How to Become A Travel Nurse: A Basic Guide

As healthcare continuously evolves, travel nurses have only risen in prominence. With the way the industry is currently trending, workforce flexibility has only increased in importance. Facilities want the leeway to adapt to volatile changes in demand, without overspending on redundant labor. Meanwhile, travel nurses themselves are allowed the freedom to accept gigs from anywhere in the country, set their own schedules, and gain a diverse set of relevant workplace experiences.

That being said, becoming a travel nurse can be a confusing process. Requirements may vary from agency-to-agency and state-to-state. To help simplify the process, this guide will walk you through the basic steps of becoming a travel nurse.

Step 1: Become certified

At the bare minimum, Travel Nurses are expected to possess Registered Nurse licensure. You can complete either a two to three year Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a four year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The former is quicker and cheaper, while the latter will provide greater career progression and employment opportunities in the long run. What works best for you will depend on your priorities. Once you graduate, all you have to do is pass the National Council Licensure Examination – Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) and meet any state specific requirements.

Step 2: Gain relevant experience

Congratulations! You are now a registered nurse! This does not mean that travel agencies will readily accept you, however. Typically speaking, these organizations prefer healthcare providers (HCPs) with a sufficient amount of relevant bedside experience. In their minds, healthcare workers who own a portfolio of proven success are more likely to contribute immediately. As it stands, agencies give preference to applicants with two or more years of experience. Build a strong portfolio of work, and take this opportunity to develop into an all-around contributor. Teamwork, leadership, and initiative hold just as much importance as difficult and technical nursing skills.

Step 3: Research licensure policy

Cross-state nursing licensure works differently, in different places. If you get certified in a state under the Nursing Licensure Compact, you possess a multistate license that carries over to other NLC states with no hassle. At the time of writing, 41 American states fall under the NLC, which simplifies the process greatly. For states outside the NLC, matters are a bit more complex. Some states will ask you to comply with a reciprocity application process. There are “walk-through” states that allow you to apply for a 30-day license, which may or may not be useful (depending on the length of your contract.) Be sure to do your research, before accepting a cross-state job.

Step 4 (optional): Gain additional certifications

While not necessary, additional certifications are an excellent way to make your application stand out. It proves to your potential agency that you are committed to furthering your development, and that you bring certain skills to the table that other HCPs might not have. Depending on where you apply to, some certifications may even be necessary to land certain travel nurse roles. While industry trends are always changing, these are currently the most sought-after nationally recognized certifications:

Visit each certifying board’s respective website for more information.

Step 5: Find the right agency

Once everything mentioned above is settled, the next step is to find the right Travel Nurse Agency for you. Effective agencies will set you up for success, and find gigs that best suit your skillset, specializations, and temperament. Find an agency that respects your freedom of choice and does not pressure you into taking roles you do not want to take. Consult reviews to see if they have a proven track record of success with fellow travel nurses. If online reviews are not enough for you, contact your fellow HCPS in your circle, and gain firsthand accounts from people you trust. Finally, find an agency that is fully transparent with you. You do not want contracts with hidden terms, or support teams that do not respond immediately to you.

Go out there!

Travel nursing will only continue to grow, for the foreseeable future. It provides a level of flexibility to both facilities and HCPs that cannot be found elsewhere. Hospitals enjoy an adaptable staff count, while nurses can take on the roles they want, almost anywhere in the country. Becoming a travel nurse may seem confusing, but it does not have to be. With this guide, any nurse can take the first step in progressing their career forward.

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