Travel nursing can be the adventure of a lifetime.
But with nearly unlimited options for locations and so many nursing specialties to choose from, getting started in a career as a travel nurse can also be overwhelming.
Are you a new travel nurse who’s a little stressed out and looking for advice on how to make the most of your first assignment?
Relax, because in this guide, we give you 14 travel nursing tips and tricks to help prepare you for the exciting career of a traveling nurse.
Table of Contents
- New Travel Nurse Advice: What Do I Need to Know?
- What Should I Know Before Travel Nursing? 14 Travel Nursing Tips
- How to Get Started as a Travel Nurse
- Ready To Hit the Road as a Travel Nurse? Trusted Nurse Staffing Can Help You Find a Position Today
New Travel Nurse Advice: What Do I Need to Know?
As Mark Twain put it, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
And that has never been more true than in the field of travel nursing. If you think it’s as easy as throwing a few belongings in a suitcase and taking a road trip, think again.
Here are travel nursing tips and tricks that can help you prepare for your assignment and ensure that you enjoy all your travel nursing journey has to offer.
What Should I Know Before Travel Nursing? 14 Travel Nurse Tips
Taking on travel nursing is a great way to see the world and earn a paycheck while doing the job you love.
But, it can be helpful to have a few travel nursing tips and tricks under your belt to help you easily navigate your new role and enjoy your adventure.
#1: Use Your Recruiter
Travel nursing veterans will tell you that finding a great recruiter is an essential part of a successful assignment.
When meeting with potential recruiters, be sure to ask plenty of questions upfront. Your recruiter will be by your side each step of the way, so you want to make sure that your personalities and communication styles mesh.
Your relationship with your recruiter is a two-way street, so you’ll want to provide them with all the necessary information regarding the types of jobs you are looking for so they can help you find assignments that meet your goals and expectations.
Travel nurse recruiters not only help you find the best contracts, but they should also:
- Help you prep for interviews
- Give advice on what you might need to bring to your new job
- Help you obtain new state licenses
- Provide instructions for your first day at a new facility
- Know what documentation is required
- Arrange travel and housing
- And more
It’s important to communicate openly with your recruiter to ensure a successful recruiter-travel nurse partnership.
#2: Know How Many Hours You Want
The next important travel nursing tip is to determine the number of hours you want to work each week while you’re on assignment.
Some nurses simply follow the dollar signs. You may think the money looks great, but if you’re not aware that you’d be working a 48-hour week instead of 36 hours, you might find that you’re biting off more than you can chew.
Your travel nursing agency should be 100% transparent and upfront, but it’s also important that you do your homework and ask all the right questions.
#3: Negotiate Ahead of Time
Are there any certain things you want in your contract — or things you absolutely don’t want?
Maybe you want to be off on weekends so you can travel back home to visit family or friends? Be sure to stipulate that you only want to work during the week.
Do you struggle with night shifts and feel you do your best work during the daytime hours? Or possibly you’re a night owl who loves working the graveyard shift.
These are all details you will want to get established ahead of contract signing. Once signed, your contract negotiations are over, and you are stuck with what you have.
#4: Understand Your Contract
Travel nursing contracts are probably the most crucial aspect of travel nursing.
Make sure you understand everything in your contract before you sign to verify that the contract will benefit you.
It may seem obvious, but you should never begin to travel to the contract site before signing since if the assignment situation were to change for some reason, you wouldn’t have anything to fall back on.
As with any business agreement, get everything in writing and review the contract carefully before signing.
There are a few things that are typically included in a travel nurse contract, including:
- Contract length
- Pay (i.e., overtime, holidays)
- Time off
- Housing and travel arrangements
- Stipends (i.e., lodging, meals, incidentals)
- What happens if the contract falls through
At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we help our nurses find a contract that pays well and meets their goals. We help you navigate travel, offer assistance 24/7, answer questions, and address any concerns you may have during your assignment.
#5: Be Flexible
While some travel nursing companies may tell you they can place you anywhere you want, in reality, you might not always get your first choice.
Especially if you’re new to travel nursing, you’re most likely to get an assignment quickly if you are flexible about the:
- Setting; and
- Type of facility
Once you have some experience under your belt, you can be more selective about where you work.
You are more likely to find opportunities if you are flexible, but this doesn’t mean you should settle for whatever comes your way. If there are things you’re not willing to compromise on, that’s fine too.
#6: Learn From Other Travel Nurses
When you’re starting off as a travel nurse, it’s completely natural to have a lot of questions about everything under the sun travel nurse-related.
Do you know other nurses that are on the road? Maybe a classmate from nursing school is now a travel nurse? Reach out to them and ask any questions you might have.
Most travel nurses are always willing to help answer newcomers’ questions and give valuable advice.
#7: Be Organized
If you don’t already have great organizational skills, now is the time to cultivate them. That doesn’t mean you need to color-code your closet, but you should make sure all your travel nursing paperwork is in order.
You need to keep the following records up to date and easily accessible:
- Licensing information
- Any certifications; and
- Health and immunization records
It’s also essential to keep track of when they need to be renewed. Mark these dates on your calendar and give yourself enough time to submit any additional paperwork that may be required for renewal.
#8: Research Your Destination
It’s never a good idea to walk blindly into a new travel nursing assignment.
An easy way to prepare for your next contract is to do a little online research.
