some for having the most openings, some for going the extra mile in all situations, and a few are a combination of the previous three, Mucurio adds.

When identifying a recruiter within an agency, it’s best to find one that fits your personality and what you are looking for. Do you want weekly check-ins? Do you want someone you can call with problems just like a friend?

3. Clarify issues with a recruiter

Make sure during your interview to clarify if weekends, evenings, or on-call are expected, says Fitzgerald, who has been traveling for two years in Arizona and California.

4. Arrive a few days early for your assignment

Arrive a day or two early, ahead of your first day, and learn all about the new location, especially the areas immediately around the hospital.

Kanter explains that every time she is about to start a new job, she always stays one night in a hotel and makes appointments to see a few rental places before committing.

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5. Educate yourself

There are tons of social media groups, travel nursing sites, and experienced travelers to bounce all your questions off, says Mucurio.

“You need to understand how the process works to make truly informed decisions. Travel nursing is hard enough, so having a solid grasp of things can give you peace of mind and not compound an already difficult career,“ he adds.

6. Stay flexible

It’s all about flexibility, Mucurio says. This is the number one reason some RNs have a limited amount of job choices.

“The more flexible you are the more likely you will be to not only find a contract but continue to stay gainfully employed with minimal time off,” he says.

Understand shift, location, and pay rate requirements all factor into the number of jobs that may be available to you.

For example, an ICU RN that only does days, within 10 miles of Dallas, TX, and needs $1900 weekly take home will have a much harder time locating contracts than an ICU RN willing to work any shift, in any compact state, and needs $1600 take home.

If you keep an open mind, you’ll have more travel nurse assignments to choose from.

7. Rent near the hospital

Kanter always rents near the hospital when she takes a new assignment.

“If something happened to my car, I could at least walk or Uber to the hospital and not call off,” she says.

8. Remember the extras

Fitzgerald always packs her passport, electronic copies of nursing licenses and certifications, and things such as pens, comfortable shoes, a lock for her locker at the job, and phone chargers.

For her dog that travels with her, she packs treats, a comfy bed, and vaccination records.

9. Get two bank accounts

It’s good to have two accounts so you can keep track of expenses and also put everything you can on a credit card for later tracking or reimbursement, Kanter explains. But only do this if you’re ready to pay the balance off monthly and stay out of debt.

We even have credit cards for travel nurses to help you earn points with all your travels while also showing off your nurse hero-status.

Getting Ready For Your First Travel Nursing Assignment

Getting started as a travel nurse is a big change but it’s one that comes with lots of rewards: new adventures, new friends, a new city.

So don’t be afraid. With a little preparation, you can make your transition from staff nurse to your first travel nursing assignment smooth and easy.

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