Almost any licensed nurse can become a travel nurse. Travel nurses work in different hospitals in various cities, typically for 13 weeks at a time.
Other health care professionals can also take travel assignments, but it’s still more common to find nurses traveling the most. Hospitals have various reasons for hiring travelers, not the least of which is the diversity of knowledge every nurse brings to the job. Travel nurses need to be confident and competent, as generally the orientation period to the new hospital is quite short.
Many times it’s a new hospital needing the quick, experienced staffing that hiring travel nurses provides. New nurses can benefit from the experience of travel nurses, adding their knowledge to what the new nurse learned in school. Traveling nurses, as a group, tend to be adventurous and outgoing, and love traveling to new places and meeting new friends and co-workers. Their work experience is often greater than the nurse who has only worked in one or two hospitals during his or her career.
Travel nurse typically choose assignments that are within their specialty, but often will ask for an assignment outside their specialty, to broaden their knowledge and expand their skills. Because the travel nurse rarely gets caught up in the gossip and the politics that go on within most hospital walls, it seems to be much easier to focus on patient care.
Many things are in place before a nurse actually starts traveling. Nurses know exactly which hospital they’ll be working in and in which department. Salary is agreed upon, as well as a start and end date for the assignment. There should be no surprises when he or she gets there. It will have been made clear where you’ll be living and which of your travel expenses will be reimbursed.
The pay rate for travel nurses is almost always a good bit more than if you worked full time in only one hospital. Salaries will vary according to geographics. Generally speaking, you won’t earn as much in a small rural hospital as you will working in a large city.
Nurses decide to travel for as many reasons as hospitals hire them. Some enjoy traveling and seeing other parts of the country, or in some cases, other areas of the world. Others like the challenge that a new working environment gives them. You’ll learn multiple methods of doing procedures and you’ll gain experience working with a number of different patient care machines. All these skills remain with you, even if at some point you decide to settle down to one place.
It’s recommended that you seek travel assignments from a reputable, respected travel nursing agency. Travel nurse agencies have agreements with many different hospitals around the country and will work on your behalf to get you the top pay possible, and living arrangements that are acceptable to you. They act as the liasion between the travel nurse and the hospitals.
The travel nurse agency will also guide you through the process to get your license if you’re not already licensed to work in the state your assignment is located.
There are some criteria that must be met before you can start traveling, and your travel nurse recruiter will be able to help with that. Hospitals typically have requirements such as 1-2 yrs experience in the area you’ll be working. Sometimes there are specific credentials required as well, such as CPR training, NRP if you work with newborns, and other credentials, depending on your specialty.