How to Become a Traveling Nurse
Traveling nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who are paid to travel and work in a hospital setting on a temporary basis anywhere from a few months to a year. Traveling nurses are generally well compensated and have their accommodations, health care benefits, and travel expenses covered by their employer. Traveling nurses are required to have same skills and certifications of a typical RN, but they must also be highly adaptable to varying working conditions. This article provides information about how to become a traveling nurse.
Becoming Educated and Gaining Experience
Research careers in nursing.Before embarking upon a degree or program certification in nursing, it is a good idea to make sure this career suits your goals and interests. Do research online about what it's like to be a traveling nurse and speak to nurses about what they do on a daily basis so you can determine if you are suited to this career path.
- If possible, seek volunteer opportunities in local clinics or hospitals so you can experience firsthand the work environment of a nursing career. This is the best way to figure out whether you like the job before you pursue it.
- Consider the pros and cons of having a career that requires you to move around frequently. Some people may love nursing but want a more stable lifestyle, in which case a career as a traveling nurse might not be for them.
Seek an RN training program.The first step to becoming a traveling nurse is to acquire the education and skills necessary to enter the profession. Research nursing programs in your area that are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).The following are three common ways to go about becoming trained as a nurse:
- Apply for a hospital diploma program. These training programs are only offered by some hospitals and are designed to provide the minimum required training to take your nursing board exams. In order to gain RN certification using this method, you must already be a licensed professional nurse (LPN).
- Obtain an associate's degree in nursing. These two-year community college programs include both classes and hands-on training to prepare you for nursing board exams.
- Receive a 4-year Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. These programs are offered at universities and colleges. Although this method is more time-consuming and costly than the alternatives, nurses with a college education are likely to be afforded the best advancement opportunities and wages. A longer degree program may also allow you to train in a specialty field such as surgery, psychiatry, or physical rehabilitation.
Take and pass the nursing board exams.After you complete an accredited training/education program, submit your application to be tested by the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).You will need to pay the applicable fees and submit your application along with passport photos and fingerprints.
- You may wish to enroll in a NCLEX-RN exam preparatory course in order to increase bolster your test-taking skills and knowledge of the material. These courses can be taken in-person or online and are offered by private companies like Kaplan.
- The NCLEX-RN exam is conducted at designated facilities and is entirely computer-based.Time allotment is 6 hours, with two optional breaks; be sure to prepare accordingly.
Work for 12 months or more as a RN.The experience level required in order to be hired as a traveling nurse varies by staffing company, but can be anywhere from one to three years. Although your work experience does not have to be in a hospital setting, this is more likely to get you a job as a traveling nurse, as they tend to mostly work in hospitals.
- Apply to nursing positions at all major hospitals in your area. It might also be a good idea to apply to smaller clinics and medical practices to maximize your options.
- If you have a Bachelor's degree and are trained in a medical specialty field, you can also seek employment with specialized practices that match your skills and background. Just keep in mind that you will be more hireable and have a larger range of options to choose from if your experience includes a variety of work.
Applying to Staffing Agencies
Arrange a flexible living situation.Traveling nurses must be able to pick up and move to a new location, often in another state, with relatively little notice. It is important that you already be in a situation that allows you to do this once you have registered with a staffing agency. People who have young children or other responsibilities that require them to remain close to home should not pursue work as a traveling nurse.
- Enlist friends, trusted neighbors, or family to help take care of things for you while you are away. This might include entering your home at least once a week to ensure that everything is in good shape. Because your assignments can last up to a year, you should keep your requests to a minimum so as not to overburden the person.
- Do not keep plants or animals that require frequent care, or be prepared to give them away if you need to leave home.
- Arrange for unnecessary utilities or home services to be canceled while you are away (such as cable television and internet). This will allow you to avoid incurring charges for things you won't use while on assignment elsewhere.
- Have mail stopped or forwarded to your new location.
Research traveling nurse staffing companies.Search for agencies online that specialize in or exclusively deal with traveling nurse staffing. Lists of these companies can also be found on nursing career websites.Call agencies of interest and ask to speak to a recruiter about what the staffing company has to offer.
- As demand for traveling nurses is currently on the rise, most staffing companies offer highly competitive pay. Maintain an information spreadsheet for that includes pay rate, health care offerings, 401K contributions, average assignment lengths, placement rates, housing options, and the number of jobs currently available for each of your top agency picks. Compare at least four or five companies before choosing the best staffing agency for your needs.
- If possible, talk to other traveling RNs about what it's like to work for specific staffing agencies. An experienced traveling nurse can give you a new perspective on what questions to ask and what to look for when getting started in your new career.
