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5 Travel nurse mistakes to avoid

Updated: Jul 26, 2022

When you’re first starting as a travel nurse, it can be easy to overlook certain details and make mistakes. Many new travel nurses find that being away from home for extended periods of time is also challenging in ways they might not have anticipated.

However, with the right amount of preparation and strategy beforehand, you can avoid these common travel nursing pitfalls and instead have a much smoother experience overall. To help you get started on the right track, we’ve outlined some of the most common mistakes made by new travel nurses and how to avoid them. Keep reading to discover more about this exciting career opportunity and how to thrive as a traveling nurse!

Having inadequate experience

A frequently asked question is, "How much experience is enough?" The most common answer to this question is two years of experience as a nurse and at least one year of experience in the specialty you plan on taking a contract in because this is what most travel nurse staffing agencies and healthcare facilities require to be submitted for a contract.

However, not all situations are the same. Several variables affect the pace at which a nurse learns and becomes proficient in their skillset. With this being said having two years of experience may or may not be enough experience for you to succeed as a travel nurse. Having inadequate experience as a travel nurse could lead to several poor outcomes.

So here is a way to determine if you have enough experience to succeed as a travel nurse. Imagine you are the travel nurse in this scenario. You are starting a new travel nurse contract at a facility you have never been to before and you only know the name of a few of your coworkers. This facility uses a charting system you are not familiar with. Their IVs, equipment, and protocols are slightly different than what you are use to and you are not sure if you remember where the supply rooms and bathrooms are at. In this scenario, would you be able to not get overwhelmed and provide safe, quality care to your patients?

If your honest answer to this question is "yes" then you likely have enough experience to succeed as a travel nurse. If you are unsure if you could provide safe, quality care to your patients in the above scenario then you might want to consider getting more experience before taking the leap into travel nursing.

Two ways you could gain more experience and knowledge before becoming a travel nurse are by working additional hours to maximize your learning potential and obtaining more certifications to broaden your knowledge.

You don't research contracts beforehand

If you only listen to your recruiter and do not do your own research you may end up getting taken advantage of.

Most recruiters are only going to tell you what they want you to know.

It is important to have a good understanding of how travel nursing works, where the money comes from, and how it flows from the healthcare facility to the agency to the travel nurse.

Once you have a good understanding of the travel nurse industry it is also important to research several contracts with multiple agencies before signing a contract. This will allow you to see the trends in pay rates and also help you identify which pay rates are good and which ones are not.

If you are looking to learn more about how the travel nurse industry works, how to research contracts, and how to avoid getting taken advantage of check out the Maxed Out Negotiations online course and other resources at

Fully Trusting your recruiter

While your recruiter should be someone you trust, you should not fully trust them. Some recruiters will promise you the world and tell you whatever it takes to get you to sign with their agency. While it’s important to trust your gut and follow your instincts, you need to realize you and your recruiter are fighting for the same bucket of money. The less money your recruiter pays you the more money your recruiter and agency make and vice versa.

It is important to remember a recruiter is only going to tell you what they want you to know.

Working with only one agency

As a new travel nurse, it can be tempting to sign with the first agency that offers you a contract. However, it’s important to shop around and see what other agencies have to offer. While every agency isn’t going to be a perfect fit for you, there may be one that’s a better fit.

Before signing a contract with an agency, remember, you can walk away from any agency at any point up until you sign an official contract with them. If you don’t feel that an agency/recruiter is a good fit for you after going through the application process, after negotiating a contract, or even after submitting for a contract you can simply walk away without consequences.

Being afraid to walk away

As we’ve already covered, while you are looking for your next contract you can walk away from any agency or recruiter at any time prior to signing the official contract. Some travel nurses make the mistake of believing since their recruiter is nice to them they owe it to their recruiter to only work with one agency/recruiter.

This is a huge mistake. It limits your options of contracts to choose from and it gives you almost no leverage to negotiate higher pay rates.

It is important to work with multiple agencies and to let each of the agencies know you have other options available and you are willing to walk away if the agency can not make you happy.


Choosing to become a travel nurse is a big decision. It can be an exciting and rewarding career that allows you to see the country and earn a steady income. However, it is important to know what to expect and how to avoid common travel nursing mistakes. By following the tips outlined above, you can ensure a smoother transition and have a more enjoyable experience as a travel nurse.

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