Are you considering and researching a career in travel nursing? Whether you are a novice or a seasoned nurse, there are some things you can do right now to make the process easier once you join the profession.
In this blog post, we will discuss 9 tips for preparing for your travel nursing adventure!
Table of Contents
Research the Travel Nursing Profession
The first step is to do your research. This profession is not for everyone, so it’s important that you know what you’re getting into. Read blog posts (like this one!), watch YouTube videos (like on Nurse Cheung), and talk to other travel nurses to get a feel for the lifestyle.
One important thing to keep in mind is that travel nursing is not a permanent position. It is a great way to explore different parts of the country (or even the world), but it is not a long-term career solution if you are looking to stay on one assignment for an extended period of time. Most contracts can range between 8 weeks to 6 months (with most being only 13 weeks).
Research Travel Nursing Agencies
One of the most important things you can do is research the different travel nursing companies. There are many factors to consider when looking for the right company, such as pay and benefits, housing options, and company culture.
You can start by reading reviews on Glassdoor or Travel Nursing Central. You can also attend travel nursing job fairs to speak with recruiters from different agencies.
Reach out to other travel nursing professionals on Facebook to discuss Travel Nurse Recruiters. Many times, there may be recruiters who are fantastic and go above for their nurses while others you should avoid.
Gain Experience in your chosen Nursing Specialty
The more experience you have in your chosen specialty, the better. Not only will this make you a more competitive candidate, but it will also help you feel more confident in your abilities as a travel nurse.
If you don’t have much experience in the specialty you want to travel in, consider taking a course or two to brush up on your knowledge. You can also look for per diem or PRN (as needed) positions in your desired specialty to get some experience under your belt. It is best to have one to two years of experience in which you are completely independent and require little to no assistance on the chosen unit.
Some specialties, like ER or ICU, may require you to have a certain number of years of experience before you can apply to travel in that area.
Don't Destroy the Bridges that Built You
It is important to not burn the bridges with your former employer prior to considering travel nursing. You may wish to return to the organization for a future travel assignment but could be blocked from the organization due to past behaviors.
If you are currently employed, make sure to give your employer two weeks’ notice before resigning. This is a common courtesy that will be appreciated, and it will also give you time to finish up any loose ends at work.
Consider Becoming a Float Nurse
If you are considering travel nursing, you may want to consider taking a position as a float nurse. Float nurses are RNs who “float” to different units within the hospital, filling in where needed.
This is a great way to get your foot in the door of travel nursing and to get a feel for how it works. It is also a great way to make some extra money!
Create a Savings Account
Another important step is to create a budget and establish a savings account. When you are a travel nurse, you are responsible for your own housing, transportation, and other living expenses. You will also be duplicating expenses between your tax home and travel assignment.
You will need to save up enough money to cover these costs as well as have some extra spending money for your adventures. A good rule of thumb is to save up to 6 months’ worth of expenses (at least $6000 – $10,000) before your first travel assignment. As travel nursing can change and vary, it is important to have an emergency fund established.
Consider Obtaining Basic and National Certifications
There are a few basic and national certifications that can help you as a travel nurse. Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support, and Pediatric Advanced Life Support are examples of certifications that are often required. You will need to keep up-to-date with your professional licenses and certifications. These items will need to be renewed every two to three years and you will be responsible for the costs associated with renewing them.
Some national certifications can include the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the National Certification Corporation (NCC).
These certifications can help you become a more competitive candidate and may even open up more job opportunities for you. For example, ICU nurses who hold the Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification tend to be more competitive based on my experience.
Additionally, some states require that you have specific certifications in order to work in their state.
It is important to keep track of these items and to plan ahead so that you are not scrambling last minute to get everything renewed.
Keep Up-To-Date with your Personal Medical Records and Vaccinations
As a travel nurse, you will be required to have up-to-date personal medical records. This includes a physical examination, TB test, and proof of current vaccinations (such as influenza, MMR, and Hepatitis B). There may be additional vaccination requirements including the flu and COVID vaccine dependent on the facility.
You will also be required to have a clean criminal background check and drug screen. These requirements are important to keep in mind as you will need to have them completed before you can start your first travel assignment.
Take Some Time for You
The process of becoming a travel nurse can be stressful, so make sure to take some time for yourself. Relax and recharge your batteries so that you can be ready for your next adventure!