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You’re enjoying your growing career as a nurse, but lately, you feel the need for something more. You love your coworkers, patients, and the fast-paced environment, but sometimes you feel stagnant in your current habitat and yearn for excitement and change. 

A coworker from your unit is leaving to become a travel nurse, and your mind churns with all the possibilities and maybe a hint of envy. 

The job flexibility, the pay, and a new city every few months — the next thing you know you are pulling a suitcase out of storage just in case. You’ve finally made up your mind and want to pursue a career as a travel nurse. Consider that the first step, but what is next?

In this guide, we outline how long it takes to become a travel nurse, the necessary steps and requirements, and how you can immediately access a variety of travel nurse jobs across the nation. 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

becoming a travel nurse

 

How Do You Become A Travel Nurse? 

A travel nurse is an RN (registered nurse) who is hired on a contract basis to fill a short-term medical staffing necessity.

Typically, the average travel nursing assignment is 13 weeks long, with the possibility of extending a contract. Some contracts may be as long as a year and as short as two weeks. It generally depends on the needs of the facility and the travel nursing agency. 

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we offer travel nursing contracts that are six, eight, or 13 weeks long with the possibility of extended contracts. 

Travel nurses have the opportunity to work in all sorts of healthcare facilities, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Outpatient facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Schools
  • In-home care
  • Correctional facilities 
  • Insurance companies

As a traveling nurse, you may be called upon to fill various staffing needs, which can encompass:

  • Filling in gaps between full-time nursing hires 
  • Acting as supplemental nursing staff during the holidays 
  • Covering for regular staff who may be out temporarily for personal reasons or health-related issues
  • Offering additional assistance during the flu season
  • Meeting critical staffing deficits in hard-to-fill positions
  • Providing any needed extra staffing support during busy times such as natural disasters or pandemics

 

How Long Does It Take To Become a Traveling Nurse?

How long does it take to be a traveling nurse?

The education requirements for travel nurse positions include two to four years of education, depending upon the path you choose to become a registered nurse. 

However, experience is another factor that should be accounted for when calculating how long it takes to become a travel nurse. 

 

Requirements To Become a Traveling Nurse

The first requirement in meeting the qualifications to become a travel nurse is to become a registered nurse.

A registered nurse is a nurse who has:

  • Graduated from a nursing program; and
  • Obtained a nursing license by meeting the requirements set forth by their state 

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, the top high-demand registered nurse specialties with the best rates of pay in 2023 are:

  • Pain management 
  • Neuroscience 
  • Respiratory 
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Labor and delivery
  • Geriatric 
  • Rheumatology 
  • Palliative care 
  • Orthopedic 

The review also placed travel nursing as the eighth highest-paying nursing job in 2023.

Trusted Nurse Staffing has innovated the process of finding high-paying travel nurse positions across the country. 

With Pronto, we help nurses find their dream travel nurse jobs at the touch of a button. Search specific specialties, destinations, length of contracts, and more through Pronto powered by Trusted Nurse Staffing.

 

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5 Steps To Becoming a Travel Nurse

 

#1: Receive an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or Bachelor of Science in Nursing 

The first thing you will need to do to be a travel nurse is become a registered nurse.

There are two paths you may follow to meet the educational requirements of travel nursing. 

First, you can choose to get an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). An ADN is:

  • A two-year nursing degree
  • Offered by community colleges and nursing schools
  • The quickest way to become a registered nurse
  • Less expensive than a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Alternatively, you may opt to get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Keep in mind:

  • A BSN can take up to 4 years to complete.
  • A nurse who obtains a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree has a higher level of training in clinical skills than a nurse who has an ADN.
  • Nurses receiving a BSN get additional training in the areas of management, research, and leadership. 
  • A BSN has a higher earning potential than an ADN. 
  • Holding a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree qualifies you to pursue a number of additional positions, such as:
    • Nurse educator 
    • Public health nurse
    • Chief nursing officer
    • Healthcare manager
    • Nurse administrator 
    • Director of Nursing
    • Nursing informatics 
    • Telemedicine nursing
    • Legal nurse consultant
    • Pharmaceuticals

 

Can You Become a Travel Nurse Right Out of College?

Unfortunately, you cannot become a travel nurse right out of college.

Healthcare facilities and travel nurse agencies generally prefer their travel nurses to have at least one to two years of experience in the nursing profession. 

Travel nursing requires nurses to adapt to new hospitals and environments, a skill that a brand-new nurse may not acquire until having one or two years of nursing experience. 

 

#2: Pass The NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) Exam

Once you are a qualified registered nurse, the next step in becoming a travel nurse is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX.

The NCLEX

  • Is a nationwide exam that oversees the licensing of nurses in the United States, Australia, and Canada. Applicants may sit for the NCLEX in any state, regardless of where they would like to practice. 
  • Was designed to test the skills, knowledge, and abilities nurses must exhibit to safely and effectively practice nursing at the basic level.
  • Is administered by The National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. (NCSBN).
  • Covers a wide range of material, and nurses are scored according to their ability to think critically about decisions they will need to make involving patient care.

There are two different types of NCLEX exams: 

  • NCLEX-RN for registered nurses
  • NCLEX-PN for practical or vocational nurses

The NCLEX must be passed to gain your registered nursing license. 

