How to Become a Travel Nurse: A Step-by-Step Guide


October 24 2023 by Transplant Housing
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Are you interested in nursing but want to combine that with a passion for travel? If so, becoming a travel nurse might be the perfect career path for you!

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for registered nurses continues to grow at a fast rate nationwide (6% per year). When nursing positions aren’t filled, a travel nurse can fill in the gap.

What is a Travel Nurse?

Travel nurses are registered nurses who work temporary assignments in various locations. They typically are moving from city to city, but it can also be country to country in some instance.

Not only does this allow for a unique travel experience, but it also provides the opportunity to gain experience in different healthcare settings. This step-by-step guide will discuss the requirements, benefits, and necessary skills to become a successful travel nurse.

travel nurse pros

The Benefits of Being a Travel Nurse

There are several benefits to becoming a travel nurse:

  • High Demand: As mentioned previously, there is a high demand for registered nurses nationwide. This means that traveling nurse positions are often readily available.
  • Flexibility: Travel nursing offers the flexibility to choose when and where you work. You have the option to pick assignments based on your personal preferences and availability.
  • Competitive Pay: Travel nurses often earn higher salaries than full-time staff nurses. Many travel nurse agencies offer additional benefits such as covering travel costs, housing stipends, and sign-on bonuses. The average salary for a travel nurse is $2,200 per week.
  • Professional Development: Working in different healthcare settings allows for a diverse learning experience and the opportunity to develop new skills.
  • Travel Opportunities: For those with a passion for travel, becoming a travel nurse allows you to explore new places and cultures while still having a stable job.
  • Networking: As a travel nurse, you will have the opportunity to work with different healthcare professionals and build connections in the industry.

Whether you want to explore more of the U.S., take intentional breaks between assignments to travel or celebrate holidays, or pay off student loans faster, becoming a travel nurse is a great option to consider.

The Disadvantages of Travel Nursing

Like any career, there are also disadvantages to consider when becoming a travel nurse:

  • Constant Change: Moving from assignment to assignment means constantly adjusting to new environments and routines. This can be challenging for some individuals, particularly when it comes to finding short-term rentals.
  • High Stress Work Environments: Travel nurses are often brough into hospitals and clinics that are in dire need of staffing. This can mean jumping into a high stress work environment with little time to adjust.
  • Lack of Job Security: Although the demand for nurses is high, assignments can end abruptly, leaving you without a job until you find a new one. Gaps in assitnments can also lead to loss of health insurance and other benefits.
  • Periods of Unemployment: Although travel nursing is in high demand, there may be periods where assignments are not available, leading to periods of unemployment.
  • Loneliness: Travel nursing can be lonely at times, especially if you are in a new location without any friends or family nearby.
  • Financial Considerations: While travel nurses may earn higher salaries, there are also additional expenses such as housing and transportation costs that need to be factored in.

Ultimately, being a travel nurse can be a lot of fun as long as you are realistic about expectations. Being honest with yourself about what types of environments you’d thrive in will help determin whether it’s a good fit.

renting to a travel nurse is lucrative

Steps to Becoming a Travel Nurse

Now that we have discussed the benefits and disadvantages of becoming a travel nurse, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of how to become one:

Step 1: Obtain a nursing degree

The first step to becoming a travel nurse is to obtain a nursing degree from a reputable program. Nursing programs are usually offered at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels. These take 2 to 6 years to accomplish. It is important to research and choose a program that meets your career goals and has a good reputation in the nursing field.

Step 2: Get licensed

After completing a nursing program, you will need to pass the NCLEX examination to obtain your registered nurse (RN) license. The specific requirements for licensure vary by state, so it is important to research and understand the requirements in the state where you plan to work. Depending on the state(s), you may be able to get a compact nursing license, which allows you to work in multiple states without needing to obtain separate licenses.

Step 3: Gain experience

Most travel nursing agencies require one to two years of recent clinical experience as a registered nurse before considering applicants for assignments. It is important to gain experience in different healthcare settings and specialties to increase your chances of being hired as a travel nurse.

