LET'S GO. HOW TO BECOME A TRAVELER – AND THE REQUIREMENTS YOU NEED.
If you’re exploring the possibility of becoming a traveling nurse, you could be on your way to a fun and rewarding new lifestyle.
Travel nursing can be an excellent way to make good money while exploring different locales, meeting new people, enjoying new experiences and gaining new skills. Travel nurses fill important roles by answering temporary demand for nursing care across the nation by taking on assignments of their choice that typically last 13 to 26 weeks. Those assignments can span a number of kinds of facilities, from hospitals to rural clinics to private practices.
You may be a good fit for the profession if you’re outgoing, adapt quickly to new environments and are organized enough to continually manage the logistics of juggling new jobs, routines and residences. You should also be confident enough in your skills to be able to perform quickly and competently in a number of new situations.
Here’s some other key information you may wish to know about the profession.
Q: What education is required?
A: Most traveling nurses are RNs, which requires them to hold an associate’s degree (ADN) or bachelor’s degree in nursing. Others are nurse practitioners (NPs) that hold Master of Science degrees in nursing (MSN) plus certification in at least one specialty. LPNs who have completed state-approved programs may also sometimes work as travel nurses.
Q: What about licensing?
A: All travel nurses must have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). If you wish to work out of state, check with your home state to determine whether it offers the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) allowing you to work across at least 30 states without securing state-by-state licenses. Otherwise, you’ll need individual licenses for each state in which you practice; we recommend you apply early since the process can take two weeks to six months. You may also wish to earn certifications in areas such as ambulatory care, ICU, emergency room, medical-surgical and pediatric nursing that allow you to work in specialty areas.
Q: How many years of experience do you need?
A: Most agencies require a full year of nursing experience before accepting you as a client. You may need more if you wish to work in a specialty area.
Q: What other preparations may be needed before getting started?
A: Make sure all your relevant paperwork is in order and easily accessible. Be clear on your assignment preferences in terms of setting, location and time interval. Create a resume that showcases all your certifications, work experience (including beds per facility), computer skills, etc. You’ll also need to establish a “tax home” to ensure you can take advantage of the tax-free compensation you’ll receive. In short, that means proving to the IRS you have a full-time residence when not traveling for your job; if that doesn’t exist, you’ll need to pay taxes on all income including stipends.
Q: How much can you expect to earn?
A: While the median U.S. income for RNs was $71,730 in 2018, travel nurses often earn higher salaries due to their willingness to travel to meet demand. That said, your income will depend on the length of your breaks between assignments and whether you work in specialty areas. In most cases, your compensation will be composed of base pay plus a largely untaxed stipend for expenses such as meals, travel and housing. Travel nurses typically don’t receive traditional benefits such as health insurance and paid time off, but their salaries are often high enough to compensate.
Q: What role will your agency play?
A: Finding an agency with which you feel comfortable is important, since it will serve as your legal employer and will act as a liaison between you and the hiring medical facilities. You can expect your agency to handle the following on your behalf, in addition to other important functions:
- Help with your licensing and qualifications
- Up-to-date information on and clear communications about the hiring facilities
- Facilitation of job interviews between you and the hiring facilities
- Negotiation and finalization of your employment contracts
- Help with your housing arrangements
- Administration of your paychecks and tax records
- Mitigation of conflicts between you and the hiring facilities
Q: Where will you live?
A: Some agencies already have sources of reliable housing near the facilities with which they work; others give you a stipend for finding your own. You may be offered the option of having other travel nurses as roommates.
Q: What are some other benefits of travel nursing?
A: Among some of the top advantages cited by those in the field:
- Flexibility. Unlike most professions, travel nursing allows you to be very choosy about when you wish to work. Depending on your circumstances, you could seek only night shifts, limit your work to local facilities or work only during certain months of the year.
- Job security. Thanks to changing demographics and other factors, demand for RNs is expected to grow 15 percent by 2026, meaning travel nurses should have an even greater choice of assignments.
- Diversity of work. Nursing has enough facets to allow you to focus in on the element(s) that interest you the most.
- Trust and respect. For the 17th consecutive year, a Gallup survey recently identified nursing as the most honest and ethical profession in the U.S.
Travel nursing can be a great way to explore the nation while gathering new skills and experiences.
If you’re wondering whether a career as a travel nurse is right for you — or you’re ready to start the process — hit us up here. We know the ins and outs of the industry and would love to help you.