Apply to your top few agency choices.The demand for traveling nurses is relatively high, so your chances of being hired by the company of your choice are good. Nonetheless, it is a good idea to keep you options open by applying with multiple companies, even though you can only work for one. You will be required to complete a skills checklist and reference request in addition to your actual application.
- Do not be afraid to negotiate your terms of employment. Salary and benefits are usually flexible for traveling nurses, so ask for what you think you deserve (within reason).
- Be as comprehensive as possible in completing your skills checklist, but do not lie. You may have more placement options with a longer list of skills, but it is important that you not embellish your abilities.
Speak with your agency recruiter.Once hired by a staffing company, a traveling nurse is assigned to a personal recruiter whose job is to assist his traveling nurse clients with job placement throughout their careers.Once you choose which staffing company you would like to work for, review the location and employment options available to you with your recruiter.
- Be clear to your recruiter about your requirements. If there are certain places you wish to avoid being assigned, it is best to communicate this information to him or her early on. This will ensure that you are matched to assignments that suit your needs.
- Understand that your recruiter can only work with what is available to him. Sometimes you may have to accept positions that are less than ideal if you wish to work.
Working as a Traveling Nurse
Choose an available position and interview at the facility.Before accepting nurses, most hospitals and clinics will want to conduct a telephone interview to make sure you are a good fit for the job. Your recruiter will help prepare you for the interview to improve your chances of successfully securing a position.
- Although you may not always be able to find a position in the exact city or town of your choice, you are very likely to at least find work in the whatever state or region you wish.
- You are not obligated to accept a position for which you have interviewed, but it is good practice to be reasonably certain that you want the job before you apply. This will ensure that a good relationship is maintained between your staffing agency and their affiliates.
Accept a position.Your recruiter, your agency's housing board, and your destination facility will then work together to make arrangements for your arrival. Your recruiter will help you complete any paperwork that is needed in order to satisfy applicable state and federal employment laws.
- All states require licensure to practice as a registered nurse, the requirements differ with each state. This is a good reason to tell your recruiter early on about any desired work locations, as he can then ensure that you acquire whatever licenses or clearances your target state may require. You can also contact the State Board of Nursing in the state where you plan to practice to find out the requirements to fulfill in order to be licensed.
- It is sometimes possible to acquire a single "compact" license that will cover numerous states.For example, the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) currently covers 25 states.
- It can take time to obtain required licenses, so factor this into your timeframes when applying to positions in states with requirements you do not already meet.
Begin your assignment.Your staffing agency will arrange for your transportation so that you don't have to worry about making these plans yourself. Some jobs may be indefinite, in which case the duration of your stay will be uncertain at the start. At the end of your job, you may be offered a chance to renew (circumstances depending). Alternatively, you can begin working with your recruiter again to find your next placement.
- Keep in touch with your agency recruiter regarding your position. Let him know if things are not going well or you are experiencing problems with your living situation. It is in your agency's best interests to keep you satisfied, so they will help you with any problems you happen to encounter with your assignment.
- If you do know how long your assignment will be, you should begin working with your recruiter before your current position ends to find your next job and make the transition between the two as smooth as possible.
Periodically re-evaluate your staffing agency.Ask yourself from time to time whether you are getting what you need out of your current staffing company. Do they pay what you deserve? Are they able to find you positions in locations agreeable to you? Do you get along with your recruiter? If you are not satisfied with your current agency, consider joining a different company.
- It may be difficult to quit your agency while in the middle of an assignment. If possible (and if your situation is not require immediate changes), wait until you are between positions to make this move.
- Talk to your recruiter and agency administrators if you have concerns. They may be willing to remedy whatever issues you are experiencing in order to keep you on. Remember that you are valuable and may have more pull than you think!
QuestionHow long will it take to become a traveling nurse?
Registered NurseRegistered NurseExpert AnswerAfter passing the nursing board exam and obtaining licensure to practice as a registered nurse, you should expect to get at least 1 ½ years clinical experience before being considered for a travel nurse position. Travel nurses are expected to be very experienced and knowledgeable in the given specialty for which they are being hired.Thanks!
- If you are a citizen of another country who wishes to work as a traveling nurse in the United States or Canada, you will need to obtain a work visa for your destination country. In the U.S., you may also need to be certified through CGNFS prior to taking the NCLEX-RN exam.
- The life of a traveling nurse can be difficult or lonely if you have a hard time adjusting to new situations and places. Make sure you aren't giving up anything important to you by entering into this career path.
Video: HOW TO BECOME A TRAVEL NURSE!
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