Is Travel Nursing Right For You?
Travel nursing is a very exciting opportunity that attracts nurses from all backgrounds. But if you are just starting to look into it as an option you might be asking yourself, “Should I become a traveling nurse?” Let’s break it down a bit to help you get a better understanding if travel nursing is for you or not.
Are you eligible to start traveling?
There are a few universal prerequisites to becoming a traveling nurse, but requirements will vary by agency, facility, specialty, and contract. The best way to know for sure if you are eligible to begin a travel nurse career is to ask a recruiter, but here are a few basic requirements:
1. Minimum of one year experience in your specialty
One year is pretty standard, but some specialties will require up to two years’ experience. Traveling nurses need to be ready to hit the ground running and most hospitals don’t have time to train you so it is your responsibility to be confident in your skills and ability to do your job from day one.
2. Be properly licensed in the state you are seeking employment
Travel positions move quickly, so it is wise to get yourself licensed in at least a few states that you are positive you want to work in (just save your receipts for future reimbursement). Some licenses don’t take long and can be obtained after accepting a position, but many take at least a few weeks and many contracts require that you are already licensed there before you interview. If your original license is part of the compact licensure agreement then you already have a leg up, so be sure to check on that.
3. Be up to date on any required certifications
Each specialty and contract is different, so speak with a recruiter to find out what certifications are required for your specialty. If you have been working the past year or more in your specialty, chances are good you have the necessary certifications already.
4. Have the required paperwork
Typically this includes things like an up-to-date resume/application, skills checklist, physical, immunizations, and tons of other miscellaneous paperwork.
Do you have any obligations that would/could prevent you from traveling?
If you have the required minimum years of experience in your specialty and you are licensed in the state you are seeking employment; you are pretty much eligible to begin traveling. What is left in deciding if this is the right career move for you is to ask yourself some questions and to analyze your life to decide if this is a good fit or not.
Think about your obligations and ask yourself if there is anything in your life that could prevent this lifestyle from working out. Some basic questions to ask are:
- Do you have a significant other that isn’t willing to or can’t travel?
- Do you have school-aged children?
- Do you have parents or others that depend on you for care?
- Do you have a house that you aren’t comfortable leaving unattended for weeks at a time?
- Do you have some savings set back for emergencies?
- Are you good at budgeting your money?
- Do you have specialized healthcare needs/requirements that are location specific?
- Will agency health insurance suit your needs?
I’m sure there are other things I am leaving out, but just think through your life and your particular circumstances and ask yourself similar questions to analyze if there is anything that could hold you back from travel nursing. Honestly, most of these oppositions can even still be worked around if it is important enough to you.
Travel nursing certainly isn’t for everybody, so really take the time to decide if it is right for you. The good thing is that you can give it a try for 13 weeks and if you don’t love it, you don’t have to take another contract (although I have to say, don’t give up just because of one bad experience. As with any job; you will like some more than others).
Are you emotionally ready to begin traveling?
This is a self-awareness question that nobody else can answer for you, but in general there are certain personality types that might be more suited for a travel nurse career:
- Extrovert/Outgoing/Makes Friends Easy/People Person
- Self-Starter – Doesn’t Need Much Direction
- Responsible/Mature & Punctual
- Confident but Humble
These personality traits probably make the transition into travel nursing easier, but it obviously isn’t a catch-all. I have met all types of people traveling, so there definitely isn’t a mold per-se. If you have the passion to become a travel nurse and are up for the challenge then you are the right personality type.
So, is it for you?
Hopefully this can help guide you to make the decision if you should become a travel nurse. It’s a big commitment that should be evaluated as such. And just because right now isn’t the right time, doesn’t mean that later things won’t pan out in your favor.