Building Your Travel Nursing Portfolio
How can you impress your recruiter and move to the front of the line for your next travel nurse portfolio? Here’s a hint: it’s all about building out your travel nurse portfolio.
For those with a love of healthcare, helping people, and exploring new places, a career as a travel nurse could be a perfect mix of purpose and adventure.
If you’ve successfully become a nurse and have at least 1 year of experience in your specialty, you have a chance to jump on this unique opportunity.
Travel nurse paperwork
Keeping track of paperwork is very important in the travel nursing process. After completing three contracts and filing paperwork to different agencies, building your portfolio and keeping up with paperwork can become a burden down the line.
In travel nursing, paperwork is often overlooked, which is why being well-prepared and organized can put you one step ahead, especially when you’re on the road and need access to your paperwork at the last minute. We recommend scanning/uploading all your paperwork in PDF formats and saving it on apps such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Office 365. Once you have those documents, finding information will be a breeze.
Checklist: Travel Nurse Paperwork
Have your cover letter and resume ready. Tailor it to the institution you’re applying to and date to the time of the interview. We recommend Resume RX for resume courses and templates. Your application process will be easier with your recruiter, as they can pull most of the important information off the resume.
Copies of documents
- Certificates (BLS, ACLS, PALS, CCRN, ACRN, TNCC, etc.)
- Any other nursing certifications, like NIHSS
- Driver’s License (for I-9 verification)
- Social Security Card or Passport (for I-9 verification)
- Insurance cards (for auto, health, home, etc.)
- Copies of contracts, leases, and transport information
- Two letters of recommendation
- Tax records (keep IRS happy)
Proof of immunization
- Hep B
- Influenza (or letter of declination)
- TB skin test or Chest X-ray
Visit your family practice office and obtain your past immunization records. Save that document for the future. Some facilities ask for boosters and titers, so it’s nice to have dates on hand to fill out.
You’ll need the results of an annual physical exam conducted within the previous year to show you’re fit for work. (If this is not available, your travel nursing agency will set up an appointment for a physical paid by them.) This will also include a drug screening for every new contract you sign with a facility.
Before you apply to your first position, you’ll need to fill out a skills checklist for any specialty you work in. This will be filled out online through your agency. The caveat is that you’ll need to fill out one of these checklists for every agency you want to work for.
Organizing your travel nurse paperwork
Once you’ve completed the checklist above and have all your paperwork, the next step is to organize. Use a binder or an online cloud service like Google Drive.
Buy a binder with some color tabs and sheet protectors. Organize your binder based on the checklist points. If you’re color-coordinated, use colored folder dividers to make it easier to find what you need.
Online cloud storage
This is the way we prefer to store our travel nurse paperwork. We use Google Drive. Storing your stuff in the cloud means you’ll always have digital copies of your paperwork accessible via your smartphone. Trust me, there are times when your recruiter or facility will need paperwork, like a copy of your ACLS certificate. You can easily locate the PDF and email it directly to them using your phone. Google Drive is a lifesaver!
Just to recap, this checklist business may sound like a lot of work. Yes, it takes a lot of up-front work to get it all organized. But once this is done, it’ll save you time! And time is the world’s most limited resource. Why not buy more of it by getting your travel nurse portfolio ready?
How to Become a Good Travel Nurse
Do You Want To Become A Travel Nurse?
A good nurse doesn’t pursue nursing because they’re lured by the promise of huge paychecks. Good nurses don’t work towards a career in nursing because they’re convinced that they’ll work short shifts that leave them with lots of family time. Good nurses don’t become nurses because they’re looking for a career with limited manual labor. Good nurses don’t become nurses because they feel that nursing is easier than being a doctor. Nurses become nurses because they’re compelled to help sick and injured patients.
Becoming a nurse
Several things need to happen before a person can become a nurse. First, they have to enroll in an educational program that specializes in nursing. There is currently a shortage of educational nursing programs, which can make it difficult for potential nurses to get in. If you’re interested in pursuing a nursing career, apply to a nursing program as early as possible. Once a student has been accepted into an educational nursing program, they can choose to pursue a variety of degrees such as an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree, or even a nursing doctorate.
