Becoming a travel nurse is easier than you think. The toughest part of the job isn’t the mobility, it’s finding an assignment! A few key questions to ask yourself before hitting the road are:
Are You Ready to Travel?
You have likely seen all kinds of advertisements touting high pay and great benefits for travel nurses. However, some hospitals only offer mediocre pay with little to no benefits. Before accepting an assignment even though it pays well, research how much living expenses would be in that location compared to your current city. Virtually every state has different costs associated with living there including housing, transportation, food, clothing, health care needs and more.
Unfortunately, not every place offers all the amenities you currently enjoy where you live now. If you can’t afford to move and live comfortably in a new place, then you aren’t ready to become a travel nurse.
What Will Your Travel Nurse Assignments Be Like?
Some hospitals only offer housing for short-term assignments of around one month. This might not be long enough to find an apartment or house that is comfortable and affordable (see above). You’ll need time to check out the neighborhood, get familiar with the city and learn the bus routes if living off campus.
You will also want some time after your assignment ends before leaving town! Most travel nursing companies require at least two weeks between assignments so you don’t burn out and feel like work is never ending. Make sure your future hospital offers at least this much time between assignments.
What Are the Current Hiring Conditions?
If you are considering a travel nurse assignment and don’t see any jobs posted, then call the hospital and ask for their hiring conditions. They might just be in contract negotiations or still interviewing potential nurses to join their ranks. By checking first, you can avoid accepting an assignment that starts at one pay rate but is negotiated down to something much less desirable as soon as you start working!
Travel Nurse Salary
There are many excellent benefits of being a travel nurse including getting paid to go on vacation every few months! You will also gain invaluable experience from traveling to new cities and seeing how other places function. So book those flights now, plan where you want your next travel nurse assignment and get paid to see the world!
If you are having trouble finding travel nurse jobs in your area, then contact a staffing agency about their current company openings. They have access to hospitals that don’t post on any job boards or marketing sites. Their recruiters will also be able to help you decide if the pay is enough for what they offer. Ultimately, it’s up to you where you go next, but make sure it’s somewhere safe, comfortable and enjoyable!
What Is a Travel Nurse?
Travel nurses are part of a growing industry in the United States. According to the Travel Nursing 2014 Annual Report, there were 100,000 registered nurses working as travelers in 2013. The American Association for Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) reported that more than 50% of their travel nurse membership was hired with only 6 weeks’ notice, an indication of rapid growth in this market.
Travel nurses work for short durations at temporary assignments throughout the country.
As a traveler for hire or as a locum tenens , you can expect to relocate from city to city and hospital to hospital every few months. In return, you will enjoy higher pay rates and flexible scheduling as well as experience different hospitals and communities each year. By comparison, permanent staff nurses generally work at the same job and maintain the same schedule for years.
For travelers, it is expected that their assignments will last between 13 to 16 weeks. However, contracts of up to 26 weeks are acceptable as long as there is notice given by both sides. Longer assignments can also be negotiated but require higher pay rates and additional benefits. After each assignment, you can return home or on a new contract and location if desired.
To become a travel nurse, you must first pass an RN exam such as those administered by the state Board of Nursing (BON) in your state/jurisdiction of residence. Once certified as an RN, you may apply with any staffing agency specializing in this sector of nursing such as NursesTravel.com . Job listings are updated every week and posted on the company’s website, so finding one is quick and easy.
A variety of nursing fields are represented in this workforce, including hospital operating room, progressive care unit (PCU), telemetry, pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), emergency department (ED), medical surgical unit (MSU), critical care unit (CCU), neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and ICU. Travel nurses also work as anesthesia providers or with clients that have ventilators or other specialized equipment attached to their bodies . Some travel hospitals require staff members to choose between four-hour shifts (‘days’) or twelve-hour shifts (‘nights’). However, more frequent availability is usually rewarded with better pay rates.
Travel nurses are not limited to short-term contracts in medical facilities, either. They also work in other care facilities such as skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. Travel nurses can be hired for home health care services in areas where ongoing staffing shortages are present. In addition, travel nurses are sought after at correctional institutions, ports of entry (such as airports) and even cruise ships! If you are an RN who has worked at least one year within the last five years or have critical care experience , your chances of being approved to work on a cruise ship are very high.
If you decide to become a traveler, it will be necessary to maintain an active CPR certification . This is required by every client that you work for. If an urgent call comes through to the hospital that needs nurses immediately, your certification will make it easier for you to get hired quickly. Some clients also require candidates to submit fingerprints along with their resumes and other documents . These include hospitals in rural areas where staffing shortages are common, regardless of whether it is at a medical facility or correctional institution.
If you become eligible to work with certain clients, consider applying for jobs at the Veterans Administration (VA) . Several dozen VA facilities are currently understaffed by permanent staff members. The VA has reported that hiring travel nurses can help fill gaps in care while reducing costly overtime expenses incurred by permanent staff due to under-staffing issues.
While applications are accepted all year round, the best time to visit the agency’s website and look for openings is during November and December. These months see a flood of job applications, and it might be difficult to get your resume noticed unless you translate it into a VA-friendly format . This is especially true if you do not have previous experience working in this field!
