Imagine getting on a plane with your carry-on in hand as you prepare to venture to a new state to begin work. This is the life of a travel nurse. As long as you have an RN license and some work experience, this lifestyle could be yours. Travel nurses tend to earn more money than your standard full-time nurse and the perks and bonuses only add to the lucrative nature of this rewarding career.
Before we get to the details of how to become a travel nurse, it is important to answer some frequently asked questions. These usually include:
How long does it take to start a career in travel nursing?
If you are starting from scratch with no nursing school experience, it can take two to four years on average to start your career. Not only do you need schooling, but many employers prefer at least some nursing experience on your resume.
How much do travel nurses earn?
Is it worth becoming a travel nurse?
Absolutely. Along with the ability to earn a six-figure salary, you get to enjoy complete freedom to accept the jobs you want and deny the ones you don’t. You also get to see the country (or the world) while making a difference in patients’ lives.
How to Become a Travel Nurse with No Schooling or Experience
Before you can traverse from place to place performing your nursing duties, you need a nursing education. Employers will sometimes hire you with an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) but many prefer a bachelor’s degree of science in nursing (BSN).
An ADN nursing program can be completed in 20 to 24 months in most cases. A BSN can take around three years or less.
There are exceptions to these rules. If you have a bachelor’s degree in another discipline, there are accelerated programs that will allow you to earn a nursing degree in less time.
Obtaining your ADN or BSN teaches you the skills you need to perform the necessary nursing duties, such as assessing patients, administering medications, charting vital signs, and all the rest. However, you can’t begin working as a nursing professional until you obtain your registered nurse (RN) license. For that, you need to take the NCLEX exam.
Pass the NCLEX Exam to Become a Registered Nurse
When you graduate with a nursing degree in hand, you are ready to take the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN), which is needed to become an official RN in the United States.
Passing the NCLEX exam signifies that you meet the board of nursing requirements in your state. You will then become a registered nurse, allowing you to work in medical facilities like hospitals, physician’s offices, labs, oncology centers, and others.
To become a travel nurse, you will likely need experience working in one of these centers before an employer will consider you for the jaunt to another city or state to begin working.
Gain Experience Working in Your Specialization
In addition to your RN license, you need to become certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Basic Life Support (BLS). These requirements are needed before you can sign up for a travel nurse agency, which is one of the final steps to becoming a travel nurse.
You can also choose to specialize. Doing so can open additional employment opportunities and raise your earning capacity. In order to specialize in a field like surgical, pediatrics, or neonatal care, to give some examples, you may need additional licensing. Most facilities also require you to have at least two years of experience in your field of specialization before you can be considered for travel to another facility in that field.
Apply for a Compact Nursing License
Passing the NCLEX-RN exam certifies you to work in your state. To travel to another state, you will need to apply for an alternate state license. You can also apply for a compact license, which makes traveling to other locales easier as a travel nurse.
The Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) is an agreement between various states that allows registered nurses to hold a single license that is valid in numerous states.
There are currently over thirty states involved in the NLC with the list expanding all the time. The National Council of State Boards is in charge of tracking which states have enacted and implemented the compact agreement.
If you live in a compact state, you can obtain a multistate license in the state where you live and work. What do you do if you don’t live in a compact state? If that’s the case, you’ll have to follow the rules of the other state to obtain a license. Each state has different rules, so check the nursing board of that state to determine the licensing requirements to become a travel nurse.
Apply to Work with a Travel Nurse Staffing Agency
Once You have the necessary education, experience, and credentials, you have almost everything you need to travel and work as a registered nurse. The next step is to apply for an agency, which is how you will find new job opportunities.
There are many travel nurse agencies to choose from. One of the best ways to locate an agency is to ask friends and family who may be nurses to obtain referrals. Some travel nurse agencies offer referral bonuses. By referring you, they may receive a bonus on top of their already great salary.
You can also check rating services and join a professional networking site to determine which agency has everything you are looking for.
The right agency will provide you with:
Job Seeking Assistance
A travel nurse agency should be able to help you fashion your resume and give you tips for interviewing that will make you a shoo-in for the employment opportunities you want. The right agency will get to know you and your career goals so they can match you with the jobs that are perfect for advancing your nursing career.
Exclusive Job Offers
Travel nurse agencies spend time cultivating relationships with medical facility administrators around the country and sometimes the world. This allows the agency to know when new travel nurse jobs become available. Hospitals and other facilities are facing a nursing shortage like never before. Travel nursing is badly needed. These agencies act as go-betweens, matching you with the medical facility that needs your skills and with a company culture that meshes with your personality.
A Dedicated Recruiter
You’ll know you have the right travel agency when you are paired with a recruiter you feel comfortable working with. This professional has experience in the travel nursing field and can help you dress up your resume, interview with confidence, and find new jobs that are perfect matches for your skills and abilities. With a recruiter always in your corner, you will be notified the moment a job listing comes available that you would be perfect for.
Help with Licensure and Certification
If a job listing is posted that seems perfect for you but you don’t have the right license or certification, your recruiter should be able to help. You’ll know you have the right agency when a recruiter can point you in the right direction for obtaining the licensure and certification you need. And especially so if that licensure or certification can be expedited, allowing you to get to work quickly in the new state or facility of your choice.
Help with Negotiating Contracts
The right travel nurse agency will help you negotiate contracts each time a new job becomes available. That way, you can be sure to obtain the salary, bonuses, hours, and other details you prefer instead of getting the short end of the stick. If you were to negotiate all on your own, you may not know where to begin. A recruiter at a reputable staffing agency can help you get the pay and perks you want to push your career forward as opposed to taking steps backward.
Benefits, Bonuses, and Perks
The ideal travel nursing agency will pay you what you feel you are worth. Many of today’s top agencies also provide you with health, vision, and dental insurance, as well as 401k retirement accounts from day one. You also get housing stipends so you can save when securing accommodations, and even travel reimbursements for important expenses while on the move.
Apply with an Award-Winning Travel Nursing Agency
If you are looking for all of the above, and you have the requirements to become a travel nurse, apply today with ProLink Healthcare Staffing.
Award-winning ProLink has spent decades forming relationships with top medical facilities around the country. We offer competitive pay, attractive bonuses, and perks, making us one of the top travel nurse agencies in the country.
But don’t take our word for it. Start your search now by perusing our exclusive job search listings or apply now using our easy online application process.