The Must-Read Guide to Becoming a Travel Nurse
If you’re a student nurse with a travel bug, you’ll likely have pondered over becoming a travel nurse. Your future feels set. You can’t wait to qualify and enjoy a rewarding, exciting career while providing care wherever you’re needed.
Here, we crunch down to everything you need to know to feed that travel bug of yours and board a First Class (OK – probably economy) ticket to a travel nursing career.
What Makes You a Travel Nurse?
As a travel nurse, you’ll be jetting across the United States (you’ll need licenses to do so) to fulfill short-term assignments with healthcare providers in need of your support. You’ll be contracted to a set assignment time usually between eight and 22 weeks, with the possibility to extend. Or, you can head off to some place entirely new!
You won’t be employed by the healthcare provider, so you won’t receive the same benefits as permanent staff in the establishment. You’ll also discover your role varies in according to the facility’s staffing needs – but variety is the spice of life, right? And it’s great for your experience and resume!
Travel Nurse Salary and Benefits
We’ve mentioned you won’t have employee benefits – but you will be well compensated for filling in a staffing gap, usually earning at a higher rate than permanent employees. Though salary does vary greatly depending on the assignment, location, duties, your experience, and skills, the average hourly rate of a travel nurse is $51.14 – higher than the $36.22 permanent placements receive hourly.
Though you’ll miss out on benefits such as paid time off and sick pay, you could receive reassuring and attractive benefits such as 401(K), weekly pay, health insurance, support, and travel and license reimbursement through a specialist staffing agency.
To become a travel nurse, you must become a registered nurse (RN). The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is your direct and traditional undergraduate degree program that you could enroll in to become a registered nurse.
If you have a degree in another field that has no connection to nursing, you can do an intensive, full-time, 15-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
Once you have the credentials to become a registered nurse, you must apply to your state’s board of nursing to sit the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for registered nurses. You’ll also need to obtain a state license, which will require regular renewal and continuing education.
When travel nursing, you will need to gain state licenses for each state you practice in. Some will come under a compact or multistate licensure, which will allow you to apply for one license that covers a group of states combined (Check out the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact website for more information).
Finally, what you must also gain to begin a career as a travel nurse is experience.
Why You Need Experience
Nursing experience gives you:
- Knowledge of patient care
- Enhanced communication skills with professionals, patients, and relatives
- Improved practical ability and knowledge
- On-the-job insight
All these elements are needed when working in healthcare settings such as hospitals or clinics. When you’re assigned a contract, you’ll find yourself in ever-changing nursing roles and duties that pivot from the experience you’ve gained.
So, yes, it’s justifiable for healthcare providers to ask for experience of their travel nurses – it provides smoother transitioning for you and your new team of nurses, and it ensures you enjoy the travel nurse lifestyle.
Make a Plan
We realize you’re going to have to get some experience under your nursing belt before adding a suitcase to our uniform. To get there, you’ll need to first make a plan!
Consider your career goals and desired assignment terms, as well as what nursing specialties you’re most interested in. Once you have determined what kind of position you want, start paving your way to travel nurse jobs now. Here’s how you can prepare:
1. Get Your BSN
Though you can become an entry-level RN with an associate’s degree, we highly recommend you gain your BSN (as mentioned earlier). Many facilities will only hire a travel nurse with a BSN – a credential for nursing excellence with advanced training. And if they do accept an associate’s degree for travel nurse jobs, you’ll stand out with a BSN. So, if you’re at the stage of choosing educational pathways, always opt for the BSN route.
2. Figure Your Likes and Dislikes
We highly recommend you figure out what you like and don’t like in the nursing role. Don’t waste time in departments you really don’t enjoy – your “experience” there won’t support your future pathway. And, if you continue to switch your specialty, you effectively restart your experience in each field.
Think about your:
- Ideal setting (e.g., clinic or hospital)
- Ideal patient (Pediatrics? The elderly?)
Strive to work in your preferred setting where you’ll learn more and become increasingly skilled, experienced, and passionate.
3. Observe Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Don’t blur this section with likes and dislikes. You could be an RN in a department you’re passionate about and still have weaknesses. Be observational, too. If you’re not so good at something, get that extra support from a supervisor or mentor and improve in time to strengthen your search for travel nurse jobs.
But don’t forget to be open to new learning opportunities. It’s a huge part of the role of a travel nurse!
4. Study and Work Hard
Staying focused and determined when studying is easier said than done – but crucial to your entire future. If you’re struggling on coursework or clinicals, raise that hand and ask for help before moving on. Additionally, if you’re assigned to a clinic that you’re totally disinterested in during study, ask for a transfer. Better still, tackle your weak points to make you stronger.
You’re racking up months of experience and spending every shift and study hour ensuring it will all contribute toward your future goal of becoming a travel nurse. Here’s what you should do from here:
1. Talk to a Recruiter
When you’re nearing 12 months of experience, get in contact with a specialist recruiter. Get the ball rolling with a conversation and introduce yourself to the experts. Specialist staffing agencies will love to get to know you, and you may even come across an assignment that’s perfect for your ability and attitude, even now!
2. Be Flexible with First Assignments
As you start out travel nursing, you might not always be able to work your most preferred assignments. The most glamorous locations for travel nurses can conjure up a waiting list. Be savvy and flexible with assignments in all kinds of locations and duties. Doing so will get you out there, help you discover some incredible secret gems, and enhance your experience – making you increasingly valuable to future assignments.
3. Keep Monitoring and Updating Your Resume
Always, always, keep a close check on your travel nurse resume. It’s your golden document to ensuring all your efforts get noticed. Most importantly, get it in the hands of a specialist recruiter. This way, your qualifications, licenses, skills, and experience will be put before multiple assignments, filling your schedule up with the best-matched and hot-off-the-press opportunities.
4. Brush Up on Your Interview Skills
Employers will see the effort and dedication you have applied to your nursing career right from the start. You’ve been matched up by the experts at Loyal Source – the assignment is perfect for you! Now all you need is to nail the interview. Don’t worry – we’ll give you all the interview tips and tricks you need to know. Just bring your commitment and passion, and we’ll help you prepare.
Spread Your Travel Nurse Wings with the Specialists
Travel nursing really does open a whole new world up to you, with all the benefits of job satisfaction, career and skill progression, and rewarding compensation. You may be keen to get started as soon as you qualify as an RN. There’s no beating around the bush – you do need some experience behind you to optimize your application and enjoyment of assignments.
Here, though, we’ve shown you how you can maximize your efforts, each one invested into your travel nurse career path.
Get in touch with us and tell us about your journey so far. We’d love to keep in touch and put the accelerator on your career the moment we see the perfect opportunity.