Hey there, future travel nurse!
If you are reading this, you are probably a nursing enthusiast who is also bitten by the travel bug.
Combining your passion for helping people with your desire to explore the world is easier than you think.
In this blog post, we will guide you through the steps to becoming a travel nurse and starting your journey to a wanderlust career.
So, buckle up, and let us get started!
Table of Contents
Step 1: Get Your Nursing Degree
Before traveling the world as a nurse, you must get your nursing degree.
You can choose between an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
Both programs prepare you for the nursing world, but a BSN may offer more career growth and specialization opportunities.
Here are five reputable colleges and universities in the United States that offer nursing degree programs:
University of Pennsylvania – School of Nursing
The University of Pennsylvania offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program and graduate and doctoral nursing programs.
Duke University – School of Nursing
Duke University provides a variety of nursing programs, including an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
Johns Hopkins University – School of Nursing
Johns Hopkins University offers a variety of nursing programs, such as a BSN, MSN, DNP, and Ph.D. in nursing, as well as various post-master certificate programs.
University of Michigan – School of Nursing
The University of Michigan provides undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral nursing degree programs, including BSN, MSN, and DNP programs.
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – School of Nursing
UCLA offers nursing programs at various levels, including Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D.).
Remember that many other reputable colleges and universities offer nursing programs across the United States.
Research each institution and program to find the best fit for your goals and preferences.
Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN
After completing your nursing degree, you must take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
This exam is your ticket to becoming a licensed nurse.
So study hard, stay focused, and crush that test!
The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) is a standardized examination that evaluates nursing graduates’ knowledge, skills, and abilities to ensure they are competent and prepared to practice safely as entry-level nurses.
The exam is developed and administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) in the United States.
Here is more information about the NCLEX-RN:
- Exam Format: The NCLEX-RN uses a Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) format, which adjusts the difficulty level of questions based on your performance. Each test-taker will have a unique set of questions tailored to their abilities.
- Number of Questions: The exam consists of a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 265 questions. The number of questions you receive depends on your performance and how quickly you demonstrate your competency.
- Exam Duration: You will have up to 6 hours to complete the exam, including two optional breaks.
- Content: The NCLEX-RN tests four major categories of nursing practice: Safe and Effective Care Environment, Health Promotion and Maintenance, Psychosocial Integrity, Physiological Integrity
- Passing Standard: The passing standard for the NCLEX-RN is determined by the NCSBN and is periodically reviewed and updated. Your performance is measured against this predetermined standard rather than compared to other test-takers.
- Registration and Fees: To register for the NCLEX-RN, you must apply for nursing licensure with your state’s Board of Nursing and then register with Pearson VUE, the testing service provider. The registration fee for the exam is $200.
- Test Preparation: Various resources are available to help you prepare for the NCLEX-RN, including review courses, textbooks, practice exams, and online resources. Choose the study materials that best suit your learning style and needs.
- Test Results: Your test results will be sent to your state’s Board of Nursing, and they will notify you of your pass/fail status. The time it takes to receive your results may vary depending on your state.
Remember, thorough preparation and understanding of the exam format are crucial to success on the NCLEX-RN. Good luck!
Step 3: Gain Experience
Most travel nursing agencies require at least one year of experience in a specific nursing specialty.
So, after passing the NCLEX-RN, get a job at a hospital or medical facility to gain that valuable experience.
It is a great opportunity to determine which specialties you are most passionate about.
Gaining experience is a crucial step in your journey to becoming a travel nurse.
Most travel nursing agencies require at least one year of experience in a specific nursing specialty before considering you for assignments.
This experience ensures that you are well-equipped to handle the unique challenges and responsibilities that come with working as a travel nurse.
Here is how to make the most of your experience-building phase:
- Choose your specialty: Before gaining experience, decide which nursing specialty you’re most passionate about. Popular specialties include critical care, emergency room, labor and delivery, medical-surgical, and pediatric nursing. By focusing on a specific area, you’ll develop the specialized skills that hospitals and travel nursing agencies seek.
- Find a job: Apply for nursing positions in hospitals, clinics, or other medical facilities in your chosen specialty. Make sure to choose a workplace that offers a supportive environment and opportunities for growth. Experience in a reputable institution will help you build a strong foundation for your travel nursing career.
