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Getting started in travel nursing

Career prospects for nurses are booming right now. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing is considered the seventh-fastest growing occupation in the country, a list that also includes other key health care positions in fields like occupational therapy and physical therapy. 

With that growth comes a greater variety of nursing jobs for you to choose from as the industry evolves and demands increase for different specialties. Many nurses have taken these opportunities to join the field of travel nursing, taking on assignments all over the country for short stints before moving on to a new location. 

There are many perks of choosing travel nursing as a profession. To celebrate National Nurses Week, we spoke with two travel nurses about why they picked this career path and what they love most about their professions:

"Ultimately, the desire to help others is what pushed me into nursing."

Daniel's journey to travel nursing
Daniel Steele became a Registered Nurse in 2013 and began working in inner-city emergency departments. Having grown up with two MBA parents who worked high-stress office jobs, Daniel realized early on that he didn't want to go down the same path.

"I decided I wanted to work a job where validation came in the form of appreciation from people in need, rather than from an individual in a desk chair." he said. "Ultimately, the desire to help others is what pushed me into nursing wholeheartedly. I longed for a career where I could directly impact people's lives in a positive way every time I went to work. Nursing fit that description."

A few years in to his first nursing job, Daniel became interested in exploring new challenges and furthering his career. He debated graduate programs and new certifications that would allow him to expand his options. Though he enjoys his line of work, nursing isn't his only interest, however. Daniel has an adventurous spirit and a passion for outdoor activities like rock climbing and skiing. He had destinations in mind he had always wanted to visit and explore. When he considered the time commitment he would need to dedicate to further schooling, he realized that if he wanted a chance to travel, he should do it before enrolling.

Fortunately for Daniel, he didn't need to choose between his career and his extracurricular interests – travel nursing would allow him to spend time in new locations while still working in the field he found so rewarding.

"Many friends of mine over the years who were nurses had been off traveling, posting pictures and experiences on social media," he explained. "When I weighed the pros and cons it was a no-brainer: I was going to travel before going to graduate school."

Daniel joined Aureus Medical in June 2016 and was sent on an assignment near the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. He's renewed his contract at that location since then.

When nurses travel for their careers, they get to work with new people who have different perspectives on practicing medicine. When nurses travel for their careers, they get to work with new people who have different perspectives on practicing medicine.

How Paula found travel nursing
Paula Sayer is another nurse who chose to travel with her career. In 1996 she began working as an operating room medical assistant, and immediately fell in love with the OR setting. Ten years later she received her nursing degree. 

Paula spent 13 years at the same hospital, and while she was excelling in her career, she began to feel restless in 2009.

"I was in a rut," she explained. "I needed a change… I heard about traveling nurses and I thought, 'I could do that.'"

"I always feel like I'm on vacation."

She had her heart set on going to Florida, and six weeks later, was on her way there for her first assignment.

"I couldn't have picked a better place," she said. "The staff was awesome, I was never treated as an outsider. I had all the orientation I needed. If I had a question, someone was always there for me. It was Perfect!"

Her first agency wasn't a match for her needs, but then she connected with Aureus. She's been making a career out of travel nursing ever since, taking friends and her husband with her as she explores new locations she's always wanted to see. 

"I always feel like I'm on vacation," she said. 

Her next move? She's hoping to try an assignment on the New England Coast…ideally before it snows. 

Advice for nurses considering a traveling career
Paula recommended that any nurse who wants to consider a career path in travel nursing should get as much experience as possible and be honest about what they know. 

"As a traveler, I'm expected to know what I say I know and hit the ground running," she explained. 

Nurses who want to go on new assignments to different locations need to be prepared for the challenges that they'll face, so it's important to align yourself with the right jobs. You'll enjoy your missions more if you go in with a strong background and an eagerness to work.

For Daniel, that challenge is his favorite part of the career.

"You are forced to learn new ways of thinking when it comes to patient care and flow of a department, as well as differing perspectives on roles and communication between caregivers," he said.

He added that traveling to new locations has given him new perspectives on practicing medicine than what he was gaining by staying in one place, as well as getting to work with new populations of people. Some things, however, stay the same no matter where he goes.

"After the first few years of your career you realize what is essential to doing your job, and you keep those on you at all times," he said. 

You'll experience new learning opportunities everywhere you go for travel nursing jobs, but many basics of patient care remain the same. You'll experience new learning opportunities everywhere you go for travel nursing jobs, but many basics of patient care remain the same.

Finding a job in travel nursing 
Travel nursing can be a challenging, yet rewarding experience. If you think that taking on short-term assignments at new locations around the country is the right move for you, be sure to reach out to a reputable agency to help connect you to new jobs. You'll have the safety and security of experienced professionals on your side to help make your travels as exciting and fulfilling as possible. 

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