Starting Your Travel Nursing Career in 6 Steps
Most of the nurses I’ve met have either traveled or have the desire to be a travel nurse.
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 get 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 who they traveled 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, its 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 staffing agent (recruiter)
Once you pick a travel company, an agent will be assigned to you, unless you were referred by someone and then you would most likely be in touch with their agent. 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 agent 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 Washington and there are no assignments for inexperienced travel nurses, then you may have to go somewhere else first just to get your foot in the door.
Make sure your agent knows where you want to go and check the job boards frequently. Some agents may try to send you somewhere you don’t necessarily want to go because it’s a big payday for them.
4. Have the proper license
Once you have decided where to go, you should probably make sure you have a license to practice in that state. If you are lucky you will have a compact license which allows you to travel to multiple states without having to get a new 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 you want to go 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 an assignment that fits your skill level. If you don’t do neuro, than don’t do neuro. Starting a new job is stressful enough, not knowing what you are doing will make it all that much harder. If you know that night shift is not your thing, than 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.
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 not to worry in the realm of travel nursing.
These “interviews” are usually conducted over the phone and mainly covers 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 the assignment 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
My biggest recommendation for experienced nurses ready to enter the travel nursing world is to change your mindset. Instead of fine tuning your balloon pump or CRRT skills, you will now be focusing on how to be flexible.
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 trying to figure out where to go next that becomes the challenge.