Nursing & Health

How to Become a Travel Nurse

nurse helping an old patient

Are you passionate about nursing and exploring new places? Does your sense of adventure make you yearn for fresh experiences and challenges? Or perhaps you feel inspired by other nurses and want to know the world. If so, becoming a traveling nurse might be the perfect career choice for you. Here, we will explore what it means to be a travel nurse, how to become one, and the exciting opportunities that await you in this dynamic profession.

What Is a Travel Nurse?

A travel nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who is hired on a temporary basis by healthcare facilities in various locations across the country or even internationally. These assignments typically last from 8 to 13 weeks, providing travel nurses with the chance to work in diverse healthcare settings, from hospitals and clinics to long-term care facilities and more.

The Role of a Travel Nurse

Travel nurses play a crucial role in addressing staffing shortages in healthcare facilities. They step in to provide quality patient care during peak demand periods, staff vacations, or when facilities need specialized skills. Travel nurses are expected to adapt quickly to new environments, collaborate effectively with different healthcare teams, and provide excellent patient care.

What to Expect as a Traveling Nurse

As a travel nurse, you can expect a dynamic and rewarding career that offers both professional growth and financial benefits. Travel nurses are in high demand across the United States due to nurse shortages, creating an environment of high job security. Understanding what the day-to-day life of a travel nurse looks like and what you can expect to be paid can help you determine if this is the right career path for you.

A Day in the Life of a Travel Nurse

The day-to-day life of a travel nurse is both dynamic and fulfilling. Daily tasks closely resemble those of full-time staff nurses — delivering patient care, administering medications, monitoring vital signs, and collaborating with other healthcare professionals.

However, travel nurses must quickly acclimate to new hospital systems and protocols, build rapport with unfamiliar colleagues, and provide high-quality care to diverse patient populations. Most of the time, the initial days of your nursing assignment will be dedicated to orientation, where you’ll receive a comprehensive briefing on the hospital or clinic's procedures and policies.

Travel Nurse Salary Expectations

The salary of a travel nurse can vary significantly depending on several factors, including location, experience, specialty, and the specific travel nursing agency or healthcare facility they work with. On average, travel nurses tend to earn higher salaries than their full-time counterparts, with the potential for additional bonuses, housing stipends, and other perks.

The average registered nurse (RN) weekly pay is $1,562, but travel nurses can make almost 40% more with an average weekly pay of $2,138. In states such as California and New York, the weekly pay can reach as high as $6,000 or more.

Steps to Becoming a Travel Nurse

Becoming a travel nurse is an exciting and fulfilling career path, allowing you to combine your passion for nursing with a sense of adventure. There are several steps that need to be taken to ensure a successful and rewarding career in healthcare on the move.

1. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

The minimum requirement to become a travel nurse is holding a registered nurse (RN) license. While an associate degree in nursing (ADN) suffices, most travel nurse staffing agencies and healthcare clients prefer candidates with a BSN. BSN programs typically take four years to complete, although RNs with an ADN can explore RN-to-BSN programs to advance their qualifications. High school graduates interested in nursing should focus on math, science, and chemistry coursework to meet BSN program prerequisites.

2. Pass the NCLEX Exam

To become a licensed RN, you must successfully pass the National Council Licensure Exam for RNs (NCLEX-RN). This computer-adaptive exam covers a wide range of topics, including nursing practice, healthcare systems, legal and ethical issues, and patient communication and education. The exam can take up to six hours.

3. Obtain Compact Nursing Licensure

Licensing requirements vary by state. Some states participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), where an RN license earned in one state is valid in others under the NLC agreement. However, many states have their own licensing criteria, making it necessary to apply for licensure in multiple states if you plan to travel extensively. Fortunately, travel nursing agencies can assist you with this process. Keep in mind that board certifications remain valid across states.

4. Gain Nursing Experience

Most travel nursing assignments require a minimum of one year of RN experience. Gaining valuable experience in various clinical settings will make you a more attractive candidate for travel nurse positions. Some ways to get this experience include volunteer work, internships, shadowing, and part-time nursing roles. Determining a nursing specialty can also help you gain valuable experience in the field you’re most interested in as a travel nurse.

5. Find a Travel Nurse Staffing Agency for Employment

Travel nurse staffing agencies are instrumental in connecting you with exciting opportunities. These agencies specialize in placing travel nurses in assignments that match their skills and preferences. Many nursing schools offer assistance in connecting graduates with reputable travel nurse staffing agencies. Alternatively, you can independently research and choose agencies that align with your career goals.

Your Gateway to a Rewarding Career as a Travel Nurse at UMass Global

In the world of healthcare, becoming a traveling nurse is a unique and rewarding journey. The path to becoming a travel nurse involves dedication, education, and a commitment to making a positive impact on patients' lives. With a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, RN licensure, relevant experience, and the support of travel nurse staffing agencies, you can embark on a career that offers both professional growth and financial stability.

A BSN not only expands your knowledge and skills, but also enhances travel nurse opportunities, allowing you to take on more challenging roles and command higher compensation.

Explore our nursing programs and get started on your road to traveling nursing today.

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