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Tips for the New Travel Nurse: What You Need to Know Before Starting a New Job

Becoming a travel nurse is an exciting new career opportunity for nurses. If you’ll be spending lots of time on the road as part of your job, this might be the perfect fit for you. However, there are a few things you need to know about traveling as a registered nurse. If you’re thinking about becoming a travel nurse and want to know what it takes, keep reading for some helpful tips.

Who Can Become a Travel Nurse?

Most agencies will hire travel nurses for short-term assignments for as little as 4 weeks and up to 26 weeks with an option to extend if both parties are interested. Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses can both be travel nurses. However, assignments for RNs are most common. As a travel nurse, you must be experienced and skilled in your specialty because the facility you travel to will expect you to "hit the ground running" with minimal orientation to the department. This is why new grad nurses are not able to become travel nurses. Once a nurse gains experience and has the desire for adventure and freedom they can likely become a travel nurse.

Travel Nurse Requirements

The requirements to become a travel nurse vary from one travel nurse agency to the next, but for the most part, they all have similar requirements. There are some basic requirements that almost all travel nursing companies will ask for. As mentioned above you will need two years of nursing experience and a valid nursing license. Depending on your nursing specialty you might be required to have certifications such as Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support. I recommend getting your certifications through the American Heart Association because they are more widely accepted by hospitals. If you need help finding an AHA certification provider check out the travel nurse resource directory on TRAVELCONNEX.CO.

You will also have to take a background check and show proof of immunizations against hepatitis B, tuberculosis, and sometimes Covid. The last requirement to become a travel nurse is not required by any travel nurse agency but it is one of the most important and it is to have an adequate emergency fund.

How to Become a Travel Nurse: The Process

Despite what lots of new travel nurses believe, the first step in becoming a travel nurse is not deciding which agency you want to work with. There are hundreds of travel nurse agencies in the U.S. and as a new travel nurse, you likely do not even know what you are looking for in a "good agency or recruiter." Even if you were to find a "good agency or recruiter" there is no guarantee they will be able to offer you a good contract.

The first step a new travel nurse should make is to gain as much knowledge as possible. I recommend you join several Facebook Travel Nurse groups such as The Travel Nurse's Guide, Travel Nurse Newbies, and Travel Nurse Network-The Gypsy Nurse. These are large Facebook groups filled with a majority of travel nurses who will help answer your questions and guide you through the process once you are ready.

You also need to join several travel nurse job groups on Facebook. Here is a link to some of my favorite:

As a new travel nurse, I was able to learn so much from the travel nurse job Facebook groups because I was able to see hundreds of travel nurse contracts from dozens of agencies. I was able to learn what was a good pay rate for my specialty in certain areas and which agencies typically offered the highest pay rates. These groups also make comparing contracts super easy. If you want to learn more about how to use travel nurse job Facebook groups, to find good contracts click HERE to watch a short video.

You can also use job search websites, like Vivian and Wanderly to find more contracts. Some larger travel nursing agencies also have websites with their contracts posted. Aya Healthcare is one of them.

Once you have done your research and have found a good-paying contract you are interested in contact the recruiter who posted the job and tell them you are interested and would like more details. Once the negotiation process is done and you are satisfied with the pay package then you will have to complete the agency application process. Make sure you complete this process as quickly as possible to avoid the job closing before you get submitted. The recruiter will walk you through the application process. It can be fairly time-consuming the first time you ever do it but it gets much faster after that because you likely already have all your documents gathered and likely saved on your computer for next time. Once this is complete you can be submitted for the contract.

Travel nurse perks and benefits

There are several perks to travel nursing. Most everyone knows about or has at least heard about the financial perks of travel nursing. Most travel nurses earn 2-3x the income of a staff nurse while avoiding workplace politics. Another perk is being able to move frequently and work in different areas. This allows the nurse the ability to explore different locations without missing work. Travel nurses also can take extended periods off between contracts. One might say the perks and benefits of travel nursing are limitless. Travel nursing has changed my life in huge ways and has also opened up so many opportunities.

Travel nurse pitfalls to avoid

Just like the perks and benefits of travel nursing, there can be quite a bit of pitfalls you should avoid also. However, with the right knowledge and preparation, you can avoid most of them if not all of them. Here is a list of common pitfalls:

  1. Not having an adequate emergency fund.

  2. Putting your name and phone number on a travel nurse website or insurance website.

  3. Working with only one agency.

  4. Believing your recruiter has your best interest in mind.

  5. Not comparing contracts before you accept.

  6. Not reading your full contract before you sign it.

  7. Getting tax advice from a recruiter.

  8. Paying a large security deposit for housing before seeing the property.

  9. Overspending.

  10. Not having a reliable source of transportation.

  11. Not subscribing to Travel Connex.....

Final Words

Becoming a travel nurse is a great way to earn a living while traveling and exploring the country. If you’re an experienced nurse who likes to travel, apply to work as a travel nurse today. You can work in different cities, meet new people, and earn some extra money along the way.

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