10 Ways to Prepare for a Career in Travel Nursing

NurseJournal Staff
Updated October 10, 2023
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    Travel nursing can be an exciting way to earn money while seeing the world. Explore advice and tips on how to succeed as a travel nurse.
    Featured ImageCredit: wsfurlan | E+ | Getty Images

    Life as a travel nurse can be tremendously rewarding, letting you see the country or the world. You can even live as a snowbird, working in warm climates during the winter and moderate ones during the summer.

    There are potential downsides, however, like the stress of travel, always adapting to new workplaces, and maintaining relationships with loved ones. Read on to learn the tips and tricks of personal, career, and financial success as a travel nurse.

    1. Explore Travel Nursing

    Travel nurse blogs are a great way to learn about travel nursing, what to expect, what to watch out for, and the pros and cons.

    American Traveler is a blog for travel nurses, written by one of the top travel nursing agencies. It’s full of advice for travel nurses, especially ones who are new to travel nursing. Topics include adapting to life on the road, geographic locations that need travel nurses, and how to get started as a travel nurse.

    Jackson Nurse Professionals is another top travel nursing agency with practical advice for travel nurses. Recent topics include winter locations for travel nursing, maintaining relationships while on assignment, and popular podcasts for travel nurses.

    The Traveling Nurse covers the world travels of a pediatric nurse and mixes travel observations with advice for travel nurses.

    The Traveling NP blog is written by a nurse practitioner who discusses career issues such as relationships with recruiters, traveling during COVID-19, and networking. She shares personal stories, recommendations for best hotels and travel credit cards, and her experiences at different work sites.

    The Fabuleux Nurse blog is a compelling personal story of a traveling nurse who has multiple sclerosis. She informs and inspires, describing her life as a traveling nurse, coping strategies for stress, and career and lifestyle tips.

    2. Network With Current Travel Nurses

    Talk with nurses who are currently traveling. If you don’t know any travel nurses to network with, ask your nurse friends if any of their friends are travel nurses. If so, ask for an introduction so that you can get the inside scoop. Invite them out to dinner or coffee, as a return favor for being informally interviewed. Another option is to reach out to travel nurses on social media.

    You can also try coordinating your first assignment with a friend or travel nurse who has already worked on your unit. Having one familiar face could make a big difference as hospital staff will all be new to you.

    3. Research Travel Nursing Agencies

    After exploring travel nursing, and networking with others, do homework on travel agencies. Don’t make a commitment to one agency right away. Keep your options open until you find the right company and recruiter. Travel nursing agencies vary in rules, benefits, and assignment quality. Be honest and forthright with pushy recruiters who may want you to commit from the beginning. Tell them that you are looking out for your own interests and stand firm.

    4. Don’t Burn Your Bridges

    Think ahead. If you are planning a career as a travel nurse, don’t burn your bridges to your former places of employment. For example, you may wish to return to your old job if you decide to take a break or decide you don’t like this area of nursing.

    5. Consider Becoming a Float Nurse at Your Current Job

    Travel nursing requires that a nurse be comfortable in different hospitals while performing their job with skill and ease. One way to simulate a travel nurse experience is to become a float nurse at your present job.

    • Do you hate to float because supplies are in an unfamiliar spot?
    • Don’t know your coworkers?
    • Are you upset that the patients’ rooms are not in a familiar layout?
    • Are you used to a specific nurse to patient ratio?
    • Or, would you view these issues as a challenge instead of being frustrated?

    Remember when you are on assignment, you will be in an unfamiliar facility. Everything will probably be different, from the flow of parking to the computer system. If you don’t float in your own facility comfortably, you may want to reconsider travel nursing (or at least have a backup plan).

    6. Have a Savings Account

    Most travel nursing agencies offer a housing allowance or furnished housing. However, there will be expenses to pay upfront, even if they reimburse you. It is not a pleasant feeling to be in an unfamiliar place without cash as a safety net.

    • What if you arrive at your prearranged housing only to discover it is inadequate?
    • Do you have money set aside for a hotel room until your accommodations are replaced?
    • How about the water, sewage, and electricity deposits? Will you need to cover them or does the company?
    • Will you need to connect cable, internet, and TV?

    Be sure to know what is included in your travel nurse contract and what is not. A savings account gives you a cushion until your first paycheck arrives.

    7. Gain Specialty Experience in Needed Areas

    As preparation for a travel nurse career, consider gaining nursing specialty experience in areas that travel nurses are most needed, or even a couple of different areas. The more versatile your skills are, the more options for assignments and locations you will have.

    8. Earn Specialty Nurse Certification

    You will increase your potential career worth by not only diversifying your areas of expertise, but by earning specialty nurse certification in those areas. It could set you apart when applying to popular travel hot spots and assignments.

    9. Keep Your Basic Certifications Up to Date

    Basic life support and advanced cardiovascular life support are needed by all nurses to work in most facilities. Also, be sure to get basic certifications that are required for nurses working in a specialty. For example, in pediatrics you will need pediatric advanced life support certification.

    10. Keep Your Medical Records Portfolio Up to Date

    Different travel agencies have different ways of handling medical records that are required for the nurse’s assignment sites. Be sure to keep a portfolio of immunizations, flu shots, and tuberculosis skin tests handy at all times, if requested.

    Related Resources

    Reviewed by:

    Portrait of Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC

    Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC

    Brandy Gleason is a nursing professional with nearly 20 years of varied nursing experience. Gleason currently teaches as an assistant professor of nursing within a prelicensure nursing program and coaches graduate students. Her passion and area of research centers around coaching nurses and nursing students to build resilience and avoid burnout.

    Gleason is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.

    Featured Image: wsfurlan / E+ / Getty Images

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