What is a Travel Nurse and How Can I Become One?
If you’ve been browsing nursing careers lately, you may have heard about travel nursing. Travel nurses play a very important role in the field and are asked to assist facilities that are experiencing staff shortages. This is not a job for everyone, but it could be perfect for you if you like moving around. It’s also a great field for people who like variety and would like to give help where it’s most needed. Let’s take a closer look at what travel nursing is, the pros and cons of the profession, and what you’ll need to do to become one.
What is a Travel Nurse Exactly?
In short, travel nurses work on contract and in a temporary setting. Travel nurses can be asked to work in a position for a few weeks or months at a time depending on your contract. The average travel nurse assignment is around 13 weeks, but assignments can be as short as four weeks and it’s not unusual to see contracts extend up to 26 weeks. Traveling nurses will need to have some clinical experience before they can start. Working as a traveling nurse can be a great way to beef up your resume or get exposed to different experiences. You can also use travel nursing to test a position or a facility before you move there permanently.
The Pros and Cons of Working as a Traveling Nurse
Travel nursing can be a great position if you’re someone who likes variety and deals well with pressure. You also have to be highly adaptable. You’ll be in foreign territory every time you take a new gig and you’ll need to get used to different facilities with different rules and procedures. You’ll also need to adapt to different nursing cultures as being a nurse can be very different from state to state or from city to city.
Travel nurses tend to be paid very well and many travel nurses report that this is one of the main reasons why they love the job. Not only will you get paid much more than most nurses with the same level of education as you, but your agency may cover things like lodging and food on top of it. This eventually means that you could make the same annual salary as a fixed registered nurse while clocking fewer hours.
Another thing a lot of travel nurses like is how they’re viewed by the people they work with. Permanent nurses are very thankful for the service of travel nurses, and they are some of the most valued nurses in the field. This makes travel nursing perfect for people who want to enter the field out of a sense of duty.
One thing you have to know, however, is that very few people stay working as a travel nurse for their whole career. They eventually get tired of constantly moving back and forth and all the stress that comes with it. So, you should see travel nursing as a temporary position and a way to add feathers to your cap first and foremost.
Being a travel nurse may also require you to make sacrifices. There are travel nurses out there that have families, but that’s an uphill battle. It usually means that you will have to be away from your kids for long periods or rearrange your whole life. So, be ready to put some projects on hold if you ever intend to work as a travel nurse.
How Do You Become a Travel Nurse?
If you want to be a travel nurse, you will first need to start with becoming a registered nurse. Here, you can either go for a three-year associate degree or go with a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree will make you a bit more well-rounded and will give you some management, research, and leadership skills on top of the clinical skills you’d learn in an associate degree. You’ll also have an easier time transitioning to advanced degrees and specializations.
If you already have credentials in a field outside of nursing, know that you won’t necessarily need to go through a four-year degree to get your bachelor’s. Baylor University’s distance ABSN program could allow you to get your degree in as little as two years if you qualify. We suggest you give some of these programs a look and ask them what kind of qualifications you would need to be eligible for them.
Once you get your degree, you will need to go through a state board exam. You will then need to get at least one year of acute care experience before you can start looking at travel nurse positions.
How to Find Work as a Travel Nurse
You should know that travel nursing gigs will not just fall on your lap, and you’ll have to be ready to work to land your first job. The first thing you’ll have to do is start looking up travel nursing companies. Try to get second opinions from nurses who have worked with them and see what they have to say about them. You could also ask other travel nurses if they have an agency that they can recommend.
You must make sure that any agency you choose is approved by the Joint Commission as this shows compliance with national standards and nurse staffing ethics. Also, check if the agency in question has relationships with lots of facilities and jobs across the country so that you have plenty of choices.
You will then need to apply with multiple agencies and wait for a recruiter to contact you. They will start looking at your needs and aptitudes and start looking at positions with you. You should have a list of states or cities you’d like to work in and an idea of what type of setting would be ideal for you. Once the recruiter has all the details, they will send application packages to different facilities until one accepts you.
Being a travel nurse can be very exciting and a perfect way to get exposed to all sorts of new experiences. If you feel like you have the type of personality to make it, we strongly suggest that you start looking at the job in more detail and ask other people who are currently working as travel nurses for their opinions and advice.
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