Being a travel nurse is an exciting way to put your nursing skills to use. You get to see different places while helping people.
A career in travel nursing requires a specific degree and on-the-job experience before you can apply. If you’re not already a registered nurse, it’s important to understand the process to plan your travel nursing career.
If you’re already working as an RN, you may be able to jump ahead and go right into travel nursing.
Keep reading to find out the process of becoming a traveling nurse.
A traveling nurse takes short-term assignments in various hospitals and medical facilities. These healthcare facilities have an immediate need for nursing help, so you’ll jump right in when you arrive. You’ll perform all regular nursing duties based on the specialty area and position.
Assignments can last anywhere from 8 to 26 weeks. The most common assignment length is 13 weeks.
You have the choice of where to take assignments, assuming your preferred location has openings and you’re selected for the position.
There are many pros and cons of travel nursing to consider before you pursue this path. You have more flexibility and get to explore new places. But you’re not there long enough to build long-term relationships, and you may miss your family and friends back home.
If you think travel nursing is the best option for you, make sure you have the proper degree and credentials to start.
Before you can become a traveling nurse, you’ll need a degree in registered nursing. This is the minimum education requirement for anyone to work as a nurse, including traveling jobs. You have two main options for RN degrees.
The first is an associate of science in nursing degree, which is typically a two-year degree program. Community colleges often offer this degree program. This is the fastest way to become an RN.
You can also earn a bachelor of science in nursing, which is a good option if you want to take on a nursing leadership role in the future. Colleges and universities offer this four-year degree.
No matter how you earn your nursing degree, you’ll have a mix of classroom and clinical experience. This gives you the foundational and hands-on knowledge you need to start your nursing career.
Your next step is to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which is the test all nurses need to take to work as RNs. It assesses your nursing knowledge, including your critical thinking skills to evaluate how you’ll make nursing decisions.
Questions are arranged into four main categories, which are broken down into subcategories. Most questions are multiple choice plus some alternate question options, such as fill-in-the-blank or drag-and-drop responses.
You won’t get a numerical grade result for your exam. It’s simply a pass/fail test. You typically receive your results within two to four weeks after taking the exam.
If you don’t pass the first time, you can retake the test up to eight times per year. You’ll need to wait at least 45 days to take the test again.
After passing the exam, you’re ready to land your first job in the nursing field.
Before you can work as a travel nurse, you need at least one year of experience in an RN role. You can work in a variety of facilities, such as a hospital, clinic, or other healthcare settings. The important thing is having that real-world job experience as an RN.
Because traveling nurses are only in their locations for a short time, they need to be able to jump in right away and start working. If you’re brand new to the nursing field, you don’t have the experience to do that.
If you want to work in a particular nursing area as a traveling nurse, look for positions in those areas. This gives you the experience you need to land a travel nurse position in that area.
Changing jobs while you’re gaining experience can help you bulk up your resume for travel nursing positions. One year is the minimum experience needed, but you may want to work longer to gain more experience.
While you’re gaining your experience, you can do other things to strengthen your travel nurse application. Anything you can do to gain more experience or knowledge in nursing helps.
Take advantage of any professional development opportunities you have through your job or nursing organizations. Those learning opportunities help you gain skills. Classes that focus on a specific area build your resume and make you more attractive to facilities with those types of openings.
Volunteering is another way to gain experience in other nursing specialties. It can give you experience working with at-risk or underserved populations. You also get experience working with different doctors and nurses, which helps you gain flexibility in those working relationships.
Nursing organization membership gives you access to training materials, publications, conferences, and other events. Staying current on things happening in the field prepares you for your travel nursing career.
When you meet the minimum requirements for travel nursing, you’re ready to apply. Many agencies specialize in placing travel nurses. They handle finding positions for you that meet your specialties and preferences.
Check out several travel nursing agencies to find one that feels like a good fit. Look at the locations the agency serves to make sure you can go where you want. Keep in mind that some locations are very competitive and may be difficult to get, even if the agency serves those areas.
Compare the pay structure, including housing stipends, signing incentives, and end-of-assignment bonuses. Check out the health insurance and other benefits offered by each agency. Find out if you get paid time off and how much time you can take between taking assignments without losing your benefits.
A travel nurse career gives you many opportunities you don’t get with a traditional nursing position. If the idea of exploring new places regularly appeals to you, consider this career option.
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