You’ve got a bit of wanderlust. Being stuck in one location is not enough for you.
Or maybe you like the flexibility of becoming a travel nurse, and you’re not sure what’s needed to get there.
This guide discusses the requirements to become a travel nurse as well as the credentials and education you may need.
Table of Contents
- What is a Travel Nurse?
- What Are The Top Travel Nursing Requirements?
- Travel Nurse Education Requirements
- Licensing Requirements
- Nursing Experience Requirements
- Additional Qualifications to Be a Travel Nurse
- Travel Nursing Requirements by Specialty
- What Does it Take To Become A Travel Nurse with Trusted Nurse Staffing?
What is a Travel Nurse?
A travel nurse is a registered nurse (RN) contracted to work anywhere from 8 to 26 weeks at one location.
The typical assignment is around 13 weeks.
You may only work one contract or these may be renewed depending on the needs of the site and your availability.
These assignments allow you to work anywhere there is an open position for a temporary nurse, even in other countries.
Keep reading to learn what it takes to be a travel nurse.
What Are The Top Travel Nursing Requirements?
Many facilities look for competitive specialties, experiences, or credentials. Here are some of the top travel nursing requirements.
1. Travel Nurse Education Requirements
First, the brass tacks.
A registered nurse (RN) is the most common type of traveling nurse.
The minimum requirement is an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN).
Many hospitals and facilities require a Bachelor’s degree in Science and Nursing (BSN). This makes you competitive.
After graduating from a nursing program and passing the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX), you may also be interested in specialty credentials.
Beyond the basics, many facilities look for specialties in high demand such as:
- Emergency room
- Labor and delivery
- Neonatal nursing
Keep reading to learn how these specialties can best fit you.
Additionally, there are more specific situational specialties available to travel nurses:
- International travel nurse. These nurses work all over the world. Typically a staffing agency will send you to a country where you have a working understanding of the language.
- Rapid response travel nurse. After a disaster or in response to a pandemic, there is an immediate need for health care workers. These nurses go where they are needed most with very little time to prepare.
- Electronic medical records conversion (EMR). New EMRs are a learning curve in any new facility. Some nurses specialize in training a team in new software and help manage patient care during the transition.
Strike travel nurse. Strikes happen. Filling that staffing void means you might find yourself in an understaffed, unfamiliar environment. This situation is for the most flexible and adaptable.
2. Licensing Requirements
No matter where you go in the States, you will need to be licensed in the state you’ll be working in. This could come in two formats:
- A State License
If you want to be a travel nurse within the state you live in state, this is an easy transition. You can obtain a license from the state where you wish to work.
- Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC)
A compact license, or NLC, allows you to upgrade your single-state license to a multi-state license.
As of 2020, not all states participate in the NLC. Be sure to check the state you wish to move to. In 2000, many states saw the value of streamlining the nursing licensure process.
As of August 2020, there were 34 states as part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), which is the updated version of the original agreement between these states.
Because of the pandemic, some emergency measures have been put in place. For example, California, Hawaii, and Washington, which normally do not participate in the eNLC, do not require nurses to have a compact license to work there.
Be sure to check updated state requirements as needed.
If you’re unsure if your credentials apply, be sure to speak to your recruiter about your goals and desired locations.
Two of the most basic certifications needed are:
- A Basic Life Support (BLS,) and
- Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).
Then, depending on your specialties, you may need additional credentials.
If you decide to specialize in a specific unit, you’ll need some credentials for that specialty. For example, if you intend to specialize in labor and delivery or postnatal care, you’ll need to complete a Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP).
Or maybe you intend to specialize in direct care to acutely or critically ill patients, if so, you’ll need a Critical Care Register Nurse certification (CCRN). Depending on who you like to serve, there are many sub-certifications under this title that you may need.
Maintaining Your Licenses
If you’ve been around the block a few times, you know that maintaining your licenses is a necessary evil.
You don’t want your license to expire while you’re working in another state and you have no way to renew it.
If you have a compact license, and if you renew your license in your home state, your license for the new location is automatically updated.
This saves you some worry.
However, if you do not have a compact license, and have to obtain an additional state license, you’ll have to renew each separately. Each state has different requirements, so it’s important to fulfill the requirements needed for each.
3. Nursing Experience Requirements
As a travel nurse, you’ll be using many different electronic medical record systems. Even though you’ll be walking into brand new situations, you will be expected to hit the ground running.
Most agencies require one to two years of experience.
Although this is usually the case, agencies may be flexible depending on their needs.. Some have been accepted with only one year of experience if they have clinical experience in rotations in college, for example.
