How to Become a Travel Nurse? (Step by Step Guide)

How to Become a Travel Nurse: Perhaps you’d like to see more of the world and help people from all over, that’s what traveling nurses do. In the world of medicine, travelers are health professionals that provide healthcare services through a staffing agency. They are contracted depending on the time needed by a particular facility. The standard contract for travelers is 3 months.

How to Become a Travel Nurse?

Traveling nurses must be registered nurses. A Registered Nurse is also known as a healthcare professional that implements the nursing practices and processes in coordination with other healthcare professionals. Registered nurses mainly promote patient recovery as well as the maintenance of health.

Choosing Assignments

Traveling nurses can choose their nursing assignments depending on their location. The contract can be extended if the travel nurse and health facility agree. Sometimes, a travel assignment can lead to a permanent position.  Staffing agencies negotiate the contracts for travel nurses with hospitals in the United States and other countries that require nurses. They pay for all travel expenses and the accommodations for traveling nurses. The staffing agencies are not affiliated with any type of structured health facility.

The work activities of a travel nurse depend on the type of assignment and its location. A travel nurse can work in a tertiary intensive care unit or in a small hospital caring for an elderly patient. Traveling nurses enjoy working in diverse environments. They love to travel and experience new sights and cultures.

Traveling nurses should be capable of adapting to change. A change in shift or work activities must not become an obstacle in the travel assignment. Traveling nurses can be young or older nurses without immediate plans of settling down and raise a family.

Employment Opportunities for Traveling Nurses

The healthcare industry is currently experiencing a shortage of nurses. Employment prospects for traveling nurses are excellent. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities would rather pay the cost of hiring travel nurses compared to closing a wing or ward due to lack of manpower.

Qualifications for Travel Nurse

If you want to pursue a career in travel nursing, you need to know the qualifications. Education requirements include securing a Diploma in Nursing, Associate Degree in Nursing, and Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The most important is you need to be a licensed nurse with at least one year of experience in the field. Your nursing license should be in good standing. Hospital nurses have the most opportunities for travel assignments. Nurses can travel if they specialize in these areas:

  • Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
  • Emergency Room (ER)
  • Operating Room (OR)
  • Critical Care Unit (CCU)
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  • Telemetry
  • Psychiatry
  • Labor and Delivery
  • Medical/Surgical (MS)
  • Pediatrics (PEDS)
  • Midwife
  • Correctional facilities

Nurses with the following degree programs are also eligible for travel:

  • Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Nurse Anesthetist
  • Licensed Practical Nurse
  • Registered Nurse First Assistant

Staffing agencies look for experienced healthcare professionals. They are more likely to hire you as a travel nurse if you have more experience. The demand for travel assignments is higher for nurses in specialty areas and those with additional certifications.

Competencies or Skills Needed

The recruiters for staffing agencies emphasize the importance of having people skills. Most traveling nurses have their contracts terminated early because they have difficulty getting along with other people. As a travel nurse, you need to learn how to get along with your team while maintaining professionalism.

  • Staffing agencies want flexibility. A flexible travel nurse is more likely to find work than one who sets many limitations. However, it is not advisable to become so accommodating. Be flexible but remain firm on issues that are important like work safety.
  • Strong communication skills are also important to get along well with others. This will also help establish a positive and harmonious working relationship.

The nurse must have sufficient and sound knowledge about the nursing profession. A nurse should always be willing to learn more. A nurse that possesses good professional skills is a registered nurse. Because the nurse is always in contact with the patient, he or she must also have good communication skills. This also includes listening skills. The nurse must know how to talk with the patient and family members so that he or she will be able to understand what they expect and need. He or she should be able to clearly explain what treatment is given to the patient.

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Travel Nurse Documentation

Staffing companies and healthcare facilities will require certain documents before hiring. The paperwork will be forwarded to the prospective healthcare facilities. In the United States, travel nurses who acquired their license in these 18 states will be honored to work at any of the states:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin

Special Licenses

If a travel nurse lives outside of these states, he will have to apply for a separate license and pay the applicable fees. Some states will need travel nurses to undergo criminal background checks and fingerprinting before licenses are issued.

Laboratory Check

The laboratory tests taken by travel nurses should remain the same for each facility. Staffing agencies may require titers for immunizations since childhood especially the Hepatitis B series. If there are no current titers, the staffing agency will order them. The staffing company will pay for the expense for titers acquired from a local laboratory. Before scheduling an appointment with the laboratory, inquire if the lab is authorized by the staffing agency. A drug test via urine sample is also done during the same day.

Physical Examination
Before working as a travel nurse, a physical examination is required. Most staffing agencies will not shoulder this expense. The nurse can choose a physician to perform the examination.


The resume is the most important part of the documentation. The ideal resume should be one page only. Prospective employers will be more interested in the education and work history part of the resume. Discard personal information that is not relevant to travel nursing.

Travel nurse Compensation

Travel nurses have salaries as much as $100 per hour plus overtime pay and bonuses after completion of the contract. Other traveling nurses get housing and travel allowances including reimbursements for rental cars. Some also get health and life insurance but are seldom granted accrued vacation leave. However, travel nurses may be eligible for retirement.

Travel Nurse Choosing a Staffing Agency

Travel nurses need to choose the staffing agency that will represent them. Choosing the right staffing agency is critical to one’s advancement as a travel nurse. Start looking for a staffing agency by talking to other traveling nurses and healthcare professionals. Ask for referrals to ensure finding a legitimate staffing agency with good credentials.

Aside from interviews with travel nurses, looking for information on the Internet is also a good way to start. Staffing companies usually have websites that list their contact numbers and addresses. Read about the different staffing companies and how they find work for traveling nurses.

Once the search has been narrowed down, visiting the offices of the chosen staffing company is the next step. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to determine if the staffing agency is the right one.

Insurance and salary should be the most important considerations before deciding on a staffing company. Accommodations or housing and location are also things a travel nurse should consider. Some staffing companies have assignments in international locations. If so, the staffing company should pay for the travel expense. Other considerations include the number of facilities currently under contract and in which areas.

Interview with Staffing Agency

Once a staffing agency is selected, the recruiter will ask traveling nurses to fill out a form or a skills checklist. This will help the staffing agency know the area of expertise you are familiar with. You can do this online if the staffing agency has a website. The staffing agency will expect your documents and certifications to support your forms.

Upon interview, inform the recruiter about your desired specialty, location, and working hours. The recruiter may just have the right assignment for you. Explore other options available to avoid missing out on opportunities.

Handling Problems with Recruiters

The staffing agency is there to guide travel nurses throughout the process of performing a travel assignment. If you are not comfortable with your recruiter, you can switch to another one to avoid any more problems. Unsolved issues may affect your work as a travel nurse.

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Further Education to Pursue

Traveling nurses may continue to pursue higher education once settled in a travel assignment. Registered nurses can still pursue further educational opportunities by taking a master’s or doctoral level of nursing education. A nurse who becomes a Master of Science in Nursing will help the graduate prepare for a nursing specialization or become an advanced practice nurse. The master level takes one to three years of additional education while the doctoral level takes longer to complete because of the added three to five years of study.

Registered nurses have numerous opportunities available for them and pursuing a career in travel nursing is one of them. Nurses can help their family members whenever they have health problems because they know what to do. They can also make a difference in their own community by providing voluntary nursing services for a cause. Nurses can take better care of their health because of their medical knowledge and health-related education. The nursing profession will still be in demand because nurses are indispensable healthcare professionals. Work is always available whether at home or abroad in the case of traveling nurses.

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