10 Ways to Prepare for a Career in Travel Nursing

travelnursingNurses with wanderlust often dream of hitting the open road, and seeing the world. Thanks to the nursing shortage, experienced nurses can do this while remaining employed as a travel nurse for facilities with staffing shortages. Here are 10 Ways to prepare for a career in travel nursing:

#1 Explore travel nursing.

Do you know how many travel nurse blogs there are? Traveling and blogging just seem to go together! Travel nurse blogs are a great way to access quality information from nurses that are currently travel nurses or that have been in the past. (Just remember to complete Tip #3. Ultimately, it your decision as to which company you work for.) Here are a few resources to check out:

  • The Gypsy Nurse shares tips about “How To Travel For A Living As a Gypsy Nurse” on her website. This is a huge community of travel nurses and resources. In fact, The Gypsy Nurse just finished up at #TravCon2014 (Oh yeah, travel nursing is so popular it has its own “con”!).
  • Travel Nursing Blogs has articles and tools of interest to current and future travel nurses.
  • Highway Hypodermics believes that “Travel Nurses Make A Difference, One Hospital At A Time”.
  • Go Travel Nursing offers some practical advice on getting started.
  • CrzeGrl is a flight nurse that goes all over the world. Follow crzegrl on her blog.

#2 Network with current travel nurses.

Talk with nurses that are currently traveling. If you do not 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. Alternatively, you could reach out to travel nurses on social media.

#3 Research travel nurse companies.

After exploring travel nursing, and networking with others, do your own homework. Do not make a commitment to one company right away. Keep your options open until you find the right company and recruiter. Companies 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 own interests and stand firm.

#4 Don’t burn your bridges.

Think ahead. If you are planning a career as a travel nurse, do not 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 do not like this area of nursing.

#5 Consider becoming a float nurse at your current job.

Travel nursing requires that a nurse be comfortable in strange 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 co-workers? Are you perturbed that the patient’s rooms are not in a familiar layout? Or, would you view these issues as a challenge instead of being frustrated? Remember when you are out on assignment, you will be in a totally unfamiliar facility. Everything will probably be different, from the flow of parking to the computer system. If you do not 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 companies offer a housing allowance. However, there will be expenses to pay for 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 and know what is included in your travel nurse contract and what is not. A savings account provides a cushion until your first paycheck arrives.

#7 Gain specialty experience in needed areas.

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

#8 Obtain specialty nurse certification.

You will increase your potential career worth by not only diversifying your areas of expertise, but by obtaining 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 (BLS) and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) are needed by all nurses in order to work in most facilities. Also, be sure and obtain basic certifications that are required for nurses working in a specialty. For example, in pediatrics areas you will need Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) 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. So be sure and keep a portfolio of immunizations, flu shots, and TB skin tests. Be sure that you can find it at all times if requested.

Are you currently a travel nurse or have been one in the past? What are some of the best tips you would give a nurse that is preparing for a career in travel nursing? Feel free to comment below. 


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