Becoming a Traveling Nurse
Obviously, the first prerequisite to becoming a travel nurse to become an RN or registered nurse. This can be done through various programs that will prepare you to pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Then you need to gain experience by working for at least one year in a hospital environment, preferably in the specialty area of your choice. The more experience you have, the better pay you’ll get. But most agencies require at least one year of experience.
Once you’ve decided that becoming a traveling nurse is something you want to do, the next step is to find an agency that’s right for you. Look at the benefits and bonuses the different traveling nurse agencies offer because they vary from agency to agency. (We recommend Trustaff. Here’s why.) There’s no better way to check out a company than to speak to their employees to make sure the agency stands behind the pay, benefits, and bonuses they use to entice you. We did our research and ran into our fair share of problems before settling on a travel nurse agency.
Now that you’ve chosen the agency you wish to work for and your application has been accepted, it is time to choose the available jobs. They can be virtually anywhere in the United States. The length of the jobs will vary as well. Choose carefully, because you’ll be signing a contract.
Generally speaking, to expedite the process of finding your travel nursing gig, start applying for multiple state licenses if you have a desire to travel there. If it’s only one state, start applying for your license. You can’t apply for a job in another state without a license for that state.
- To apply for licensure in the state in which you want to work, you need:
- State application paperwork
- Application fees
- Documentation (ID, Social Security)
- RN license
- School transcripts.
- The length of time for approval varies anywhere from 4 to 14 weeks, depending on the state.
Three important factors
The three most important factors for a traveling nurse who is considering a job are:
- The location (State, City)
- The length
- The type of facility
If one or more of the above factors is not what you’re looking for, you may end up having a bad experience. Once you choose the job you want, the agency will help find housing and keep you accountable with all necessary paperwork.
Other things to consider when choosing a travel nursing contract
- Night shifts vs day shifts
- 12 hours shifts vs 8-hour shifts
- Hospital size
- Teaching vs non-teaching hospital
- The ability to pick up overtime
- Insurance and benefits
- Time off during contracts
Sometimes, you will be placed in the perfect location and job setting. Many times, if the facility is happy with your work and you want to stay, you might get a full-time position with them. This often works out best for companies who are looking to replace a full-time nurse that left their position.
Becoming a traveling nurse is not a decision to take lightly. It may not be the perfect opportunity for everyone. If you feel you have what it takes, stick with us to learn more!
Who Makes a Good Travel Nurse?
On some levels, working as a professional travel nurse looks like the ideal job. It provides nurses with an opportunity to live and work in different parts of the country. They can interact with new people. They can move south in the winter, and north in the summer. If they feel like taking a few months off, they don’t have to worry about explaining things to their bosses; they just give themselves a few months to improve their mental health before they accept a new assignment. We love this about travel nursing. Travel nurses say their job gives them an opportunity to re-establish their patient-focused medicine skills. Qualities that a good travel nurse should embody are a zest for adventure, a strong work ethic, confidence in their medical knowledge, and a gregarious personality.
Travel nursing also pulls in an excellent salary. The secret is to max out your stipends (untaxed money) with a lower hourly rate (taxed money), which puts more money in your pocket. Travel nurses also make friends all over the country.
What Is Travel Nursing & How Does It Work?
- Travel nursing is a career in which you are a nurse who works away from home.
- Travel nursing usually consists of traveling to different states to work as a nurse. Instead of being a staff nurse at a hospital, you work 50+ miles away.
- Look at it as freelancing. You work at different companies for different lengths of time.
- Travel nursing started due to a shortage of registered nurses in various parts of the country. Travel nurses are usually hired through a staffing agency for a specific location for a certain number of months.
- Although assignments lengths can vary, the typical travel nursing assignment lasts about 13 weeks. After an assignment is over, you may be asked to renew your contract and sign up for another 13 weeks, or your assignment might just end. At that time, you can take another travel assignment somewhere else in the country or go back home.
