How to Become a Travel Nurse
If you love to travel and want to see different parts of the country (or even the world), a career as a travel nurse may be perfect for you. Travel nursing offers many benefits, including the ability to see new places, meet new people, and gain valuable experience in a variety of medical settings.
If you are interested in becoming a travel nurse, there’s good news: there are amazing job perks when nurses choose to hit the road and become travel nurses, taking their knowledge to different places in the United States or around the world.
What is a Travel Nurse?
A travel nurse is a registered nurse who works in temporary positions at hospitals and other healthcare facilities. If you had a long-term substitute teacher in school who covered a classroom during a maternity leave or hiring search, you’ve seen someone perform the same professional function as a travel nurse.
Conversely, the usual day-to-day substitute teacher system is mirrored in the nursing world by per diem nursing. These nurses fill in where necessary—usually within driving distance—and their locations can change day-to-day. However unlike per-diem nurses, travel nurses usually enjoy benefits and are guaranteed work every day they’re available.
When a nurse has acquired all the prerequisite licenses and spent a year practicing in their chosen specialty, they can join the ranks of travel nurses.
How Long Do Travel Nurses Stay in One Place?
While the average length of a travel nursing stint is 3-months, positions can be available for as little as 2-3 months or as long as half a year. While they’re there, travel nurses ensure patients receive the highest level of care possible at a fully-staffed facility and help the home team avoid costly mistakes that can occur if they’re rushed or experiencing burnout.
During an average of 3-months spent at each assignment, these mobile professionals help keep medical facilities fully staffed in the face of hiring shortages. For instance, travel nurses often fill in for staff members who are on leave, or other circumstances that see a care center lose a member or members of its core team for a prolonged period of time.
What is the Job Outlook for Travel Nurses?
Travel nurses are in high demand and the job outlook for this career is very positive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for nurses is expected to grow by 9% from 2020-2030. Travel nurses have a bright job outlook in the coming years, as hospitals and healthcare facilities look for ways to improve patient care.
Finding assignments as a travel nurse isn’t difficult, especially if you are sticking to high-demand areas like popular cities. Shortages and patient levels during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic put travel nurses in demand, making it easier to find assignments and get paid more while doing it. Tourist seasons can also influence demand in certain areas.
How Much Are Travel Nurses Paid?
In the United States, the average salary for a travel nurse is $134,064. However, the annual gross salary and compensation for a travel nurse can vary based on demand, location, agency contracted, and department. Generally, travel nurses can expect to receive similar benefits and higher pay when compared to a permanent staff position.
In addition to a salary, a stipend may also be extended to travel nurses to cover expenses like utilities or housing. In addition to stipends, agencies could offer reimbursement for license renewal, bonuses at different points in a contract, insurance to cover you while you work, continuing education, and investment options. Not all positions offer the same incentives, though, so be sure to contact and work with multiple agencies to maximize your options.
Steps to Becoming a Travel Nurse
Travel nurses are in the business of helping people, so they need to be equipped with the right knowledge that allows them to help patients instead of causing further damage. To do that, they undergo a targeted educational program and jump over a number of hurdles as they complete steps to become a travel nurse.
Step 1: Obtain a BSN
If you’re wondering, “How long does it take to become a travel nurse?” The process all starts with completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Many aspiring travel nurses choose to complete a 4-year degree program to receive their BSN. However, practicing nurses with associate degrees can often accelerate on the path towards a BSN by transferring credits.
For nurses interested in advancing their education, it’s worth noting that BSN programs can include built-in tracts toward master’s degrees.
Obtain a License
To receive licensing, you must first show proof of passing a computer-based test that can take up to 6-hours and covers topics like healthcare system logistics, legality, ethics, patient-to-caregiver communications, conditions, and treatment. This affair is known as the National Council Licensure Exam, commonly known as NCLEX.
After passing your NCLEX, you need to become a registered nurse in your state. Requirements can fluctuate between different states. Like education licenses, states can choose whether to recognize or not accept credentials from other states. Before applying to a position, make sure you’re assigned to a state in which you can legally work.
Before becoming a travel nurse, you should acquire at least one year of on-the-job experience before applying for traveling positions. This experience is critical for building your professional experience and reputation, as well as finding a network that will help you land your first travel nurses position.
Find Your First Travel Nurse Position
Once you have obtained the education and experience you need to become a traveling nurse, it is time to take the next step and land your first job.
Your first option is to acquire the services of a travel nursing agency. For a percentage of your pay or bill rate, travel nursing agencies will help place you at assignments and be there to assist with any questions you may have.
Your second option is to research job boards for travel nursing positions. Not only is this option free, it offers you important insight into the salaries and benefits of different companies.
How to Land a Travel Nurse Position
If you’ve completed all the requirements to become a travel nurse or you’re just interested in what’s out there, check out TheJobNetwork’s healthcare job board. You can browse open positions to get an idea of what employers are looking for, or you can choose to apply.
No matter your position on the journey towards becoming a travel nurse, TheJobNetwork has a valuable vault of information to help you find a new assignment or meet your next career goal.
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