Starting Your Travel Nursing Career in 6 Steps
If you already meet the requirements to become a travel nurse and are ready to take the plunge, here is a step-by-step guide to getting your travel nursing career started.
1. Find a travel company that you want to work with
There are hundreds of travel nursing companies out there. If you know anyone who has traveled or is traveling you can ask them which staffing agency they worked with and what their experience was like.
HighwayHypodermics.com is a great website that rates traveling healthcare companies based on their reviews and their benefits offered.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with a few companies, it’s important to know how to pick the right one for you. The two companies I traveled with, Cross Country TravCorps and HealthCare Pros aren’t on the list and I had a great experience with both.
2. Work with a travel nursing agency
Once you pick a travel nurse agency, an agent will be assigned to you. Feeling comfortable with your recruiter is of utmost importance. If they give you a bad vibe or you feel like they don’t have your best interest in mind then you can always request a different agent.
Your travel nurse recruiter is responsible for finding your assignments, making your contracts, setting up your interviews, and securing your housing. They are your lifeline so it is important to have someone who is on point.
All travel nursing companies will have you fill out a skills checklist right away. This will give them a good idea of where they can send you. The hiring managers will also look at this to make sure you are a good fit for the assignment. Keep in mind that the more skills you have, the more hirable you will be. You will also need a copy of your nursing license, driver’s license, immunizations and any certifications that you may hold.
3. Check out your options
As a new travel nurse, your job options may be limited only because you lack travel nursing experience. If you have always wanted to travel to Hawaii and there are no assignments for inexperienced travel nurses, then you may have to go somewhere else first to get started on your career path.
Make sure your agent knows where you want to go and check the travel nurse job boards frequently. Some agents may try to send you somewhere with a nursing shortage, even if it’s somewhere you don’t necessarily want to go because they make more money for filling a particular open assignment.
4. Have the proper license
Once you have decided where to go, you should make sure you have the proper licensure to practice in that state. If you are lucky you will have a compact license. The nurse licensure compact allows you to travel to multiple states without having to get a new state license for each one. If this is not an option for you, then obtaining a nursing license will be your top priority.
Obtaining a license usually involves filling out an application, getting fingerprints done, a background check and paying a fee. It can take upwards of a month depending on where the nursing assignment is located so be prepared to wait a little bit.
There are a few states that are considered “walk-through” states meaning that you can obtain a temporary nursing license from them in one day. The licenses are good for 30 days to 6 months depending on what state it is. These types of licenses are used mostly for “strike” work. Your staffing agent will be able to direct you on which license to obtain and how to do it.
5. Pick an assignment
It is important that you pick a travel nurse assignment that fits your skill level. If you don’t have critical care experience, then don’t pick a critical care assignment. Starting a new job is stressful enough and not knowing what you’re doing will make it all that much harder. If you know the night shift is not your thing then pick a dayshift assignment.
Try to find a hospital that is used to having travelers. It may be wise to take your first assignment in a facility that is similar to the one you are currently working in. You can always work your way up to the 600 bed teaching facilities later in your career unless of course you are used to that type of thing.
Of course, you’ll have to choose the pay package that appeals to you most and whether the assignment includes benefits like health insurance. And consider location! Make sure that your new city is a place you’ll feel comfortable exploring.
6. Land the job
Most travel companies have a nursing supervisor on staff that you “interview” with. There will be some hospitals that require you to speak with the nursing manager of that particular unit. “Interview” can be a scary word to some folks, but it means something a little different in the realm of travel nursing.
These “interviews” are usually conducted over the phone and mainly cover what types of patients the unit takes care of, what color scrubs they wear, how they do their staffing and scheduling, floating requirements, and go over any vacation requests you might have.
This process is more for you to determine if this travel nursing job is the right fit for you. It is important that you are flexible and open-minded when considering assignments. You are there to fill a need.
Start your adventure today
For registered nurses ready to launch their travel nursing careers, flexibility is the most valuable skill you can offer. Your role as a travel nurse will be very different from a staff position. You will be placed in challenging situations that require patience and understanding. You will be asked to float in the middle of your shift or work on a unit that you have never been to before. “Go with the flow” will be your new mantra.
Getting into travel nursing is a piece of cake. It’s just choosing where to go — from small towns to big cities — that is the challenge!