Travel Nursing a Life Changing Experience

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Travel Nursing is more than just a job it is a career.  Traveling as a nurse can be a life-changing experience. As a travel nurse, you build relationships within the industry.  Travel professionals not can make more money and have opportunities to work with different types of patients.  Travel nurses may work at some of the most prestigious healthcare facilities in the country.

What is your reason for wanting to travel?  Every nurse has reasons that are unique to them.  No matter your phase of life you can find the assignment that is perfect for you.  Here are some reasons nurses choose to travel:

Traveling in Any Phase of Life

  • Do you have flexibility and now is the time to grow in your career by getting experiences in different work environments?
  • You want to see the world but need to work.
  • Maybe you have a sick parent, sibling or grandparent in another state that needs your help with their care.
  • A child is playing sports at college in a state far away and you want to be closer to attend games.
  • Your partner travels for work and you want to travel and be closer to them.
  • Are you having a long distance relationship and want to try living closer for awhile?
  • You just need a change in your environment after a significant life change.
Thanks to a nursing shortage experienced nurses can travel and be employed for facilities that have a shortage.  Once you decide you want to make a change try travel nursing, where do you begin? 
Let’s look at a few ways to prepare to make a life-changing experience.

Explore Travel Nursing

If you’re wondering how to become a travel check out the information on our page How To Become A Travel Nurse.   Once you have a general idea of what you need to do you can find more information on agency sites.

Research Travel Nurse Agencies

After learning what it takes to become a traveling nurse you will want to check out agency sites.  On our agency review page, you can find agencies and see how they are rated by traveling nurses.  Find a few that look interesting then check out their website for more information on how to apply
Before you make a commitment to one company do your homework.  Always keep your options open until you have a company and recruiter you feel comfortable with. Every company has their own rules, benefits and assignment lists.  Stand firm on what you want and need.  Don’t let a pushy recruiter try to commit you from the beginning. You have to look out for yourself in this career.

Network with current travel nurses

Chances are if you work in a facility you have worked with a traveling nurse.  If you know someone who is currently traveling talk with them about their experiences. If you do not know anyone who travels ask your colleagues at work if they know anyone. Spen a little time getting the inside scoop.

Another way to get information is to join a travel nurse facebook group.  Ask questions and let them know you will be new to the travel industry.  You will find travel nurses are happy to share their experiences both good and bad.

If you do not know any travel nurses to network with, ask your nurse friends, if any of their friends are travel nurses. If so, ask for an introduction so that you can get the inside scoop. Invite them out to dinner or coffee, as a return favor for being informally interviewed. Alternatively, you could reach out to travel nurses on social media.

Don’t burn your bridges

Keep your current employment options open as you are exploring your options.  When you decide you are ready to travel leave in good standing.  If traveling doesn’t work out you may want to return to a job where you have a history.

Many employers will let you return within a year and keep your seniority.

Become a float nurse at your current job

As a travel nurse, you will need to be comfortable in strange hospitals as you perform your job with skill and ease. One good way to understand how a travel nurse might feel is to become a float nurse at your facility.

Many nurses hate to float for several reasons,  the same reasons some might not want to travel.  When you float everything is unfamiliar.  Where are supplies kept and who are your co-workers? The floor environment and layout is different and frustrating. Maybe you would just view these issues as a challenge instead of being frustrated.

When you are on assignment you will be in unknown territory. Every assignment will be different from the parking to the computer systems used.  If you are not comfortable floating in your own facility you may want to think twice about travel nursing.

Have money in your savings account

When you negotiate your travel contract many travel companies offer a housing allowance. You need to know however, there will be expenses to pay for up front that could be reimbursed.  It’s a very uncomfortable feeling to arrive for a new assignment without cash for needed expenses.

You could experience such things as having to pay deposits for utilities at your housing accommodations.  If you are not comfortable with your prearranged housing do you have the money relocate? You might need to stay in a hotel temporarily while trying to find other accommodations.  Know what your travel nurse contract covers and doesn’t cover so there are no surprises.  Having a savings account provides you a cushion while you wait for your first paycheck.

Obtain specialty nurse certification.

Once you decide to travel you can increase your potential career worth by diversifying your areas of expertise.  Obtain specialty nurse certification in those areas of high demand. Specializing in high demand areas can set you apart when applying to popular travel hot spots and assignments.

Secondly,  consider gaining experience in areas that travel nurses are most needed. If you are ambitious and highly motivated try a couple of areas such as ER and ICU.  The more areas and skills you are qualified to work the more options for assignments you will have.

Keep your employment records portfolio up-to-date

As a travel nurse, it is important to keep all of your employment records up to date.  You know you will need basic certifications to be current.  Those include Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ALS) and specialty certifications.  If you have a specialty such as Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) make sure they have not expired.

Travel assignments may require medical records for nurses working in their facilities.  Those can include documentation of immunizations like flu shots and TB skin tests. Make sure they are in a place where you can provide proof if needed.

Are you currently a travel nurse or have been one in the past? What tips you would give a nurse preparing for a career in travel nursing? Check out our post on FB and let us know.

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a retired RN and US Army Nurse Major. She has over 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 once to South Korea. Her medical training began during the Vietnam era when trained as an army medic. She went on to train as an OR tech and then as a LVN/LPN. She completed nursing school and was direct commissioned into the reserve Army Nurse Corp. nurse. 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 working in other medical facilities. During her career she spent years as an OR nurse, Occupational Health Nurse, Hospice Nurse, Forensic Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as being a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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