Travel nursing can open the door to many exciting opportunities and destinations. A career in travel nursing offers excellent pay rates, schedule flexibility, access to a variety of clinical experiences, and adventure.
If you are interested in becoming a travel RN, it’s important to be prepared. Thankfully, most agencies require similar experience, certification, and documentation to get started on your first travel nursing adventure.
Read on to learn how to get started as a travel nurse!
Most travel nursing companies require two years of bedside experience as a nurse in order to travel. In addition, GIFTED Healthcare typically requires at least one year of experience in a nurse’s preferred specialty.
It is recommended that new nurses get experience in an acute care setting, and preferably on staff at a hospital. If you are a new nurse graduate, try to get the bulk of your experience in one area. This will make their experience seem substantial and reliable.
GIFTED Chief Nursing Officer Maggie Candon, RN, says “A good clinical base is important for your career. Be humble, be patient, and prepare your resume. I chose pediatrics, and it’s solidified my assessment skills, my time management, and my patience.” Most travel nursing companies require 1-2 years of experience as a nurse in order to travel. In the first few years as a nurse, nurses should try to get the bulk of your experience in one area.
GIFTED Chief Nursing Officer Russ Johnson, RN, BSN says, “I have and will always steer a new nurse into the ICU, at least for a year if they can get into a position. Once you have that experience, you can go anywhere in the hospital and have the confidence necessary to take care of a critical situation. You even become a better resource for other nurses around you.”
Licensing Requirements for Travel Nursing
The most basic requirement to become a travel nurse is to have an active Registered Nurse (RN) license. Licensed Practical Nurses can also become travel nurses, but travel RNs typically have more opportunities and higher pay rates.
The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) allows nurses to obtain a multistate license and practice in any state that is part of the compact without obtaining additional licenses. As a new travel nurse, getting a compact license will dramatically increase your job opportunities.
If the state you are working in is not part of the NLC, you will need to be licensed in the state where you are working. However, if you received your original license in a state that is part of the NLC, then you have a compact license.
The following states are currently part of the NLC:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey*
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Required Credentials & Certifications for Travel Nursing
Two basic certifications are required to be a travel nurse: Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).
However, earning additional nursing certifications will dramatically increase your standing in the job market as well as your earning potential. They’ll also provide you with the knowledge and experience it takes to provide excellent care for your patients.
Important certifications include Acute/Critical Care Nursing (CCRN), Neonatal Resuscitation (NRP), Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN), Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN), Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC) Certification, and many more.
Maintaining Your License as a Travel Nurse
If you have a compact license, maintaining your license is as simple as meeting the requirements of the state where you received it. Once you renew a Compact License, your license is considered renewed in all other compact states.
However, if you obtained licenses in any non-compact states, you must meet the renewal requirements of your home state license and any non-compact states you want to work in as well. Some states have very specific rules for renewal and require Continuing Education Units (CEUs), so make sure you thoroughly understand the license renewal requirements for any state you are trying to work in.
More Ways to Succeed as a Travel Nurse
In addition to the basics, there are other ways to prepare to ensure that you thrive as a travel nurse.
1. Career Planning & Portfolio
While you’re hard at work getting your bedside experience, spend time reflecting on the kind of career you want to have and write a plan.
Be specific about your goals and do your best to stick to them. Don’t worry, it’s common for plans to change, but just remember to keep your plan updated along your journey to becoming an all-star travel nurse.
Maintaining an organized career portfolio is also important. Your portfolio should contain your education credits, certifications, career plan, resume, and any other relevant documents.
2. Big vs. Small Facilities
When gaining clinical experience, consider the kinds of opportunities available in both large and small facilities.
Large facilities are perfect for training in one area. They have large staffs, are process-oriented, and provide the extra staff support you’ll need to receive great training. However, it is typically more difficult to be hired at a large facility if you are a new nurse.
Small facilities provide great opportunities for training across various specialties. Their staffs are smaller and their nurses are required to be more adaptable, which can provide you with valuable “floating.” While it may be easier to land a job in these facilities, patient ratios and acuity can vary widely in smaller hospitals.
3. Be Willing to Float
“Floating” means moving from one unit to another. Sometimes, facilities require nurses who are permanently assigned to a specific unit to float to another unit.
A travel nurse that is willing to float is seen as an important resource. Floating will provide you with invaluable experience, make you adaptable, and give you a more comprehensive understanding of your clinical environment.
Versatility is an essential quality of a great travel nurse. While gaining clinical experience, remain open to floating. Cultivating this skill will open doors to more jobs in more locations.
4. Go the Extra Mile
As you prepare to become a travel nurse, cultivate relationships and show initiative wherever you’re working. This will improve your chances of finding useful mentors and getting great references.
Get in touch with units that interest you and schedule facility tours. Make direct connections with staff and unit managers. Connect with clinicians and facilities on social media to learn about important information and events.
Finally, be prepared for interviews. Projecting confidence and knowledge with ease is a priceless asset when searching for your dream job.
5. Always Make Time to Grow & Learn
As with any profession, any travel nurse always has room to grow and learn. If you want to land the nursing job of your dreams, stay informed on the latest research and continue cultivating skills that will help you achieve your nursing goals.
Even after you’ve landed your first travel nursing assignment, keep expanding your professional network, make time to research additional training and certifications, and focus on cultivating the qualities of a nurse leader.
Take a Career Consultation or Talk to Our CNO
If you are feeling unsure about your career plan, you can learn more about your professional needs and strengths by taking GIFTED’s Career Consultation. It’s a quick and easy survey designed to provide you with career opportunities that meet your professional needs and desires.
GIFTED’s expert Nurse Leadership Team is available around the clock to answer questions and offer you guidance at the start of your incredible journey as a heroic nurse.
Nurses & Healthcare Professionals Thrive at GIFTED Healthcare
From travel to per diem contracts, GIFTED Healthcare provides clinicians with exceptional career opportunities at premier healthcare facilities across the nation.