Travel nurses often relocate from one area of the country (or even world) to another after each assignment. If you choose this career path, make sure that your spouse or next of kin are aware of this fact as well as how they can contact you quickly if necessary. It will also be good to find out what situations require immediate call-ups at all times . This might include an accident with multiple casualties or an infectious disease outbreak.
Stay connected with your family and friends back home whenever possible . This can help you stay grounded while on the road and ensure that they do not become concerned if something demands immediate action. It is also a good idea to make sure that you have plenty of spare time on hand – mobile phones can be unreliable in some places, and you might end up spending hours waiting for phone service when making or taking calls.
There are several companies that focus on placing travel nurses into permanent positions at hospitals and other facilities: NursesPlus Travel Nursing is one such organization, but there are many more out there so keep an eye out. Keep in mind though, most agencies will find temporary assignments for their nurses before asking if they would like to work somewhere permanent. There are also many travel agencies that list assignments for nurses to fill, so if you do not want to get stuck with a long-term contract , keep an eye out for these agencies as well. StudentNurse.net has compiled a list of the top 10 places where nurses can find employment .
Regardless of what type of nurse you are (traveler or otherwise), it is important to take proper steps in becoming licensed and certified before applying to any employers . Nurses who maintain their qualifications will be more attractive to potential clients than those who neglect them. Make sure your CPR certification has not expired, either! Your former employer may also provide references or even give you letters of recommendation for future employers upon request.
What qualifications do I need to become a travel nurse?
Travel nurses are expected to have great work ethic, excellent communication skills , and most importantly – certification. Depending on where you go, employers may require different types of certifications so it is important to learn about what they are looking for. For example, some hospitals in rural areas may require their staff members to be trained as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). This will prove helpful in the event of an accident involving multiple casualties or infectious disease outbreaks. If this type of assignment does not interest you, however, find out if your new employer requires other forms of training!
A background check will also be required before you can start working at any hospital or clinic that hires travel nurses. This is to ensure that you have no criminal history. Even if you think you do not need a background check, the hospital will likely request it anyway before considering your application.
What kinds of tests and certifications may be required?
Depending on where you plan to work as a travel nurse, your employer(s) might require different kinds of testing and certification . This includes: Wound dressing/caring; Infection control; Blood pressure monitoring; Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); Basic life support (BLS); Medication administration; Patient assessments; Bloodborne pathogens/universal precautions (including hepatitis B vaccinations). Make sure to obtain all these certifications properly and keep track of them! Remember that some employers will require employees to possess CPR certification before allowing them to work on their own. Even if you are not expected to provide this type of treatment, having the certificate will make you more attractive to potential employers!
What experience do I need?
Depending on where you want to work, you may be able to get away with little or no previous experience . This is especially true in rural areas where nurses are few and far between. Keep in mind that travel agencies often place nurses into positions based on qualifications alone – this means that your lack of experience outside of your home facility can land you a job elsewhere! Still, it is recommended that new travel nurses gain some form of real-world experience prior to making the jump into traveling around the country. One way to do this is to volunteer at a hospital or other health care facilities. You can also opt for an externship, which requires training but no commitment to that facility. More experienced nurses may not need this kind of practicing since they are already licensed.
What should I take? What skills are required?
When venturing out as a travel nurse, make sure you pack the proper items! Aside from bringing the basic necessities (toothbrush, toothpaste, clothes), keep these items with you before starting your first assignment : Identification card ; Medical records ; CPR certification ; Personal references ; Skills evaluation forms . There will be an orientation period where your employer(s) will test your qualifications and skill sets during what is called ‘Skills Evaluation’. During the evaluation, you will be asked to take part in dressings, basic treatment procedures, and other skills that are required for your specific field. Remember to bring these items with you upon arrival because this is when they will be evaluated .
What should I look for? What kind of environment do I want?
The best way to determine if travel nursing is right for you would be to start researching! Visit different hospital or clinic websites to see what they have to offer. Check reviews about their facilities on social media so you can get an idea of what others think. If possible, visit the facility in person before making any decisions about working there – even if it means paying a visit during off-hours or calling ahead. Ultimately this may require some sacrifices on your part, but it will prevent you from taking a job with an employer who is not up to par. Many travel agencies require their nurses to attend orientation prior to starting work – this may be done in person or via webinar (conference). The agency should provide some form of reimbursement for this expense.
What are the benefits? What about salary?
Travel nurses enjoy many benefits that local or ‘permanent’ nurses do not! This includes reimbursements for lodging and mileage expenses (if you use your own car to get around), access to many insurance plans, opportunities for continued education, flexible schedules, the opportunity to make new friends while traveling , and more! Depending on where you work and what tax bracket you fall under, your salary will vary . For example, the median salary for a travel nurse in New York is $74,000 while traveling nurses in Chicago average about $68,000. However, keep in mind that you may be able to negotiate your starting wage or sign a contract with higher pay if you have experience and qualifications!
What does the future hold?
As time moves on there will always be a need for qualified nurses all over this country. Traveling allows them to meet many new people and to see much more than they could if working in one area! It also opens doors for those who want to actually settle down somewhere , such as myself – I plan on using my skills and receiving training at different facilities until I decide where I would like to settle. Traveling is a great opportunity for those who desire to see more of this world!