How to Become a Travel Nurse (Everything You Need To Know)

Sep 24, 2022 | Traveling Nurses | 0 comments

A Travel nurse can be an exciting opportunity for those who want to make a difference in the lives of others while earning extra income.

Traveling to work with a medical team in various medical facilities is a dream job for many nurses. Being able to leave your comfort zone, meet new people and explore new locations can be one of the best ways to discover a new career path.

Becoming a travel nurse can be demanding, but the payoff for this noble job is rewarding. Read further to understand everything that needs to know to become a travel nurse and how to succeed after becoming one.

Who Is A Travel Nurse?

Travel nurses are skilled professional registered nurses with different clinical backgrounds hired to work away from home for independent agencies. They are assigned to work as temporary nurses in high-need care areas and give patients quality service and care.

Travel nursing started when there was a nationwide shortage of nurses in the industry in the 1970s. At first, nurses would travel to certain places and get hired as regular employees that would leave when their contract ended in the season. To try and attract nurses to fill the open positions, employers offered higher pay and housing and covered the cost of relocating.

Today, most travel nurses work with agencies that specialize in placing them on temporary contracts across the country. Agencies get paid a commission from hospitals for each travel nurse signing up for a job.

In return, the agencies advocate for secure housing, competitive travel nurse salaries, and all-expense-paid transportation to new assignments for their travel nurses.

Travel nurses are skilled professional registered nurses with different clinical backgrounds hired to work away from home for independent agencies

Why Are Travel Nurses Important?

Travel nurses are a vital part of the healthcare workforce. They are bridging the gap between supply and demand in areas where patients require attentive care. Travel nurses’ impact on lowering the patient-to-nurse ratio leads to lower patient mortality and increased patient safety.

Travel Nurse Honeycrisp

How To Become A Travel Nurse

Becoming a travel nurse is not an easy feat which is why a nurse should have these particular traits before attempting to become one:

  • Flexibility
  • Quick Learner
  • Professionalism
  • Self-care
  • Adaptability

It also helps if travel nurses have supportive friends and family to assist in the ever-changing environment.

What Are The Educational Requirements For Travel Nurses?

For those interested in pursuing being a travel nurse, one must first earn a degree in nursing from an accredited program.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) – Minimum 2-year degree requirement for individuals that wants to enter the medical field as a registered nurse. Eligible to take the NCLEX-RN examination to become licensed.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) – 4-year bachelor’s degree program for individuals who want to advance their nursing skills and knowledge. It may become an advantage in the medical field. You need to take the NCLEX-RN examination to become licensed.

Are Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?

Apart from being a licensed nurse, there are no additional exams needed to become a travel nurse. Although, based on the specialty that the RN may want to pursue, certifications may be required. Examples of these certifications:

  • Surgical or Medical Nurses
      • Stroke Care Certification
      • Basic Life Support (BLS)
      • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
      • Telemetry Certification
  • ICU Nurses or Intensive Care Unit Nurses
      • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
      • Basic Life Support (BLS)
      • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
      • Critical Care Nursing (ex. neonatal, pediatric, adults)
  • Labor and Delivery Nurses
      • Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) certification
      • Basic Life Support (BLS)
      • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
      • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
  • Emergency Room Nurses
    • Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) certification
    • Basic Life Support (BLS)
    • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
    • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
    • Trauma Nurse Core Course (TNCC) certification

Apart from these, there may also be specific requirements necessary for International travel nurses, such as

  • Acquiring a work visa
  • Acquiring a passport
  • Learning the language
  • Learning about diseases from the area
Travel Nurse Honeycrisp

How Can a Travel Nurse Receive a Tax-free Housing Stipend?

A travel nurse can receive a tax-free housing stipend depending on the nurse’s agency and the company the nurse will work for. Usually, companies provide housing for travel nurses, such as apartments, but some companies offer a housing stipend for traveling nurses.

Travel nurses must know their tax home to receive tax-free housing, as a stipend is considered tax-free when working away from their tax home. Different agencies offer different stipend packages, and it is essential to know if the compensation adequately covers housing.

Are Nursing Licenses Valid When Traveling And Working In Other States?

Due to the nature of a travel nurse, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing has created the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). This allows nurses to practice their profession without obtaining new licenses when moving to another state under the NLC or compact states.