There are some extenuating circumstances where experience may not be considered a requirement. For example, during covid-19 some hospitals have been taking on new graduates to fuel the need for healthcare workers.
In healthier times, one to two years of nursing experience is expected.
Additional Qualifications to Be a Travel Nurse
As you know, education alone is not enough. Experiences can shape us and there are personal attributes that are almost as important to being a travel nurse as education.
If you’re curious about if becoming a travel nurse is right for you or you’re wondering if becoming a travel nurse is right for you, here are some pros and cons to being a travel nurse for you to consider.
Some pros include:
- An adventurous lifestyle
- High earning potential
- Excellent benefits
- Freedom and flexibility
- Experiences that shine on a resume
As great as those benefits are, there are some cons to travel nursing:
- Travel Logistics
- Relicensure or multiple licenses
- Potential for undesirable shifts such as nights and weekends
These things can be a headache.
However, for many, the benefits of high earning potential, work and location flexibility, and field experience outweigh the cons.
Aptitude and Adaptability
Onboarding happens quickly. At a new facility, onboarding typically happens within one to two days.
Within one to two weeks, you’re expected to be situated within your new environment. For this reason, all your medical documents should be gathered together to be easily accessed when you start in a new facility.
This requires you to have the aptitude to learn quickly. You must act like a sponge, with the understanding that the nursing profession is constantly changing.
Being flexible is a necessity as a travel nurse.
When you get a new assignment, you have very little time to acclimatize to a new environment.
To be a successful travel nurse you need to be able to handle stress well. Inflexibility is a sure-fire way to burn out.
The plus side is that this flexibility allows you to have more control over your career. You can choose assignments based on your career goals and needs.
Being a nurse anywhere requires dedication. You put your patients first and are committed to providing the best care no matter where you go or who you serve.
Being a travel nurse means you can show that dedication everywhere you go. You become devoted to seeing different viewpoints and perspectives for the benefit of your patients.
Travel Nursing Requirements by Specialty
What if you have some special certifications or experiences? Are those experiences ideal for travel nursing?
Here are a few medical specialties that are often in high demand.
A nurse in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) helps care for acutely ill patients who require treatment for life-threatening conditions.
Nurses in the ICU are required to provide very complex care in areas such as:
- Neonatal nursing
- Cardiac care
- And more
An ER nurse provides emergency care for patients with trauma or illness.
As an ER nurse, daily variety is the spice of life. One benefit of becoming a travel ER nurse is the potential for a higher salary compared to stationary ER nurses.
Labor & Delivery
Nurses in labor and delivery comfort and coach women before, during, and after the birth of their children.
Care may include:
- Providing forms of pain relief
- Instructing the patient during delivery
- Timing contractions
- Cleaning and evaluating the baby immediately after their birth.
Neonatal nursing cares for newborns during their first 28 days of life. Sometimes this care continues depending on the needs of the child.
Some newborns who need this care include:
- Premature birth
- Those with birth defects
- Babies ill at birth and need more intensive care from a nurse to help them recover
A telemetry nurse monitors patients…
- Heart rate
- Heart rhythm
- Level of blood to oxygen
- Breathing rate
…by connecting patients to machines.
This data collected from these machines are used to develop a treatment plan for the patient.
These nurses oversee the care of patients undergoing cancer treatments.
One of the most common treatments an oncology travel nurse will administer is chemotherapy. Oncology nurses also educate patients and their families about the effects of cancer treatments.
What Does it Take To Become A Travel Nurse with Trusted Nurse Staffing?
If you have one to two years of experience, and desire flexibility and continuing your education (we’ll even help pay for it), you’ve got what it takes.
At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we go out of our way to make sure our nurses are successful.
What we do for you:
- Analyze your education, experience, and work history
- Align your goals, interests, and availability with opportunity
- Create a list of possible assignments
- Arrange a phone interview with the faculties hiring manager
- Consult with you on the offer and confirm the date
- Handle pre-hire paperwork and make housing arrangements
- Remain in touch throughout your assignment and are available to you 24/7
- Negotiate and extend your current assignment or plan your next one
Even though the onboarding process for a travel nurse can seem daunting, at Trusted Nurse Staffing we try to make this process as painless as possible.
If you’re ready to start your adventure as a travel nurse, or even if you just want more information, fill out your free online profile and within 24 hours, you’ll be contacted by our staff to review your goals and availability.
For more information on starting your career as a travel nurse check out our Career Resources page.