10 Steps To Become a Travel Nurse

 In Nurses Weekly

Have you met a travel nurse in your unit? If so, you might have heard their stories of adventure, traveling, fun and wondered how you can become a travel nurse. The good news, is any nurse can become a travel nurse. But how? What are the benefits of being a travel nurse? Why does a hospital need travel nurses? These questions and more will be answered in this article.

Why Hospitals Need Travel Nurses

A travel nurse is a nurse who work temporary jobs or assignments. Most assignments are typically 13 weeks long but can vary. You might be asking why a hospital or facility needs travel nurses? There are many reasons why a facility will hire a travel nurse. Here are a few reasons:

  • Specialty Demand. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that August is typically the month with the most babies born. This would result in an increase in demand for L&D nurses during the months leading up to August.
  • Seasonal Demand. States like Arizona and Florida see a seasonal increase in population from snowbirds migrating. This increase in population means hospitals will look to hire travel nurses to prepare for demand.
  • Looking For Skilled Nurses. It can be difficult for some facilities to keep skilled nurses based on the city’s location and pay. To keep skilled nursing specialties on site, hospitals will hire travel nurses.

Due to these reasons and more, hospitals turn to qualified travel nurses for specific periods of time to support the demand.

How To Become A Travel Nurse

There are plenty of benefits of being a travel nurse. From the ability to choose where you work, to being well compensated, to having things like travel and license reimbursed, to having housing paid for. You might be thinking to yourself that this sounds great and you are ready to become a travel nurse. Now what? There are specific requirements that vary by location but you may be surprised at how easy it is to start working in this exciting field.

Step 1) Complete Required Education. The good news is if you are a registered nurse, you already have this step completed. After all, to become a registered nurse you must complete the proper education and at the very least should hold a Bachelor’s degree.

Step 2) Pass The NCLEX Exam. To become a registered nurse and which case a travel nurse, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The NCLEX is developed and administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc (NCSBN).

Step 3) Secure The Proper License. After passing the NCLEX exam, the next step is to determine which state you want to work as a travel nurse. Some states offer compact license so it’s important to see if the state you want to work requires its own license or not. Check out NursingLicensure.org to discover what is required per state to obtain a nursing license.

Step 4) Gain Experience. Most hospitals require a minimum of one-year clinical nursing experience before accepting them as a travel nurse. For the more competitive positions/locations, some hospitals will require two or more years of experience.

Step 5) Select A Travel Nurse Agency. Now that you have your education, exams, and experience completed, the next step is to identify the agency you want to work with. There are a lot of travel nurse agencies out there so it is important to research companies first. Ask any travel nurse friends you have or search online ratings & reviews to find the right agency for you. There are some similarities among travel nurse agencies but there are also several differences. Take some time on this step.

Step 6) Identify Your Tax Home. Travel nursing pay packages almost always include some tax-free compensation. To qualify for this tax-free compensation, you must maintain a tax-home. This is certainly something your travel nurse agency or recruiter can discuss with you to make sure you are properly covered. However, this is a very important step so make sure you are clear before beginning work. Here is some additional information that outlines tax tips for travel nurses.

Step 7) Decide What You Want Out Of Travel Nursing. As a travel nurse, you have so many options. That is why it is important to determine what you want out of travel nursing. Are you motivated by making a lot of money or growing your career? Do you want to work in a specific geographical location or in a certain setting? Be sure to inform your recruiter of your goals so that he or she can find you assignments that fit your needs.

Step 8) Select Your Desired Assignments. After you have identified which state you want to work, you have expressed to your recruiter what you want out of travel nursing, it’s time to select the job you want. Once you get to this step, this is where your recruiter will be able to help you find jobs that fit your needs. The good news is the demand for nurses is very high so you should have no problem finding jobs to choose from. It’s important at this step you prioritize your desired assignments with your recruiter. It’s good to have a favorite, but be sure to allow for a few backup assignments just in case your top choice doesn’t work.

Step 9) Practice Your Interviews. Once you have identified your job and been submitted by your recruiter, the next critical step is the interview. Almost every interview you have for a travel nurse assignment will be done over the phone. Be sure to practice your phone interview and ask your recruiter for any tips.

Step 10) Maintain your CEUs. Some states require a certain number of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to renew your license. If you have a compact license, you only need to maintain your home license requirements. It’s a good habit to stay aware of your CEU requirements but your recruiter can also be a lifeline to remind you. Here is some helpful information on continuing education basics.

(This story originally appeared in Scrubs Magazine.)

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