How To Become A Travel Nurse: A Short Guide

The job of a travel nurse is quite different from that of a regular staff nurse. As a travel nurse, the main benefit is that you get to choose which location you want to work at and you get to take time off after you have completed one assignment. Due to the pandemic, there has been a shortage of healthcare workers, and many hospitals are in dire need of extra hands. This is where travel nurses step in and fill the employment shortage for any hospital in the country. 

When there is a demand, travel nurses have the chance to negotiate on their pay and can ask for a higher salary for the added cost of traveling and settling into a new place. While this job may not be for everyone, it is surely for those who want to help people and are also travel enthusiasts. With each new assignment, they get to choose a new location and explore new places, all the while helping people and gaining new skills. 

Here is how you can become a travel nurse:

1. Get certified: The first step is, of course, to acquire your associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). The course duration typically ranges from 2-3 years, depending upon the degree which you choose to acquire and how many units you’re able to take on per semester. Different degree courses have different course duration.

2. Prepare to Pass the NCLEX exam: The National Council Licensure Examination is a nationwide exam that is taken by aspiring nurses, and must be passed to be eligible to become one. This exam is designed to analyze a combination of basic and complex nursing skills and abilities to determine whether a candidate is capable of performing the job. 

3. Earn your License: After passing the exam, you are eligible to apply and obtain your nursing license. For different states, the requirements of a nurse may vary. Hence, it is necessary to acquire your nursing license before applying for a job. To apply and get jobs in other states, the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) offers a multistate license to practice nursing. By holding this license you are eligible to work in your state as well as the states that are included in the NLC. Unfortunately, all fifty states are not included in the compact yet. Although California is not yet part of the NLC, it is the state in which travel nurses can make the most amount of money. Los Angeles and San Diego have the highest paying travel nurse jobs with San Francisco in the top 5 nationwide. Hawaii is also among one of the best places for travel nurses to work in in terms of compensation aside from monetary. Other cities that fall under the top 5 are Boston, Seattle and New York City. Below is an NLC map:

4. Practice nursing for a year:  After passing all the above stages, you have finally become eligible to start working. However, you need to have experience in working as a nurse before you can travel and become a nurse in new environments. Nurses who have been working for at least a year have the right exposure to the daily requirements of the job such as patient interaction, hands-on medical issues, acclimation to long hours, and much more. Once you have completed a minimum of one year as a registered nurse in a hospital or clinic, you can move on to step 5!

5. Apply to jobs: Look for a reliable travel nurse staffing agency. For information about the best travel nursing jobs near you, check out various job search websites that are available on the internet. Make sure your resume and cover letter is well adjusted for the specialty you are looking to apply to. If you are applying for a medical assistant job in a hospital then you must be open to working in any specialty the hospital may assign you to. This is a great way to gain experience before moving onto a particular specialty. 

If you are looking to become an international travel nurse based out of the United States, there are some additional steps you will need to take to earn some credentials. First, you’ll need a passport and a visa to the country you are traveling to. Along with that, you’ll need to make sure your personal health records are up to par for your destination, this may include additional vaccinations required by the country. Finally, contracts to international countries for travel nurses are usually longer than domestic ones. While United States contracts are usually about 13-15 weeks, international ones can be up to 2 years. This means, agencies can ask you to take a language proficiency test before contracting you to ensure you will be able to communicate with patients in their country. 

International travel nursing is a fantastic way to explore the world and is highly recommended. You can check out real life travel nurse Kahla’s daily vlogs to get an idea of what the day to day responsibilities and excitement of a travel nurse looks like! In general, Kahla posts temporary “stories'' of her daily life every hour on instagram, walking viewers through her day with videos and captions. From time to time, Kahla will go “live” and encourage followers and viewers to ask her any questions they have so she can answer them in real-time. Some of her posts are very informative as she often finds common myths about travel nurses and debunks them. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, you should follow her on Instagram!

A reliable job platform to find jobs is Gigzio as it is designed to connect qualified candidates with suitable agencies who are looking to hire nurses. You can also inquire with your hospital about trading nurses with other hospitals across the country and around the world. It is a rare but wonderful way for nurses to network - like a study abroad opportunity!