Why Travel Nursing?
Are you having trouble deciding where to take your travel nursing career? Here are a few benefits of travel nursing to help you determine whether travel nursing is a smart career choice for you. If you’re a visual learner and love notes, this is the time to grab your notebook/journal and jot down some ideas. Alternatively, divide your notebook into a pros and cons list.
Travel nurse contracts vary in length, location, and position. You can choose according to your preferences. You can test the waters and go for an 8-week contract. Taking time off work? No problem. Travel nursing allows you to pick your start dates and request specific dates off work. If you need time off during specific days, you can arrange those dates in your contract so it works around your personal time. I traveled for 7 months, extended for 1 month, and took a 3- month hiatus to focus on personal pursuits like Cup of Nurses.
Travel nurses generally make a bit more than a staff nurse. This is especially true if you’re willing to go to a ‘less desirable’ location. Don’t be afraid of this. Some of the best experiences are those you never expect. Rapid-response travel nurses may make more. Crisis contracts are usually 8 weeks but pay only about 20-30 percent more than a traditional nurse traveler. Strike nursing is also a travel option that pays at or above $75 per hour.
Meet new people
Travel nurses have the opportunity to meet people and make friends from all walks of life while traveling. This is one of the benefits that travel nurses talk most about. Some travel nurses remain life-long friends. As travelers say, people who love to travel develop special friendships.
It is wonderful to be able to live like a local for 13 weeks and experience a place that’s on your bucket list. I checked off a few items on my bucket list while taking a contract in San Diego, CA. Travel nurses don’t just get to visit a new place – they experience it. Talk about culture shock! You can experience new pockets of communities every 13 weeks if you choose to. Just within my two contracts, I’ve realized just how different Los Angeles people are from people living in San Diego.
Expand your Nursing Skills
New units force you to develop new nursing skills, which makes you a more versatile nurse. Just by working in different ICUs I’ve realized how different a unit can be run by different intensivists. By working in various environments with different processes, equipment, etc. you will expand your nursing skills. You’ll develop disability and critical thinking skills on the go. Floating is also something you might experience, so you can note on your resume that you can work in multiple units.
Who wouldn’t want to be a travel nurse?
Not every person who comes out of a nursing program can be a travel nurse.
When you’re considering a life as a travel nurse, you have to ask yourself if you really like to travel. The life of a travel nurse is serious, hardcore traveling. Travel nurses are constantly on the move, going from one state to another, taking assignment after assignment.
Bear in mind that travel nurses are working. This is not an extended family vacation. They aren’t backpacking across Europe. While they’re on assignment, travel nurses are on a schedule. They are expected to report to work, on time, at the beginning of each one of their shifts. While they are working, they are dealing with sick and injured people. They are expected to give one hundred and ten percent of themselves every day.
Do you have an easy time making new friends? Travel nurses are constantly going to cities and towns where they are strangers. They don’t know anyone in these places. For their experience to be positive, they have to have a talent for turning complete strangers into close friends. You will challenge yourself and your comfort zone quite frequently.
Our Travel Nursing Experience
Nurses that have a significant other may have a hard time adjusting to life as a travel nurse unless their significant other can travel from one location to another to visit. One circumstance when travel nursing does work when a couple decides to work in tandem and finds nursing assignments in the same hospitals and medical facilities.
Before you sign with a nursing agency, decide if you can tolerate moving away from your family, friends, and pets. Working as a travel nurse requires you to spend several months away from home.
Carefully consider all the requirements and responsibilities expected from a travel nurse before you sign with a nursing agency. Qualities of a good travel nurse include a zest for adventure, a strong work ethic, confidence in their medical knowledge, and a gregarious personality. If you’re a nurse with at least one year of experience working in a hospital and feel that you’d be an excellent travel nurse, start placing your application!
Travel RN overview
A travel nurse is a licensed nurse who typically works in a hospital for 13 weeks at a time before moving on to a different hospital in a different part of the country. Sometimes, if you love your contract, you might be given an opportunity to extend your stay.
