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Your Guide to Becoming a Travel Nurse

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Are you considering a career as a travel nurse? Travel nursing has revolutionized the way RNs work, providing short-term and long-term job opportunities with flexibility and mobility. Nurses who take travel jobs have similar skillsets and duties as permanent staff nurses, but their work is performed in different cities and states beyond their home base. If you want to learn more about being a travel nurse, our guide covers everything you need to know about travel nursing and how it works.

3 nurses standing

What Is a Travel Nurse?

A travel nurse has the same education levels, credentials, licensing, and experience as a staff nurse and takes on the same roles and responsibilities as healthcare facility personnel. The only difference between permanent nursing and travel nursing is the duration of assignments.

Travel nursing positions—which are readily available in hospitals of all sizes, clinics, rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing centers, and more—are considered temporary positions with typical durations of 8 to 26 weeks, with opportunities for extension in many cases. These positions are ideal for RNs who have a desire to travel the country, experience new settings and locations, live closer to family or friends, and take advantage of amazing career growth options.

In general, nurses who choose travel healthcare careers enjoy higher salaries, are provided housing (or stipends to offset costs), gain access to healthcare and other employment benefits, and experience the freedom to choose where they want to live and work.

What Does a Travel Nurse Do?

Travel nurses provide the same quality patient care as staff nurses within their respective healthcare facility units, seamlessly filling in when permanent staff are in training or away on leaves of absence. Some traveling nurses even help to train staff nurses on new electronic health record (EHR) or electronic medical record (EMR) systems.

Standard tasks for travel nurses often include:

  • Monitoring patient stats and vital signs
  • Administering medications as prescribed by attending physicians
  • Keeping detailed records of patients’ symptoms and progress
  • Completing paperwork or updating EHR or EMR systems
  • Collaborating with staff nurses and other personnel
  • Being a lifeline between patients and family members

While some travel RNs may be hired to address staffing shortages at a healthcare facility, they’re seen as integral parts of the staff while on duty and often develop strong peer relationships with the nurses they meet on different assignments. In fact, many choose to extend their travel nursing assignments to continue building those relationships and contributing to quality patient care.

How Does Travel Nursing Work?

Similar to the process of applying for a permanent nursing position, the travel nursing process begins with a job application. From there, qualification documents and references are submitted for review and often followed by a remote interview process with a healthcare facility hiring manager.

Licensing and credentialing for the state(s) where applicants are interested in nursing jobs can be done concurrently to expedite the process and help travel nurses get to work as soon as possible.

In many cases, nurses will work with travel nursing agencies to find these opportunities. Backed by experienced healthcare professionals and recruiters, these agencies assist nurses with job searches, interviews, housing arrangements, and more. The job of the agency is to provide a convenient travel experience and ongoing support for nurses so they can arrive in their assignment cities and be ready to work.

Benefits of Becoming a Travel Nurse

While travel nursing was once considered a career path for new, adventure-seeking nurses, the vast rewards and benefits of working as a travel nurse have attracted RNs and LPNs with varying levels of experience and lifestyle priorities.

Travel the Country

Some travel nurses love the idea of being able to live and work in different locations across the US. Through the travel nursing lifestyle, nurses can immerse themselves in new communities, explore historic landmarks, try different cuisines, experience unique art and culture, live near family or friends, and more—all while growing their careers. It’s truly a way to have it all.

Flexible Assignments

Travel nursing is ideal for those seeking a flexible work-life balance. Some nurses travel to cities, fall in love with the location, and extend their assignments, while others enjoy being able to work shorter assignments and move on to the next location. With assignment options from as few as 8 weeks to longer contracts of 26 weeks or more, flexibility is automatically built into this nursing career path.

Professional Growth

By traveling across the country and working among diverse populations, local areas, and healthcare facilities, nurses can further their professional development. They can pick up different ways to apply their nursing skills, gain interest in other nursing specialties, learn new technologies and techniques, improve their people skills, and become more adaptable, all of which strengthen their resumes.

Job Security

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses will see a 9% annual growth rate through 2031, or about 203,000 new openings for RNs per year. This increasing need is projected because of the necessity to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or retire from nursing. Traveling nurses will increasingly become a go-to resource to fill these open healthcare positions and will have the flexibility to choose from a variety of rural or metropolitan areas.

Make More Money

The average pay for registered nurses is $42.80/hr. However, average pay for travel nurses is typically higher than that of staff RNs. While pay is based on nursing specialty, location, seasonality, and demand, travel nurses across the board have commanded higher salaries over the past decade, particularly during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, benefits like medical insurance, continuing education, 401ks, and more are now standard for travel nurses.

Meet New People

Nurses who choose to travel often build long-lasting friendships and choose to keep in touch with the friends and neighbors they meet during their travel nursing assignments in other cities. In addition, their travel jobs allow them to connect and network with other healthcare professionals beyond their home base, gaining access to new sources for knowledge sharing, job recommendations, and more.

Avoid Burnout

As with any type of travel, the change and excitement of moving across the country can help nurses prevent burnout. The beauty of travel nursing lies in its flexible lifestyle, in which nurses can choose to work year-round or take breaks between assignments. Many travel nursing agencies reach out to RNs long before their assignments are over to help them plan next steps. Some choose to continue in their current positions, while others opt for new locations or to take a week, month, or even the summer off.

How to Become a Travel Nurse

While there are mandatory requirements for nurses to work at healthcare facilities, the process of becoming a travel nurse has never been easier. Here are the most common requirements needed to work as a traveling nurse.

Have 1-2 Years of RN Experience

Experience in your preferred nursing specialty is essential if you want to make a career as a travel nurse. General RNs should have at least a year in a hospital setting. In addition, specialty positions like operating room (OR) or emergency department (ED) may require more time on the job. However, with the right recommendations, some nurses can go to work as a travel nurse with less time and experience. Speaking with a travel nursing agency recruiter is the best way to gauge the requirements you’ll need for your specific specialty.

Attain Licensure

Travel nurse licensing can be daunting without the right assistance. Understanding the process for licensing and credentialing is sometimes better left to the professionals who understand the intricacies of the process. The Compact Licensing agreement, also known as the Nurse Licensure Compact, is another way many nurses successfully begin their travel nursing careers. Currently, 41 of the 50 US states participate in this agreement, providing a fast track for nurses licensed in one of the participating states to work in another compact state. Licensing for compact states can take as little as two weeks, with some states even offering temporary licenses that provide approval in as little as 24 hours.

Work with a Travel Nursing Agency

To work as a travel nurse, it’s essential that you connect with a reputable travel nurse agency. They will have a variety of jobs to meet your professional growth needs, and they can help you craft a flexible working lifestyle. In addition, travel nurse companies like TRS Healthcare typically have experienced recruiters, clinical experts, and support teams that work as your advocates through every step of the hiring, onboarding, and renewal process. They take care of critical details, keep you informed on new travel nurse job opportunities, and work to make sure you’re happy and well-supported.

Start Your Travel Nursing Career

As a healthcare staffing agency with over 25 years in the travel nursing industry, TRS Healthcare can help you create an amazing career as a travel nurse. No matter what stage of your nursing career you’re in, we can connect you with the kinds of opportunities that will help you achieve your something bigger.

Interested in a travel nursing career with TRS Healthcare? Search our current jobs or apply with us now!