 

be a travel nurse

 

#3: Become Licensed In Your State 

Once you pass the NCLEX-RN, you will be ready to apply to your state’s Board of Nursing (BON) to obtain your nursing license. 

The nursing licensure process can vary between states. The general components of your nursing licensure application may include:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Verification of successful completion of NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN examination
  • In some states, a background check
  • Verification of graduation or eligibility for graduation from an approved pre-licensure RN or LPN/VN nursing education program

Once you have all the above-mentioned components, you are ready to send your nursing transcripts, application, and fees to the Board of Nursing in your state.

The Board of Nursing will then examine evidence to ensure that you meet the qualifications for that state’s Nurse Practice Act (NPA). 

Just think of the NPA as your book of nursing rules.

Each state has its own Nurse Practice Act nurses must learn and live by when working as registered nurses in that state. 

The Nurse Practice Act ensures that all registered nurses are both qualified and competent in their jobs. While NPA qualifications vary from state to state, they may require proof of: 

  • Proficiency in the English language 
  • Sound mental and physical health 
  • Upstanding moral character
  • A criminal background check to ensure an absence of any felony convictions 

 

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The Nursing Licensure Compact 

But what if you obtained your nursing license in one state and want to be a travel nurse in a different state?

This is where the Nurse Licensure Compact, or NLC, can be a great asset.

The Nursing License Compact allows nurses in some states to hold a multi-state license, allowing them to practice in their home state and other compact states. 

Currently, 41 states have enacted NLC legislation. States and U.S. jurisdictions that have partial NLC legislation include:

  • Washington
  • Guam

The states and U.S. jurisdictions that have pending NLC legislation are:

  • Alaska 
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New York 
  • Rhode Island
  • Virgin Islands

The states and U.S. jurisdictions that are currently not included in the Nursing Licensure Compact are:

  • American Samoa
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Mariana Islands
  • Nevada 
  • Oregon

To qualify for a compact nursing license, you must be a current resident of a compact license state.

Once you have obtained your license in a compact license state, you’re able to expand your license into additional states. Keep in mind that there may be fees and other requirements that vary from state to state.

 

Licensure By Endorsement

But what if you live in a state that does not participate in compact nurse licensing? 

If that is the case, you will have to apply for licensure by endorsement to the Board of Nursing in the state in which you would like to practice.

Keep in mind that the requirements for nursing licensure by endorsement will vary from state to state, so be sure to check the state’s Board of Nursing for the requirements and materials needed to apply for one.

 

#4: Gain Nursing Experience

Once you complete the education requirements for travel nurse positions at the minimum, facilities will want to see that you have at least one year of practical work experience before they will consider hiring you. 

Generally, most facilities prefer their travel nurses to have at least two years of nursing experience. For more advanced nursing specialties, you may need two or more years of experience before you can become a travel nurse. 

 

how do you become a travel nurse

 

#5: Find a Travel Nurse Staffing Agency You Trust 

Your final step in becoming a travel nurse is to choose a travel nurse staffing agency you can trust.

How do you do that?

Talk extensively with your recruiter, asking critical questions such as:

  • What are some benefits your agency offers its nurses?
  • What types of facilities does your agency staff?
  • Do you have a support system if I have a need or an issue?
  • What states are you prominent in?
  • What are the conditions of your travel nurse contracts?
  • What is the onboarding process like with your agency?
  • What makes you unique, and why should I choose your agency over all the others out there? 

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we offer some of the highest-paying contracts with some of the best benefits in the industry.

Our benefits include:

  • Competitive compensation
      • 401(k) with a 4% match after 1,000 hours and 1 year of employment
      • Weekly paychecks
      • Direct deposit
      • Overtime/double time
      • Customizable pay packages
  • Top-tier bonus opportunities
      • $1500 referral bonus program
      • Loyalty program
      • Sign-on & completion bonuses
      • Discount program
  • Leading health and wellness benefits
      • Employee-sponsored health insurance
      • HRA to fully cover deductibles
      • Guardian dental and vision insurance
      • Wellness benefits
  • Additional insurance benefits
      • Portable permanent whole life insurance
      • License, certifications & CEU reimbursements
      • Portable short-term/long-term insurance
      • Disability insurance

Our mission is to connect the nation’s best healthcare professionals to the most respected healthcare facilities. 

Pronto makes it easy for travel nurses to find their dream travel nurse jobs, and facilities attract nurses from a pool of top talent. 

We take pride in supporting our nurses. Our 24/7 travel nursing professionals will always be there to help answer your questions, arrange contracts, and extend your assignments if you so wish. 

 

Begin Your Travel Nurse Journey Today With Trusted Nurse Staffing 

Now that you’re versed in how long it takes to become a travel nurse, you’re just about ready to put that suitcase to use. 

There’s just one more step.

Head over to our Pronto job search to begin searching for your dream job. You’ll be able to search through a variety of assignments of different specialties and locations — and Trusted Nurse Staffing will be there to provide help anytime you need it. 

Whether you have questions or need help setting up a contract, we provide 24/7 top-level communication and guidance throughout your travel nurse journey.

With some of the best benefits and highest-paying assignments in the travel nurse industry, Trusted Nurse Staffing is the premier travel nurse agency you can trust. 

Your career in travel nursing awaits you. 

 

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