7 Steps for Becoming a Travel Nurse
Many people think being a nurse means being tied down in one place and taking care of the same patients every day—but that’s not the case. Due to the growing and evolving medical field, most nurses can now enjoy the freedom to explore different places to work and offer their services to a wide variety of medical clinics and hospitals.
While travel nursing is not entirely new, the concept has gained popularity recently. Before the pandemic, job growth for travel nurses hit 35%. As the pandemic hit, demand grew by an additional 40% and will continue to increase. Many hospitals are now relying on travel nurses to fill the gap in their staffing, which will allow them to care for more patients.
The nursing shortage has become a huge problem for the healthcare industry. Data from the United States Registered Nurse Workforce Report Card and Shortage Forecast: A Revisit showed that the nursing shortage is expected to become much more widespread by 2030, with the most intensity seen in the south and west of the country.
How to Become a Travel Nurse
How do you become a travel nurse and enjoy the perks that come with it? Here are the steps to keep in mind:
- Get your nursing degree
The first step is getting your RN degree. Choose a reputable school that will provide the education and training you need. This knowledge and experience will help you face the different challenges of being a nurse. While it’s good to get an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or an Associate of Science in Nursing degree (ASN), which you can complete within two to three years, it’s advisable to get a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN). Most employers prefer hiring candidates who have more education for permanent and higher-paying positions.
- Get your license and train
Once you have a degree, the next step is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Passing this exam means getting your license and the right to practice nursing in the US.
As soon as you have your license, work toward the required nursing experience and training. Most hospitals require a minimum of 12 months of nursing experience to be considered for any specialty you want to apply for. Keep this in mind when doing your training. Give specific attention to the specialties most in demand for travel nurses. Some that you can consider include:
- Intensive Care Unit
- Emergency Care
- Surgical Care
- Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
- Case Management
Also, consider earning certification in a Compact State, wherein your license can be valid for use in other participating states. Currently, there are 39 participating states, as shown in the image below:
- Complete your nursing profile
Since hospitals are willing to pay more for travel nurses, it’s important to create a nursing profile that makes you stand out from other applicants. Be sure to highlight your strengths, including the specialties you excel in and the number of hospitals you’ve previously worked for.
Your nursing profile should also include the pay and other benefits you are looking for. This helps streamline the application process.
- Explore nursing agencies
When choosing a nursing agency, don’t settle for just one. Submit your nursing profile to at least three agencies. This will allow you to explore better opportunities and expand your network. Remember, casting a wide net can help you get better fish. When reviewing proposals, go for the one that best fits your goals and schedule.
- Organize your schedule
When discussing your hours with the agency, make sure that everything is written in the contract. Include the guaranteed hours and the pay you should receive. Once this is sorted out, create a schedule to help you manage your hours. This helps to avoid conflicts and overcommitments. It also helps you plan out any time off you need to take during a particular period.
- Determine your tax home
As a travel nurse, you will probably work in different states. As such, you must determine your tax home. Most travel nurses enjoy a combination of tax benefits, deductions, and reimbursements—but these are only available when you have chosen a tax home.
Caring for other people can be tiring, but it also offers a sense of fulfillment. When you enjoy what you’re doing, it no longer feels like work. As a travel nurse, don’t forget to stop and enjoy the different states you work in. Explore various landmarks and get to know the area—even if your stay is temporary.
One of the best things about being a travel nurse is meeting new people, exploring new places, and learning new things. Start your journey and become a registered nurse. Check out our programs to learn more!
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