Exploring, jet-setting, vacation time, and higher pay….need I say more?
HOW TO BECOME A TRAVEL NURSE
To become a travel nurse you must be an expert in the specialty you are applying to. Most agencies require at least 1-2 years of experience in your chosen specialty. You must be licensed, certified, and ready to move quickly as the positions available are for an immediate need!
So how does it work? Travel nurses fill an immediate hospital’s need. Travel nurses are hired through travel nursing agencies, like AMN Healthcare, that have established relationships with hospitals. You first apply to a travel nursing agency. To apply you will need references, a nursing resume, nursing certifications and licenses, and to perform skills and knowledge tests for your given specialty. Once accepted you can apply to positions within your specialty that the agency has available! The only catch is that the job has to be 50 miles or more from your home address. When applying, the agency sends along all of your credentials and references to the hospital. Similar to other job applications, you will have a phone interview with the hospital. You can start as early as 1 week from acceptance. Assignments are 3 months and you can extend if you want to stay longer and the hospital still has a need for you. There is one rule with extensions: you cannot stay at one hospital for longer than 11 months as a travel nurse! Before you look into travel nursing, check your desired travel nursing state’s licensure requirements. Some states require their own Registered Nurse licensure and this process can take a few months to complete and is required before you can begin a travel nurse assignment in that state.
JOB AND AGENCY REQUIREMENTS
As mentioned before, you will need to have all of your documents in order before applying to agencies and subsequent jobs. This includes a recent resume, your nursing license and certifications (ACLS, BLS, PALS), and references from your most recent job. Most agencies require skills and knowledge exams to prove you’re knowledgeable in your chosen specialty. For example, I had PICU and Telemetry exams for my Pediatric CVICU specialty. For the agency, you are also required to pass a background check, drug screen, respiratory fit test, have up-to-date titers with lab proof, pass a TB test, a physical, and an eye exam. This takes a lot of time so allow yourself a week to complete this. On top of this, every hospital has different onboarding and orientation requirements ranging from online exams, Healthstreams, electronic medical record training, and hospital orientation training.
Your first week on assignment will consist of finishing up your online trainings, completing online or in-person orientation, getting your badge, and your orientation shifts. Travel nurses are hired on as experts in their specialty. Because of this, you only will get 1-2 orientation shifts and then you are on your own!
We have all heard that travel nurses make more money. How and why is this? First off, travel nurses are contracted employees so benefits are not included. You choose and pay for your own benefits out of pocket. Travel nurses also get a housing stipend on assignment. This gets paid out weekly and greatly increases a travel nurse’s pay package. You will get paid through your travel nurse agency and checks usually come every week. Your agency will also reimburse you for your travel fees to your assignment.
Your travel nursing agency will provide you a stipend for housing. You can choose to find your own housing through short-term rentals, Airbnb, or use the agency! The agency can connect to you lots of resources in your area. I found it easiest to find my own housing that way I could live in the area of my choice! I know some nurses that live out of a van while on assignment! Just know that you can find your housing many different ways!
Within your first 20 days on assignment you will become eligible for out of pocket benefits. If you are leaving an old job, you may have a few weeks without insurance coverage unless you sign up for Cobra. You will remain insured by your travel nursing agency as long as you start an assignment in less than 30 days from your previous assignment. A year into working with an agency, you become eligible for a 401K.
One of my favorite parts about travel nursing is the ability to take time off. Travel nurses make a lot of money so most hospitals don’t want to pay for travel nurses to work the holidays unless they are really desperate. Because of this, most travel nurses get holidays off. You also can write time off into your travel nursing contract. Let’s say you had a pre-arranged vacation. You can make sure you get this time off before signing your contract! Lastly, you can take breaks between your assignments or extending your assignment! The only catch is that you have to sign on with another hospital or extend your contract within 30 days so you don’t lose your benefits.
TRAVEL NURSING MISCONCEPTION
Travel nursing is within the continental US, not abroad. However, Canadian nurses are sometimes able to work with specific American travel nursing agencies in the US. Serving abroad is most commonly through medical missions or complete relocation and recertification to different countries. If you are interested in working abroad short-term check out my medical missions to Kenya and India.
A common rumor with travel nursing is that you are the most likely to float and get the worst assignments. I have experienced this before and if you think about it, it makes sense. Sometimes we make double what full-time staff nurses make with more flexibility and better work-life balance. Just be prepared to hustle whatever comes your way and remain humble. Flexibility and a strong work ethic are crucial as a travel nurse and it will make you a stronger nurse!
Have you always wanted to live somewhere? Have you always wanted to work at a specific hospital? Travel nursing gives you this opportunity! Create your travel nursing bucketlist and get to work!
I have been working with AMN Healthcare and couldn’t be happier with my decision. I felt prioritized and if I ever need anything, they are there for me. They even matched my pay package to a higher rate I saw with another agency! If you choose to use AMN, let them know Chandler from @The.Traveling.Nurse sent you!