Nurses are an essential part of the U.S. health care industry. And in many parts of the country there are numerous nursing jobs to fill and not enough available nurses to take them. Hospitals also experience additional staffing needs during the course of the year due to seasonality and other situations such as maternity leaves and staff transition periods. Not enough staff can put patients at a serious disadvantage.
To help address their staffing shortages and to fill short term needs, many hospitals rely on travel nursing jobs. Rather than sign on for a long time commitment, travel nurses can work short stints at facilities, typically ranging from 13 to 26 weeks. They also get to experience different cities across the country, try other specialties, learn new practices for performing their roles and may also take a sizable pay increase as well.
If you’re looking for new adventures, to learn alternative methods for improving your work or to be there for patients who are in serious need of more medical professionals in their areas, travel nursing could be the perfect job for you. But how can you can start a career in travel nursing, and what should you expect once you begin?
Education and experience requirements for travel nurses
Travel nursing is generally not a place to start a medical career right out of school. Nurse Journal reported that you should already have at least one year experience in the industry to help you rapidly acclimate to a new team and be able to start pitching in right away.
When you move on to a new assignment, you’ll be entering an environment that needs help quickly. As such, you may not have a long orientation process. That means that you’ll already need the correct education to get your first jobs in nursing. Some positions will require travel nurses to have their BSN, a master’s degree or other advanced certifications. Meanwhile, there are locations that will hire for LPNs, surgical technologists or CNAs. You can also find a number of different supervisory roles from managers to directors.
The more certifications and experience you have, the greater your options will be for finding work. Before you embark on a travel nursing career path, you may want to consider advancing your degree, or enrolling in additional programs while you work. For example, healthcare staffing agency Aureus Medical Group offers a tuition reimbursement program, which covers the cost of tuition and books up to $12,000 per degree.
Finding an agency
When you have the education you need and hands-on experience working in the field, you’re ready to start finding travel nurse jobs. As Discover Nursing states, you’ll need to connect with a travel nursing agency to help place you in jobs. A good agency will offer you comprehensive benefits packages and cover housing and transportation costs. They’ll also take your preferences into consideration when searching for your assignments, and will generally be a valuable resource for you to reach out to at each stage of your journey.
“Work with a recruiter who can place you somewhere you want to be.”
The recruiter with your agency should listen, communicate well with you, and be responsive. Be sure to share what your career and life goals are and what type of facility, location and assignment you are looking for. Travel nursing allows you to try out a number of different locations without being tied anywhere for too long, and pick a schedule that matches the work-life balance you have in mind. After all, one of the best parts of being a travel nurse is getting to explore new areas, so you’ll want to work with a recruiter who can place you somewhere you want to be and give you a time frame that fits your needs.
Outside Magazine stated that travel nursing is an ideal job for adventurers. One of the exciting aspects of travel nursing is that you never know exactly what to expect at each new location, but you can generally count on a few basic steps to stay consistent. You’ll be placed in a job for a set amount of time, but may have the opportunity to renew your contract and stay longer, or take a full-time position if you really love where you are.
The key is to go into any new position with an open mind and ready to adapt to anything. This career path can be hectic and demanding, but also deeply rewarding. If you like new challenges and have the drive to jump into an unfamiliar setting and get right to work, you’ll have a successful career as a travel nurse.