Before each new travel assignment, take the time to find out:
- The weather and climate
- Your housing location
- The safety of the area where you’ll be living and working
- The commute time between where you will live and your new facility
- The available methods of transportation
- Parking options and availability
- Attractions you want to be sure to take in while you are there
#9: Know Your Travel Nurse Essentials
Our next travel nursing tip is to be sure to make a packing checklist.
Of course, you can’t bring everything from home, but you want to make sure you don’t forget any of the essentials. Packing apps, such as Packing Pro and PackPoint, can make the job of packing so much easier.
One important tip is to not pack “just in case” items. Instead, pack only what you need since you can always buy anything else you need when you get to your new destination.
Here are some things you’ll want to be sure to include in your suitcase:
- Any important documents
- First aid kit
- Scrubs and “off-work” clothing
- Prescription medications
- A dependable watch
- Entertainment items (i.e., books, tablets, etc.)
- Emergency phone numbers
And if you’ve chosen to live in agency housing, you can ask your recruiter to find out what appliances and amenities are provided and what you’ll need to pack for yourself.
#10: Figure Out Home Details
The next thing you’ll need to do is to figure out what will happen when you leave your home for your travel assignment.
Some questions to think about include:
- How will you handle your mail? Are you going to forward it or have someone pick it up for you?
- Do you have any regularly occurring deliveries to forward?
- What about utilities? Should you cancel them or keep paying?
- Do you need to write checks to pay your bills, or are they set up online?
- Do you have pets? If so, are you taking them with you, or do you need to arrange for a pet sitter?
- Do you have a spouse, partner, or children that will be staying behind? If so, how will you stay in touch with them?
#11: Plan Time Off Between Assignments
Travel nursing assignments don’t always have to be back-to-back.
One of the awesome perks of being a travel nurse is that you have the freedom to take time off between contracts to go back home to visit friends or family or take vacation time.
Have you just finished an assignment in Colorado and feel the itch to take a camping trip in the mountains?
Want to head home for the holidays and enjoy an extended time of celebration with your family?
No problem! Simply visit with your travel nurse recruiter, and they can help you set up your next assignment at a time that works best for you.
#12: Keep a Healthy Work-Life Balance
According to Zippia, over 25% of all nurses experience burnout at some point in their careers.
If you are hoping to get the ultimate enjoyment out of your career in travel nursing, you’ll want to keep close tabs on your work-life balance.
While the draw of a higher rate of pay than other areas of nursing can make many travel nurses want to be all work and no play, working all the time isn’t the healthiest option for long-term success on the road.
Whether it’s taking time for R&R or sightseeing on your days off, or taking a break between travel nursing assignments, regularly taking time for yourself is key to getting the most out of this exciting career.
#13: Don’t Ignore Red Flags
You’re in the process of negotiating for an assignment, but something feels just a little bit “off.”
Maybe the pay is lower than you anticipated, the assignment is longer than you were hoping for, or a winter-time position in Chicago sounds less than appealing. Maybe you don’t feel 100% comfortable working in the nursing specialty, or the timing of the assignment would cause you to miss your parents’ 30th-anniversary celebration.
Whatever the situation, if you find yourself having strong hesitations about accepting an assignment, it’s generally best to turn it down. Being miserable on the job isn’t worth it, and you won’t regret waiting for the right thing to come along.
#14: Go For It
Sometimes jumping into a new travel nursing assignment can be more than a little daunting — especially when you are new to the world of travel nursing. You’re likely to be unfamiliar with the place you are going or the people you will be working with. A huge part of travel nursing is all about learning.
Keep in mind that you’ve trained for this and are equipped with the skills and requirements it takes to succeed, so don’t let fear stand in your way.
Just take advantage of your knowledge and resources, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and be open to learning new things, and your travel nursing experience will likely be even better than you could imagine.
How To Get Started as a Travel Nurse
Are you thinking of jumping headlong into the world of travel nursing? If so, there are a few requirements you’ll need to meet before taking the leap. These include:
- Licensing requirements – Besides being an RN, you also need to be licensed in the state where you work. The Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) enables RNs to hold a single nursing license that is valid in multiple states. However, the NLC has not been accepted by every state in the U.S., so checking your state’s licensing requirements is essential.
- Credentials – Your nursing license must be accompanied by Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certifications.
- Taxes – The IRS requires you to have a “tax home.” In other words, you need to prove that you live in your home full-time when not working.
- Experience – A travel nurse staffing agency usually requires its nurses to have at least a year of bedside experience before sending them into the field. If you plan to work in a specialized unit, such as labor and delivery or intensive care, the agency may require even more time.
Ready To Hit the Road as a Travel Nurse? Trusted Nurse Staffing Can Help You Find a Position Today
Trusted Nurse Staffing helps you find temporary nursing jobs that give you work flexibility and the opportunity to travel.
When short-term staffing is needed, nurses and healthcare professionals fill in temporary assignments at:
- Health care facilities
- Hospitals; and
- Long-term care centers
Why work with Trusted Nurse Staffing? Our experienced team can help you:
- Find an assignment that meets your goals and requirements
- Obtain any required additional training; and
- Support you in your new position
As a traveling team member, you will benefit from many benefits that suit your needs and fit your lifestyle, including amazing benefits, sign-on bonuses, and the best pay rates in the industry.
Let the team at Trust Nurse Staffing help you find the best travel nursing position for you!
Search the Pronto job search to find available positions, and get started today.