But What If The State Is Not Under The Compact States Of The NLC Agreement?

Depending on the state, a travel nurse working in a non-compact state may obtain either a temporary license by endorsement or a permanent one. The temporary permit is only valid for a specific duration, and if the job extends past the time frame, then the travel nurse must apply for a permanent license.

What Does a Domestic or International Travel Nurse Do?

As a travel nurse, the responsibilities and duties will depend on the specialty and the nurse’s training. Generally speaking, shift and duties will include the following:

  • Developing care plans with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals
  • Disease prevention and general wellness education to patients and their immediate families.
  • Patient assessment and diagnosis.
  • Medication and fluid administrations.

Although, domestic and international travel nurses do have differences in their specific roles.

Domestic Travel Nurses

  • Work only within the U.S
  • Respond to areas that experience outbreaks and natural disasters across regions in the U.S
  • Work contracts usually have a duration of eight to thirteen weeks.

International Travel Nurses

An Internation travel nurse should be well-spoken, open to new experiences and challenges, and willing to learn. Nurses at the hospital have many responsibilities, including performing different tasks.

As previously mentioned, international travel nurses have specific tasks to perform depending on the nurse’s specialty. This includes educating local healthcare workers to make decisions regarding their patients’ care based on what they know about international medicine and standards of care.

In summary:

  • Work outside the U.S
  • Provide medical knowledge and care to rural and remote populations.
  • Work contracts usually range from one to two years.
  • Respond to areas that experience outbreaks and natural disasters outside the U.S
  • Before traveling, they must wait for documents to be processed.

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    Travel Nurse Employment and Salary

    Employment

    Demand for healthcare services and professionals has increased due to the pandemic and its effects it brought to the healthcare professionals. According to reports, the U.S may see a shortage of RNs within three years.

    As the nurse-to-patient ratio rises, the nurses’ demand will also rise. Because of this, employing travel nurses can help mend the projected nursing shortage.

    Salary

    A travel nurse’s pay differs from that of a regular staff nurse. A travel nurse’s pay packages are typically composed of different components, such as hourly pay, non-taxed housing stipends, non-taxed per diems, and travel reimbursements. Also, a travel nurse’s income can change due to their specialties and certifications.

    In normal circumstances, many travel nurses have the potential to earn over $3,000 per week. Travel nurses can bring in over $50 an hour and get company-paid housing apart from other components.

    Travel nurses can make over $100K per year.

    5 Tips To Succeed At Travel Nursing

    1. Research

    As previously mentioned, travel nurses today work with independent agencies. These agencies will place you where you will work, the pay and benefits you will receive, and sometimes the house you will stay in. Research all agencies and work with agencies that are known for their transparency and their high pay. 

    2. Organization

    Being organized should be a priority as a travel nurse, as licenses, credentials, records, and certifications should always be up-to-date and saved on a computer. This will be helpful not only to the travel nurse but to the recruiter as well. Organized paperwork will lead to faster job applications sent and increase the chances of landing high-paying opportunities and assignments. 

    3. Flexibility

    Be Always ready for the unexpected and be flexible enough to adapt to these situational and environmental changes. Travel nurses work in various hospitals with people who may have another way of approaching things. Study the work culture and adapt to the procedures by going with the flow.

     

    Travel Nurse Honeycrisp heart hand

    4. Connection

    Establishing and maintaining a good relationship with the recruiters, other travel nurses, and staff will benefit any travel nurses in the long run.

    Recruiter – This relationship is essential to the success and happiness of a nurse’s experience on an assignment. They are going to be the primary contact of a traveler and are there to be the travel nurse’s advocate.

    Other travel nurses – Connecting with other travel nurses is another tip, as experienced travel nurses can review and advise on where to go and what to do as a fellow travel nurse.

    Working staff – Always remember that the facilities hire travel nurses due to staff shortages. This can entail that the team may have problems and are already stressed out. An enjoyable workplace environment benefits everyone.

     

    5. Home

    According to seasoned travel nurses, getting a housing stipend and securing suitable housing is much better. Agencies may or may not offer free housing and often house travel nurses in more expensive accommodations. Choosing the right home will give travel nurses the freedom to choose the right price point they can afford and the right neighborhood they want to stay in. At the end of a long day, it is better to be sure that the house is safe, quiet, and affordable. 

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