7 Steps to Become a Successful Travel Nurse

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Travel nurses are registered nurses hired by organizations to fill staffing needs in various medical facilities. 

A travel nurse can pursue their career while still being able to meet new people, live in different areas, have novel experiences, and have a CV that includes experience at numerous medical facilities. 

There are steps you have to take to become a successful travel nurse, which are: 

nurse in medical frontliner uniform

Know what a travel nurse does

The first and foremost thing you have to do to become a successful travel nurse is to decide whether the career path is right for you. The only way to do that is to know precisely what travel nurses jobs entail. A travel nurse works for independent staffing companies in the US or other countries.

The companies will hire registered nurses to fill vacancies in hospitals. Hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities can have a hard time finding enough nurses to fulfill their staffing needs. Hence, they will contact the staffing companies to provide them with the nurses they need.

A travel nurse will typically sign a temporary work contract with a staffing agency that can last for several days or months or until they find other opportunities. As a travel nurse, you can turn a temporary position into a permanent one if you find a job you want.

Get a degree

Once you know what role a travel nurse plays in the medical world, you can proceed to get the academic qualifications necessary for the job. 

To become a travel nurse, you will have to complete an associate or bachelor’s degree from an accredited nursing program. There are various paths to becoming a fully qualified travel nurse, depending on where you undertake your education. 

For example, there are bridge programs for licensed vocational or practical nurses to earn a BSN degree which you can complete in 28 months. The main goal is to get an associate or a bachelor’s degree, after which most companies and medical facilities will consider you a qualified travel nurse.

Pass the licensing exam

Even though you are a qualified nurse, you will need to pass the licensing exam for you to be able to practice your craft. Once you graduate with an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing, you can take the licensing exam. 

Taking the National Council Licensure Exam or NCLEX-RN exam will ensure that you are a registered nurse in the US. 

After passing the exam, you will be required to meet the board of nursing requirements in the state where you sat for the exam. If the board approves of you, you will become a registered nurse and are ready to practice. 

Gain experience

After becoming a registered nurse, you will have a license to practice, but you need to start gaining some real-life experience to become a travel nurse. However, getting your license is not enough. 

To become a travel nurse, you also need to have a certification in Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS). 

You may need additional licensing if you decide to focus on a particular nursing specialty such as pediatrics, surgical, or trauma. 

Most medical institutions will require you to have at least two years of experience in your specialty before you can work for them. Your experience will determine the positions you can qualify for as a travel nurse.

The two years of experience also allows you to specialize in an area and take the certification exam. Doing so will increase the opportunities available to you. Hospitals will want an experienced nurse with advanced training in a particular specialty.

Get a compact nursing license

You need to have a license to work in a particular state to be a registered nurse. That would mean getting multiple permits to work in numerous states for travel nurses. 

However, the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) allows nurses only to have a single license but work in multiple states. The license is based on an agreement between various states, meaning you will not be able to work in all states. 

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing is responsible for tracking the states that have agreed to enact the NLC. If you want to work in a state that is part of the NLC, all you need is one license. 

On the other hand, if you’re going to work for a state that is not part of the NLC, you will have to get a nursing license for that particular state.

Join a travel nurse staffing company

With your education, certification, and license ready, you still have some way to go before becoming a travel nurse. To become a travel nurse, you will need to apply for a position with a staffing agency. 

You will need to find the agency that best suits you. Having a good nursing resume should be a priority at this stage. 

Checking out a rating service where other travel nurses have rated the travel nurse staffing agencies they have worked with is a great resource to find an agency. 

Referrals from your travel nurses colleagues can also be immensely helpful as you can have personal experiences. Networking sites for nurses will generate good leads to help you get in touch with various agencies and recruiters. 

Start working

Once you find a suitable travel nurse staffing agency and have all the appropriate paperwork, it is time to find work. Your agency should be able to get you interviews in places with vacancies. Based on how you do, you will get a position at a medical institution. 

Ensure you discuss all the necessary terms with the organization before accepting the position, such as housing, salary, benefits, etc. A travel nurse’s job is on contract, but you can have a full-time position after the contract expires. 

As you can see, the journey to becoming a travel nurse is an arduous one. However, if you successfully become a travel nurse, the world is your oyster. You can work anywhere you please, and the rewards are great too. 

There is always demand for registered nurses worldwide, so you will not lack work. Being a travel nurse is an exciting adventure, and this article should give you enough information to take the first step.

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