This can vary with your school and previous work experience, so don’t hesitate to chat with a travel agency if you want to try to get a job sooner.

Step 4: Find a travel nursing agency

After obtaining your nursing license, the next step is to find a travel nursing agency that aligns with your travel goals and nursing specialties. Some well-known agencies include American Mobile, Cross Country Nursing, and Aya Healthcare. Research each agency’s selection of assignments, pay rates, and benefits to determine which one is the best fit for you.

You can reach out to each company and chat with someone that’ll help you make your final choice. You can also joint travel nurse groups online and ask them for advice. In general, it’s best to choose one reputable company and stick with them.

Step 4: Create a strong nursing resume

Some travel nursing agencies receive a large number of applications, making it important to create a strong nursing resume. Include your education, nursing experience, certifications, and any other relevant information that showcases your skills and qualifications. Consider working with a professional resume writer to ensure your resume stands out among the competition.

Step 5: Develop your skills

As a travel nurse, it is important to possess a wide range of nursing skills as you will be working in different healthcare settings with diverse patient populations. Consider taking courses in critical care, emergency nursing, or hospice care to expand your knowledge and increase your value to potential employers. Additionally, hone skills for advanced technology, telehealth, and electronic health records to keep up with modern healthcare as a travel nurse.

Step 6: Enjoy!

Now that you have completed all the necessary steps, it’s time to embark on your journey as a travel nurse! Enjoy the opportunities for adventure, networking, and personal and professional growth that come with this career choice. Remember to stay open-minded, flexible, and adaptable as you navigate through different assignments and environments.

Embrace the challenges and rewards of being a travel nurse and make the most out of this unique career path.

Travel Nurse FAQs

Let’s review commonly asked questions and tips for anyone considering becoming a travel nurse.

Is it worth it to become a travel nurse?

The answer to this question depends on an individual’s goals and preferences. Travel nursing offers competitive salaries, additional benefits such as housing and transportation, and exciting opportunities for personal and professional growth. However, it also comes with its own set of challenges such as adjusting to new environments and potential periods of unemployment.

Can I become a travel nurse right out of college?

Gaining at least one year of clinical experience as a registered nurse is recommended before pursuing travel nursing opportunities. This will help you build your skills, and network, and increase your chances of getting hired for assignments. However, there are always exceptions.

How long are travel nursing assignments?

Assignments can range from 8 to 26 weeks or longer, depending on the needs of the healthcare facility. Some travel nurses choose to take back-to-back assignments for up to a year, while others prefer shorter assignments to allow for breaks in between.

Do travel nurses choose where they go?

Travel nurses have the opportunity to choose their assignments and locations, however, it ultimately depends on the availability of positions in their desired location. Some may also choose to work in less desirable locations for higher pay or specific experiences.

How much money do you actually make as a travel nurse?

The exact salary for a travel nurse varies depending on factors such as location, specialty, and experience. It typically includes an hourly rate, housing stipends, and other benefits. On average, travel nurses can expect to make between $30-40 per hour, plus a weekly per diem stipend for finding housing and food.

What degree do most travel nurses have?

Most travel nurses have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, although some may have an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). A BSN degree is becoming the preferred degree for most nursing positions and can open up more opportunities for advancement.

What should I study in college to become a travel nurse?

To become a travel nurse, you would need to complete an accredited nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to obtain your registered nursing license.

Which state pays travel nurses the most?

The highest paying states for travel nurses may vary, but commonly include California, Hawaii, and New York. It is important to research average salaries and cost of living in different states to determine which locations will be most financially beneficial for you.

Start Your Travel Nurse Adventure

Becoming a travel nurse offers an exciting opportunity to combine nursing with a sense of adventure. Follow these steps to become a successful travel nurse: obtain a nursing degree, obtain a nursing license, find a travel nursing agency, create a strong nursing resume, and develop your nursing skills. With the right preparation and mindset, you can embark on a rewarding and fulfilling career as a travel nurse.