How to become a travel nurse
In the Beginning
I started my travel nursing career exactly 12 months ago. I played around with the idea back in 2016, but decided to give myself a little more time in my hometown. What exactly is a travel nurse? What do travel nurses do? How do you get paid? Where do you live while you’re working? A plethora of questions filled my mind while considering the career change. Looking back…
IT WAS ABSOLUTELY THE BEST DECISION I MADE IN MY CAREER AS A NURSE.
It was the change that I needed.
The Burn Out
Working as a nurse can and will pull everything out of you. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically. So as I kept doing the work at the bedside, I felt myself becoming more and more drained with each 12+ hour shift. Burn out is real!
Was my run as a registered nurse coming to an end already?
It wasn’t quite clear at the time. But all I needed was space. I wasn’t at the position to go on a complete hiatus but travel nursing came in as a close second.
An opportunity to take short-term assignments while being able to travel? And take breaks when I needed to? Where do I sign up?
Contracts & Things
A travel nurse is contracted through a travel nursing agency to fill in where that specific hospital may have a need. You still have to comply with each hospital’s requirements, but you work for the agency. This unique opportunity is open to essentially nurses of all specialties. Ranging from Med/Surg, Telemetry, ICU (Intensive Care Unit), Pediatrics, Labor & Delivery, NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) just to name a few.
Most agencies require 2 years of experience. However, there are agencies that are allowing nurses with just 1 year of experience to apply for a travel nursing position. Your experience as a registered nurse when starting your contract is crucial. The orientation process is abbreviated. My orientation period for both the hospital and unit that I have been assigned to range between 1-3 days.
An average contract for a travel nurse is 13 weeks. There are shorter contracts available although they are not as common. Once your contract with that particular hospital is over. You can choose to renew or extend your contract.
To Leave or Not to Leave
Whether or not you decide to extend your contract is entirely up to you. Your goal may be to see as many places as possible and to live the nomadic lifestyle. Or perhaps your goal is to increase your salary (travel nursing can give you the potential to make more- more on that later). Either way, the options are endless. I choose to take more of a slow travel approach as I find that I can save more by not moving around as frequently. I do take advantage of my option to renew and complete at least 2 contracts which is equivalent to about 6 months.
Choosing the Right Agency
There are tons of travel nursing agencies out there. Tons. So finding the right agency is key. Most of them offer a referral incentive program in which once you refer a nurse to apply through them- you get paid! You both get paid. My good friend from college began her travel nursing journey with NurseChoice and referred me to her recruiter Brennan Testa. From there I completed the necessary steps to become a travel nurse through that particular company.
Does Size Matter
There are both small and large companies. All of which offer different reasons why they’re considered to be the best. Smaller companies tend to cater to the traveler and that they may not have as many nurses that they’re managing simultaneously. You’re not just a number. While other companies are larger but perhaps because they’ve been around longer- may have more options for your contracts.
Keep in mind though a large company doesn’t mean they’re more reputable. A small company doesn’t mean they’re more attentive.
Perspective Is Everything
The key to remember- is that you are the prize. The nurse and agency relationship is a partnership.
You are the traveler that is going to work at the hospital. It is through you that the traveling agency is represented. They get paid when you get paid. So be sure that you choose a travel nursing agency that is right for you.
What do you want to know about travel nursing?
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