- Learn from your colleagues: Working alongside experienced nurses and healthcare professionals is an excellent opportunity to learn best practices, improve your skills, and develop your confidence as a nurse. Be bold and ask questions and seek guidance from your colleagues and mentors.
- Stay up-to-date with the latest developments: As a healthcare professional, staying informed about the latest advancements in your field is essential. Attend conferences, workshops, and webinars, and read relevant articles and research papers to keep your knowledge current.
- Enhance your communication and adaptability skills: As a travel nurse, you frequently encounter new working environments, diverse patient populations, and healthcare teams. Use your experience-building phase to develop strong communication and adaptability skills, which will be invaluable when you start working as a travel nurse.
- Pursue additional certifications: While gaining experience in your chosen specialty, consider obtaining relevant certifications to enhance your expertise and make yourself more competitive in the travel nursing job market. Examples of certifications include Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN), Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN), and Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN).
- Network with other healthcare professionals: Building connections with fellow nurses and healthcare professionals can benefit your career. Networking can provide valuable advice, job opportunities, and support as you transition into travel nursing.
Gaining experience in your chosen nursing specialty is a requirement for travel nursing and a valuable opportunity to grow as a professional.
Make the most of this phase to develop your skills, knowledge, and confidence before embarking on your wanderlust-filled career as a travel nurse.
Step 4: Choose a Travel Nursing Agency
Once you have got that experience, it is time to choose a travel nursing agency.
These agencies act as a bridge between you and the hospitals that need your skills.
So research and find an agency that offers great benefits, competitive pay, and exciting destinations.
Here are five reputable travel nursing agencies to consider when starting your travel nursing journey:
American Mobile Healthcare
American Mobile Healthcare is a well-established agency with a vast network of healthcare facilities, offering competitive pay, comprehensive benefits, and a variety of travel assignments across the United States.
Aya Healthcare is known for its personalized approach to travel nursing, providing dedicated recruiters, a wide range of job opportunities, and excellent benefits.
Travel Nurse Across America (TNAA)
TNAA offers a comprehensive benefits package, including health insurance, 401(k) plans, and paid time off.
In addition, they are known for their support staff and commitment to providing great experiences for travel nurses.
Fastaff Travel Nursing
Fastaff specializes in providing travel nurses for urgent and crucial assignments.
They offer top pay rates, flexible assignment lengths, and a range of opportunities in various specialties.
FlexCare Medical Staffing
FlexCare Medical Staffing is known for its transparent approach to pay and benefits.
In addition, they provide a single point of contact for travel nurses, making it easy to navigate assignments and receive personalized support.
Remember to research each agency and choose the one that best fits your needs, preferences, and career goals.
Step 5: Obtain Necessary Licenses and Certifications
As a travel nurse, you might need additional licenses or certifications depending on the states or countries you plan to work in.
Research each destination’s requirements and obtain necessary licenses or certifications before applying for assignments.
As a travel nurse, you may need additional licenses and certifications depending on the states or countries where you plan to work.
These licenses and certifications ensure you meet the necessary standards and qualifications to practice nursing safely and effectively in various locations.
Here is what you need to know about obtaining the necessary licenses and certifications:
- Nursing Licensure: In the United States, licensure requirements vary by state. Before applying for travel nursing assignments, you may need to obtain a nursing license for the state where you plan to work. Some states are part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which allows nurses to practice in any member state with their current license. If you hold a nursing license in a compact state, you can work in other compact states without needing additional licensure. However, for non-compact states, you’ll need to apply for licensure by endorsement, which usually involves submitting an application, paying a fee, and meeting any additional state-specific requirements.
- Specialty Certifications: Earning certifications in your chosen nursing specialty can make you more competitive in the travel nursing job market and demonstrate your expertise to potential employers. Professional nursing organizations typically offer these certifications and require passing an exam, having a certain amount of experience, and maintaining continuing education requirements. Examples of specialty certifications include Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN), Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN), and Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN).
- Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS): Many travel nursing positions require nurses to hold current BLS and ACLS certifications. These certifications, provided by the American Heart Association, demonstrate your ability to provide basic and advanced life support measures in emergencies.
