How to Become a Travel Nurse and Embark On a New Adventure

Content courtesy of South University.

Becoming a travel nurse has plenty of benefits, most notably the recent pay increase sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic and staff shortages around the country.

Travel nurses must be able to work hard, adapt quickly, be willing to learn, ask questions, and prepare to uproot themselves as often as every 13 weeks.

What Is a Travel Nurse?

Emma Pointer, MSN, RN

Simply put, being a travel nurse is nursing — but with a twist, according to Emma Pointer, a former travel nurse who now works as operations manager for Trusted Health, an organization that matches nurses with travel jobs. “Travel nursing is the same as regular nursing,” she said. “You’re just working as a contracted employee on a short-term contract. Most of the contracts are 13 weeks long.”

Pointer learned plenty as a travel nurse, going from a small Indiana hospital’s ICU to a progressive care unit in Seattle. Her desire to help other travelers led her to Trusted Health and to authoring the book, “A Comprehensive Guide to the Fundamentals of Travel Nursing.”

“The first step I always tell people is to do research,” Pointer said. “The travel nurse industry is not something you jump into haphazardly. At the time I was looking into travel nursing, there were not great resources.”

Now there are blogs, websites, and social media groups that discuss various aspects of how to become a travel nurse and what to do once you’re on the road.

Makaya Carter, BSN, RN, CCRN-CSC, who has spent the past five years working various travel assignments on the East and West coasts, offers a word of warning about online information: Do your homework to find the most reputable sources on how to become a travel nurse and follow the same practice when looking for a travel agency.

“Be mindful about the things you read,” she said. “Of course, you want to work for a good company, but you also want a recruiter that is honest, supportive, and will advocate for you. It is trial and error.”

Travel Nursing Requirements

Though Pointer said Trusted Health works mostly with RNs, there are travelers who are LPNs as well. “CNAs can travel, respiratory therapists can travel,” she said. “Most any healthcare profession has travel opportunities.”

Those opportunities come with a few requirements. “We generally say two years of experience is recommended in order to be a traveler,” Pointer said. “Taking that leap and leaving the comfort of your staff job really requires you to be able to be independent as a nurse and function independently.”

Pointer said requirements will vary by hospital, and prospective travelers should research what each hospital is seeking from candidates.

What Does a Travel Nurse Do?

Just as any healthcare profession has travel opportunities, nurses from nearly any specialty are being sought by employers. “In general, all specialties employ travel nurses,” Pointer said. “We’ve seen anything from home health nurses to critical-care nurses to med-surg nurses. Any specialty can travel.”

Last year, Trusted Health surveyed more than 3,300 nurses, more than half of whom …read more

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