Becoming a Travel Nurse: Get to Know Your Dream Job
Imagine yourself as a nurse, traveling to places and doing what you love. Sound like a dream come true, right? But what if I told you that you could do all of these and more? Becoming a travel nurse is the answer to your question. And anyone with a license to practice nursing can be one. So what does it take to become a travel nurse? And what is a travel nurse anyway? Here’s what you need to know.
What is a Travel Nurse?
A travel nurse is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree holder (BSN) and registered nurse (RN) with a clinical background that works in a temporary nursing role. Since they do a lot of traveling, these nurses get hired by independent companies or agencies rather than a single facility .
Those who are not RNs but completed a diploma program like Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) and Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) can also qualify to become a travel nurse. Generally, travel nurses are registered nurses, but LPN and ADN nurses can work in this field, too, depending on the agency that hired them and the staffing needs.
A typical job for travel nurses can last as long as 26 weeks or a minimum of 8-13 weeks. These may vary depending on where they are going for work or how long their contract is. Once a travel nurse signs a contract, it is considered a legal document. If you are unsure if you would like to stay in an area with long-term contracts, look for companies that offer short-term jobs if you plan to travel more often.
Besides being an RN, you must also have certificates in Basic Life Support and Advance Life Support to qualify as a travel nurse. Although this is not a general requirement, having these certificates could help you land the position.
To be a travel nurse, you must have at least one or two years of clinical work experience in specialty areas like:
- Intensive Care Unit
- Emergency Room
- Operating Room
Generally, your clinical experience will determine the position you will be qualified for as a travel nurse. Just make sure that you have enough experience to meet the requirements of agencies.
You can also apply for a Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) . The NLC is a valid license that allows nurses like you to work in compact states. It means you can work as a travel nurse in states where NLC is valid. So besides being a registered nurse in your state, the NLC gives you the freedom to work in other states as well. Think of it as a multilicense that you can use while traveling for work.
The only downside of NLC is that it does not cover all states in America. The Council of States Board in Nursing keeps track of the places where you can use NLC and because not all states are under NLC, be sure to check the licensing requirements of the state you wish to work in the future.
Qualities of a Travel Nurse
Besides earning a degree in nursing and license, you must also possess these qualities that qualify you for the job. You must have the following:
- Loves traveling – of course, your job description speaks for itself. You must enjoy going to places and living temporarily in different states or countries. Since your contract requires you to be in various areas for weeks, bear in mind that you will always be on the go. If traveling isn’t your thing, then this is not the job for you.
- Loves learning new things – as a travel nurse, you have the opportunity to work with different people, be exposed to various facilities, practices, and technologies. And if you are planning to work abroad, exposure to different cultures and their health practices is a bonus too!
- Enjoys the flexibility of work – as I have mentioned, travel nurses don’t work permanently in one place. You can choose where to work, at what hours, and schedule. You can even pick an agency that pays well.
- Enjoys the freedom – travel nurses have the advantage of choosing where to work and how long their employment lasts. Those who love to combine work and leisure will enjoy working as travel nurses.
The love for traveling plus these qualities makes you an excellent candidate to become a travel nurse.
What are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Travel Nurse?
There’s an attraction to the job when you say “I’m a travel nurse,” and don’t get me wrong, it is an excellent choice. But before you decide to become one, know what the roles and responsibilities of a travel nurse are first.
The role of a travel nurse is the same as nurses in a hospital setting. Among the most common duties you will perform includes:
- Administering medications and fluids, vaccines, and blood tests
- Assessing patients and writing reports
- Traveling to locations, visiting families, and addressing patient concerns
- Preparing meals for patients, monitoring patient’s progress and overall well-being
- Working with doctors, nurses, and other health care providers to develop care plans for patients
- Ensures all equipment and medical supplies are organized and sterile at all times
- Teaching patients and their families about overall wellness and disease prevention
- Research, health teaching, and patient education
The only difference with travel nurses is that they don’t stay in areas for a long time. They will take on a temporary assignment and will travel again to a different location for work. Therefore, they will also take on different roles depending on the work setup.
How much does a travel nurse earn?
It’s a known fact that nurses are one of the highest-paid professions in the world. But is your income as a travel nurse the same as nurses who work in one facility?
According to nurse.org, travel nurses can earn as much as $100k per year. It means that a travel nurse gets paid as much as $50 per hour, depending on the agreement they had with their agency. Not only that, but they also get to stay in a company-paid housing accommodation and receive bonuses.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average income of nurses in 2020 is $38.47 per hour. However, since travel nurses move around often, their average pay varies too. If you wish to earn more, working abroad does offer better salaries to travel nurses. However, the licensing requirements may vary as well. We recommend that you do your research first if this is the job that you want to do in the future.
Travel nurses who want to work abroad have the opportunity to choose the country they would like to work. European countries like Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Luxemburg, and the Netherlands are among the countries that pay the highest to travel nurses.
Expanding your clinical experience as a nurse also helps you get better pay as a travel nurse. Nurses currently working in specialty areas (e.g., OR, ER), have advanced training and certification, are more likely to earn better pay in this kind of job. We do recommend that you keep your skills and training updated to qualify better as a travel nurse.
Travel Nurses and the Covid-19 Pandemic
As the pandemic continues, more and more nurses are needed to help people. Health care facilities and agencies are working together to waive the state licensure requirements so more nurses can work in states where Covid-19 hit the most. If you meet the requirements needed, it’s best to contact a travel nurse recruiter to help you get going.
Is Travel Nursing for you?
Being a travel nurse sounds like an ideal job and is an attractive position for the younger, eager, and new nurses. While this is indeed a good opportunity, things are also to consider before embarking on the journey ahead.
As a travel nurse, you will be in a different setting all the time. You will meet new faces each time you work in a new facility. And because you are working in various facilities, you will be exposed to new health practices each time.
There’s no sense of permanence when you are a travel nurse. Once your contract ends, you will be off to a new location again. But, if these things don’t bother you at all, being a travel nurse is the perfect job opportunity.
Evaluate Yourself First
Before you take a leap and accept this job, know your priorities first. Know your strengths and weaknesses as a nurse. If the thought of traveling wears you out already, this isn’t for you. For nurses with families, homes to maintain, or even pets to consider, make sure to weigh the pros and cons of being a travel nurse first.
A travel nurse is a rewarding profession, not because it pays well. You get to help people and travel, what better job is there? Of course, there are always risks when traveling, but it’s all part of the job; it’s what you’ve signed up for in the first place. Just think of the sites, people, and experiences you can gather and learn from – these are all worth it!