- International Licensure and Certifications: If you plan to work as a travel nurse outside the United States, you may need to obtain additional licensure or certifications based on the country’s specific requirements. This can involve applying for a nursing license in the destination country, completing a language proficiency exam, and meeting any other relevant qualifications.
- Staying Organized: Keep track of your licenses, certifications, and continuing education credits. Organize your documents, set reminders for expiration dates, and stay informed about any changes in licensure or certification requirements.
- Renewals: Licenses and certifications usually expire, and you must renew them periodically. This often involves completing continuing education courses, submitting renewal applications, and paying fees.
By obtaining the necessary licenses and certifications for your travel nursing assignments, you will be better prepared to navigate the job market and practice nursing safely and effectively in various locations.
Research each destination’s requirements and plan accordingly to ensure a smooth transition into your travel nursing career.
Step 6: Apply for Assignments and Get Ready to Travel
With your nursing experience, chosen agency, and necessary licenses or certifications, you are ready to apply for travel nursing assignments.
Most assignments last 8 to 26 weeks, so you will have many opportunities to explore new places and cultures.
Applying for assignments and getting ready to travel is an exciting step in becoming a travel nurse.
This is the phase where you will explore new locations and work in diverse healthcare settings.
Here are some tips to help you apply for assignments and prepare for your travel nursing adventures:
- Update your resume: Before applying for travel nursing assignments, make sure your resume is up-to-date and highlights your nursing experience, specialty, certifications, and relevant skills. A well-crafted resume will help you stand out to potential employers and travel nursing agencies.
- Research assignments: Browse your chosen agency’s available travel nursing assignments. Consider location, duration, pay rate, and facility type when selecting an assignment that aligns with your preferences and career goals.
- Consult with your recruiter: Your travel nursing recruiter is a valuable resource for finding assignments that meet your needs. They can provide insights into various facilities, locations, and job requirements, helping you make informed decisions and find assignments that best suit you.
- Apply for assignments: Once you have identified the assignments you are interested in, apply through your agency’s portal or consult your recruiter to start the application process. Be prepared to provide your updated resume, copies of your licenses, certifications, and any other required documentation.
- Prepare for interviews: Some assignments may require interviews with the healthcare facility’s hiring manager. Be ready to discuss your experience, skills, and how you can contribute to their team. Show enthusiasm and be prepared to ask questions about the facility, work environment, and expectations.
- Confirm your assignment: After securing an assignment, work with your agency to finalize the details, including start and end dates, housing arrangements, and any necessary paperwork.
- Plan your travel: Make a checklist of the essentials for your trip, including clothing, toiletries, important documents, and any nursing equipment you may need. Research your destination, climate, local attractions, and nearby amenities to help you pack appropriately and maximize your free time.
- Arrange the house: Your travel nursing agency may provide housing options or a stipend. Consider proximity to the healthcare facility, safety, and convenience when choosing your temporary home. If you need to find housing independently, consider short-term rentals, furnished apartments, or extended-stay hotels.
- Connect with other travel nurses: Join online forums or social media groups for travel nurses to share experiences, tips, and advice. Networking with fellow travel nurses can provide valuable support and help you make new friends in your destination.
- Stay organized: Keep track of your assignment details, important dates, and documentation. Staying organized will make your transition to each new assignment smoother and less stressful.
By carefully applying for assignments and preparing for your travels, you’ll set yourself up for success as a travel nurse.
So embrace the adventure, grow professionally, and enjoy the unique experiences that come with this exciting career path.
Step 7: Prepare for Life on the Road
Travel nursing is exciting, but it can also be challenging.
Prepare yourself for life on the road by creating a budget, staying organized, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Remember, self-care is just as important as patient care!
Preparing for life on the road as a travel nurse requires organization, adaptability, and self-care.
You will encounter new environments, healthcare teams, and patients while balancing work and personal life.
Here are some tips to help you successfully navigate life as a travel nurse:
- Create a budget: Being on the road means managing your finances wisely. Develop a housing, transportation, food, and other living expenses budget. Also, set aside funds for emergencies, entertainment, and exploring your new surroundings.
- Pack efficiently: Bring essentials like comfortable clothes, work uniforms, shoes, and necessary personal items. Invest in high-quality, durable luggage to make packing and unpacking easier. Remember to keep important documents, such as your nursing license, certifications, and identification, readily accessible.