Traveling nurses travel around the United States fill temporary nursing positions. If you’re a nurse and love to travel, this may be the right career move for you. There is a high demand for traveling nurses in areas in which the population fluctuates. These changes can be seasonal, like the snowbirds going to Florida for the winter and then returning to their home state, or in tourist towns during peak travel season. Wherever the population routinely rises and falls, a traveling nurse is needed.
Another scenario of a job a traveling nurse might fill is when a full-time nurse quits and a replacement has not been found. A situation like this could turn into a full-time position for the traveling nurse if she is happy with the facility and its managers are happy with her performance.
Hospitals hire travel nurses and other traveling health professionals for a variety of reasons. Travel nurses can bring a variety of experience and knowledge that a hospital can benefit from. Often, a travel nurse can act as a mentor for other nurses that have just completed their training and are not yet comfortable and/or confident with their new professional status. Medical facilities that have just opened will often recruit travel nurses until the facility is up and running smoothly. The new, inexperienced staff will benefit from the travel nurse’s previous work experience.
Most travel nurses enjoy traveling, meeting and working with new co-workers, and hope to gain a well-rounded work experience that will serve them when they begin working full-time at a specific medical facility. Many travel nurses claim that the experience allows them to develop a better understanding of their chosen specialty. These same travel nurses also claim that their unique work experiences help to reintroduce them to patient-focused nursing.
Before they start working at a new hospital, a travel nurse establishes an agreement with the hospital. This agreement states what salary the nurse will earn while she is working for the hospital. Before traveling to the new hospital, the nurse knows what proportion of their travel expenses will be covered and where they will be living while they’re working at the medical facility.
Travel nurses generally enjoy a more lucrative salary than they would receive if they worked in a single location. The salary the travel nurse earns is generally based on where they are working. Typically, a travel nurse will earn less working in a hospital in a rural community than they will in a large inner-city hospital. Some nurses prefer to travel nursing to nursing in a single medical facility because they enjoy seeing the world and learning about other cultures. Working in a constantly changing location challenges a travel nurse’s knowledge and talents. The skills that travel nurses develop on their journeys are skills they can use when they settle on a home base.
Travel nurses find employment through a travel nursing service. This service pairs nurse with medical facilities that are seeking a travel nurse. The travel nursing service typically has a long and happy relationship with hospitals, medical facilities, and medical professionals. The nursing service helps negotiate agreements between the medical facilities and the travel nurse. The travel nursing service can also help the travel nurse ensure that they have the proper licensing to work in the state they’re about to travel to.
Before a nurse can become a travel nurse, they need to measure up to certain professional criteria.
Travel Nursing Involve Sacrifices
There are some things you need to consider before becoming a traveling nurse. These are the things will determine whether being a traveling nurse is right for you. The jobs that you accept may take you away from your family for up to a year. Depending on how far away the job is, this could be a deciding factor. Generally, it is best if you do not have pets, because it’s possible that the housing provided for you will not accept them. You will have to be licensed in every state you choose to work in. These are considerations that a good traveling nurse agency will help you work out. Jobs are often assigned months in advance to give you time to prepare. They can also start in as little as two weeks from the completion of the application process.
What Destinations Will You See?
As a traveling nurse, you will be able to work in many different settings, such as hospitals and acute care facilities or surgery and outpatient surgery centers in normal hospital-type settings. You could work with the elderly in nursing homes and assisted living centers, or with children in schools and camp nurse’s offices. Other traveling nurse positions can include doctors’ offices, correctional facilities, occupational health facilities, clinics, and labs. You usually need at least one year of hospital experience before you can become a traveling nurse. This requirement may vary from place to place.
If you’re looking for a rewarding career that allows you to travel across the United States, then a career as a traveling nurse could be just what you’re looking for. Look for agencies in your town or on the internet to help get you started on your traveling nurse journey. They will help place you in a job that’s right for you and show you how to take care of the little details you may forget.