How To Become A Travel Nurse
The nursing field is growing and the demand for nursing professionals is steadily increasing. Many RNs are joining the ranks of travel nurses to help with nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. This represents an opportunity for increased pay, greater field experience and a chance to see new places. There are ample nursing jobs available for those who are willing to travel. Let’s look at the steps needed to become a travel nurse.
The Most Basic Requirement
Your RN license serves as one of the most basic and well-established qualifications for becoming a travel nurse. Overall, most nurses taking on travel assignments are RNs, but differing facilities’ staffing needs may call for varying qualifications. LPNs and nurses with an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing may also qualify. The staffing agency handling your travel assignments can be a reliable source of information regarding a facility’s specialized or atypical needs.
NLC and Non-NLC State Licenses
Thirty-three states in the U.S. are NLC states. This means their state governments have signed on to the Nurse Licensure Compact agreement. This agreement allows member states to mutually recognize a nursing license throughout all NLC states. This enables a nurse who is licensed in one NLC state to practice in another member state with no additional licensing.
If your current nursing license was obtained in a non-NLC state, you’ll need to obtain an additional state license to work in either an NLC state or another non-NLC state. Most travel nurse staffing agencies can help you obtain whatever additional licensure you may require.
As of May 2019, 13 states, including California, Connecticut and New York, have no enacted or pending legislation with regard to becoming NLC states. Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are pending legislation and may become NLC member states soon. The up-to-date status of NLC member states can be found at the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website.
There are some certifications you will need in addition to your nursing license. You’ll be required to hold an Advanced Cardiac Life Support and a Basic Life Support certification. The agency will most likely also require you to obtain any specialty certifications at your own expense. You may, for example, be required to hold a certification for labor, delivery and postpartum care or a critical care certification for certain assignments. It’s a good idea to learn all you can about the travel assignments you’re considering before you commit to anything.
Washington state, Florida and some other states require nurses to have earned Continued Education Units in the areas of HIV awareness and pain management. Check with the agency to find out if the travel assignments you’re considering have any special CEU requirements.
A Bachelor of Science degree in nursing won’t be one of the requirements to become a travel nurse. However, you may find that some facilities prefer to contract nurses who hold a BSN. Once again, a little homework on your part regarding the facility you’re considering for a travel assignment can be worth the extra time and effort.
Number of Years of Nursing Experience
The majority of hospitals and medical facilities only require you to have a minimum of one year of actual bedside experience. If you plan on working as a travel nurse in a specialized unit, there will likely be additional requirements. If the labor market changes in a particular region, you could find the law of supply and demand kicking in. This might cause a facility in a certain region to change its overall or specialty-area minimum years-of-experience requirement. Considering the high demand for nurses at this time, this seems unlikely, but stranger things have occurred in the medical field in the past.
Your Tax Home Status
Travel nurse assignments typically come with some form of non-taxable compensation as part of the package. This sounds great, but you will eventually need to pay taxes on that income when you file your yearly returns. Whether this works out well for you (or turns into a headache) depends on your tax home status. This is a matter of where your primary residence is and how much of the year you’ll spend working within that tax jurisdiction. Yes, this could get a little complicated, but don’t fret. That’s why there are tax and financial advisors. It can be in your best interest to consult with one so that you can set things up and plan your travel nursing jobs such that things work out in your favor.