- Stay organized: Develop a system for managing your paperwork, finances, and scheduling. Use digital tools or apps to help you keep track of your assignments, licenses, certifications, and important dates. Staying organized will make your life on the road smoother and less stressful.
- Maintaining a healthy work-life balance: Travel nursing can be demanding, so it is essential to balance work and personal life—schedule time for rest, relaxation, and hobbies. Explore your new surroundings, connect with local communities, and maximize your time off.
- Prioritize self-care: Taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally is crucial for maintaining your well-being and performing your best as a travel nurse. Establish a routine that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep. Make time for relaxation and stress reduction activities like meditation, yoga, or spending time in nature.
- Build a support network: Connect with fellow travel nurses, friends, and family to maintain a strong support system while on the road. Share your experiences, seek advice, and stay connected with loved ones through video calls, texts, or social media.
- Embrace adaptability: As a travel nurse, you regularly face new challenges and unfamiliar situations. Learn to adapt and be open to change. This flexibility will help you thrive in your career and enjoy your experiences more fully.
- Stay connected with your recruiter: Maintain open communication with your travel nursing agency and recruiter. They can provide valuable support, guidance, and resources throughout your assignments.
- Continuously learn and grow: Take advantage of learning opportunities, such as workshops, conferences, or online courses, to expand your knowledge and enhance your skills. This commitment to growth will enrich your professional development and make you more competitive in the travel nursing market.
- Document your experiences: Keep a journal or blog to record your experiences, memories, and reflections during your travel nursing journey. This personal record will remind you of your adventures and the valuable lessons you’ve learned.
By preparing for life on the road as a travel nurse, you will be better equipped to handle this exciting career’s unique challenges and rewards.
So embrace the adventure, grow professionally, and enjoy the journey.
Becoming a travel nurse is an amazing way to combine your passion for nursing with your love of travel.
By following these steps and staying focused on your goals, you will be well on your way to a fulfilling and adventurous career.
So, pack your bags and get ready to make a difference while exploring the world!
Here are some must-know FAQs for anyone interested in becoming a travel nurse:
What is travel nursing?
Travel nursing is a specialized nursing profession where nurses take on temporary assignments in various locations, typically for 13 to 26 weeks. Travel nurses work in hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare facilities, providing expertise to help meet staffing needs and cover shortages.
What qualifications do I need to become a travel nurse?
To become a travel nurse, you will need a nursing degree (either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree), an active registered nurse (RN) license, and at least one year of experience in your chosen nursing specialty.
How do I obtain a nursing license for different states?
If you have a nursing license from a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) state, you can practice in other NLC states without additional licensure. For non-compact states, you must apply for licensure by endorsement, which usually involves submitting an application, paying a fee, and meeting any additional state-specific requiremen
How do I find travel nursing assignments?
Travel nursing assignments are typically found through travel nursing agencies. These agencies work with healthcare facilities to match travel nurses with job opportunities. Your recruiter will help you find assignments that align with your preferences, experience, and career goals.
What benefits can I expect as a travel nurse?
Travel nurses often receive competitive salaries, housing stipends or accommodations, travel reimbursements, health insurance, retirement plans, and bonuses. Additionally, travel nursing provides opportunities for professional growth, networking, and exploring new locations and cultures.
Can I choose where I want to work?
Yes, travel nurses can choose assignments based on their preferences. However, job availability may vary depending on location, specialty, and demand for nursing services. Working with a recruiter can help you find assignments that meet your needs and preferences.
How long are travel nursing assignments?
Travel nursing assignments typically last between 13 and 26 weeks, although some may be shorter or longer. After completing an assignment, you can extend your contract, take a break, or move on to a new assignment.
Can I travel with my family or pets?
Many travel nurses bring their families or pets with them on assignments. Discuss your needs with your travel nursing agency; they can help you find housing options that accommodate your family members or pets.
What if I have an issue during my assignment?
Your travel nursing agency and recruiter are there to support you throughout your assignment. Contact them for assistance, guidance, and resources if you encounter any issues.
How can I be successful as a travel nurse?
To succeed as a travel nurse, be organized, adaptable, and maintain a positive attitude. In addition, focus on developing strong communication and clinical skills, networking with other healthcare professionals, and embracing the unique experiences and opportunities of travel nursing.