Do You Have What It Takes to Become a Travel Nurse?


Do you have what it takes to become a travel nurse? Get back to the heart of why you became a nurse. Find out if you have what it takes to become a travel nurse.

As a nurse, you are likely aware of some of the unpleasantries of being on staff with a hospital. The mandatory staff meetings, in-services, and committee obligations can be overwhelming. These requirements typically go beyond what’s expected when you got into nursing. Most people, when putting in the time and money to become a nurse, were signing up to help people, not play politics. If that sounds like you, then becoming a travel nurse should come naturally. As a traveler, you are not required to participate in meetings or committees.  Your only required to do the job you initially thought you signed up for, which is helping and taking care of your patients. While this may sound like your dream job, there are requirements and expectations that potential travelers should be aware of.


As with most Jobs, travel nursing agencies have expectations of minimum experience. Most agencies will require a minimum of two years as a practicing nurse. If you have a specialty such as ICU, OB or the cath lab, you may be required to have an additional year in that specialty.


Where you were initially licensed may affect where you can travel. If you were licensed in a state that is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact, you will be able to practice in multiple states under the same license. However, if you did not receive your license from an NLC state, then you will need to become licensed in the state you plan on traveling to.


There are many nursing specialties and certifications, not all are necessary to become a traveling nurse. If you are interested in specific requirements for your specialty reach out to your recruiter for specific requirements or certifications. However, there are a few certificates that are required and others that may be good to have.

  • BSNWhile a bachelor’s degree in nursing is not required, most hospitals expect their nurses to have a BSN. Therefore, having a degree may set you apart from other candidates.
  • BLSA Basic Life Support (BLS) certification is standard and expected. Make sure that your essential certifications are current before applying to any agency.
  • ACLS For certain specialties, an Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification is required. If you have a specialty, n as with the BLS, make sure your certificate is current before applying.

Having these certificates as well as being a specialized practitioner, like a critical care nurse (CCRN), with appropriate certifications, will only help to boost your profile. Take advantage of every skill, degree, and certificate you have when applying, so you can rise to the top of the applicant pool.


The number of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) expected of you is dependent on the state you are licensed in. With a compact license, you only need to fulfill the obligations of your original state. However, if you are required to get your license in a new state, you will have to meet those requirements as well as your current state. Additionally, states like Florida and Washington require that specific courses in pain management and HIV awareness.  These are required regardless of your current license before accepting an assignment. Also, depending on your current license and state, there may be license renewal fees tied to not only your original license but any subsequent license you receive. Again, the best scenario is to be operating from an NLC state, as this means one license for several states.


One of the most significant benefits of being a travel nurse is the ability to collect tax-free stipends. However, there are certain expectations and requirements that you must meet before collecting tax-free money. First, you must have a tax home, which means that you must have a permanent home or residence. Second, you must be traveling. While the general rule is that you travel at least 50 miles, there is no specified distance. The expectation is that your place of work is far enough from home that you have to stay overnight. A recruiter for a travel nursing agency will help you understand the tax requirements in greater detail.


Travel nursing may free you from the politics and requirements of being a staff nurse but there are still professional responsibilities to consider. However, if putting the patient’s needs above all else, sounds like the career of your dreams, then stop hesitating and become a travel nurse. Visit Wandering Nurses to find a list of top-rated agencies looking for your skills and sign up for the newsletter to receive the free Travel Nurse Guide while you’re there.

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a Registered Nurse and retired US Army Reserve Nurse Major. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career, she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and to South Korea. She was trained as an Army Medic during the Vietnam era and later as an OR tec. She went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and then completed her nursing training as a Registered Nurse. She was then commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserves. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and work in other medical facilities. During her career, she had the opportunity to work in several specialties to include, OR, Occupational Health, Hospice, Sexual Assault Team, Forensic/ Correctional Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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