If you have the desire to help people and travel to new places, a career in travel nursing may be in your future. Travel nurses are healthcare professionals who offer supplemental staffing to facilities in need across the country. Like staff nurses, travel nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who practice and specialize in one modality such as the intensive care unit (ICU), emergency room (ER), labor and delivery (L&D), and more.
Before you can officially hit the road as a professional travel nurse, you should know these ten hot tips:
No. 1: A combination of education, documentation, and experience is a must.
To be a successful travel nurse, you have to have a robust collection of education, experience, and documentation. These accomplishments set you apart from other healthcare travelers and put you one step closer to securing your dream travel job.
First, education—to start traveling, you must have a nursing degree from an accredited university. You can earn your associate nursing degree within two years or obtain a bachelor’s degree over the course of four years.
Once you’ve earned your degree, the next step is to apply for your license and take the National Council Licensure Examination (N-CLEX). The N-CLEX assesses your essential knowledge, skills, and abilities to ensure you have what it takes to be an entry-level nurse. You will also need to become licensed in the state where you practice. You should apply for a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which allows you to work in 29 states without obtaining 29 different nursing licenses. After you’ve passed the N-CLEX and are licensed in the state you’re working, it’s time for you to choose your specialty and start building your professional resume.
Since most healthcare facilities and institutions require at least one year of experience before traveling, your next step is to get to work. The more experience you have before your first travel job, the better.
Fusion Marketplace makes it easy for you to keep all of your important certifications and information organized and available in one centralized location within your traveler profile. When it’s time for you to hit the road to provide nationwide patient care, use Fusion Marketplace to secure your perfect travel placement and short-term housing.
No. 2: Know and establish your purpose behind travel nursing before your first assignment.
Knowing why you do what you do makes all the difference for a successful travel nursing career. Prior to take-off for your first travel assignment, consider what’s important to you—are you a travel RN because you want to earn an attractive salary? Does opportunity for travel give you happy chills? Maybe you just want to really boost your resume in a short amount of time.
Whatever your reason, make sure you know what matters to you and why you started this career journey in the first place before you take off on your healthcare assignment.
No. 3: A reputable healthcare staffing agency and recruiter are here to help you.
Healthcare staffing agencies and their recruiters are here to help you effectively navigate a career as a professional healthcare traveler. When you use Fusion Marketplace to find your next travel job, you automatically gain full access to all vital information so you can compare agency benefits, pay packages, and housing options all at once.
“You need to find a company and recruiter that is willing to go to bat for you, listen to you, and be totally transparent,” said Shanel, long-time travel healthcare recruiter. “All relationships are built around trust and this is the most important trait to look for in a recruiter.”
No. 4: The financial aspects aren’t the same as perm staff nurses.
As a professional healthcare traveler, you have many financial benefits. Since taxes don’t work quite the same for you as they do for perm staff, here’s a quick breakdown of a pay package to help you easily understand:
- Hourly rate. Your hourly rate is a combination of both taxed and non-taxed items. This includes your regular, taxable hourly rate and those non-taxed components typically referred to as stipends, subsidies, per diems, or allowances.
- Taxes. The IRS deems housing and meals as “tax-free reimbursements,” if you meet eligibility requirements. One requirement is to have what’s called a “tax home,” or a full-time residence when you’re not traveling as a professional nurse. Without a tax home, you may incur a tax status as an itinerant worker and pay taxes on all of your income, including stipends and reimbursements. With a tax home, your base wage is taxable income while all “extras” (i.e. meals, housing allotments, travel reimbursements, etc.) are non-taxable so you save on paying income taxes.
- Benefits. Most healthcare staffing agencies offer benefits such as medical insurance, 401k retirement investment options, various bonuses, free continuing education, license reimbursement, and more. Make sure you discuss these details with your recruiter to learn what your agency offers travelers.
There are many things to consider when it comes to a profession as a travel nurse and one of them is your pay package. Don’t be afraid to ask questions for things that aren’t clear and only accept a pay package that is fully understandable and one you agree with.
No. 5: Your contract tells you the nitty-gritty of your travel assignment.
It’s important you read your full travel contract prior to signing to ensure you understand your pay package, reimbursements, float and cancellation policies, plus shift times and the unit where you’ll be working. This can feel like a daunting task for a first-time traveler, but that’s what your recruiter is there for.
Confirm the details of your contract independently to make sure it reflects the items discussed during your interview. If there’s anything that requires further clarification or explaining, your personal recruiter will discuss and resolve your concerns.
No. 6: Get familiar with the unknown and adapt accordingly.
Prepare for the unexpected holds a whole new meaning as a traveling RN. From the patients you treat to the jobs you work, you can’t plan for everything—become comfortable with the unknown and learn to adapt to your surroundings. Don’t be afraid to lean on other professionals in the healthcare facility for additional support during your assignment and remind yourself that you can do anything for 13 weeks—you’ve got this.
No. 7: You don’t need everything you own with you on the road.
It’s natural to want to bring all of your belongings with you on a travel assignment. Since you’ll likely move every 13 weeks, it’s important to remain practical while packing for travel. Try writing a packing checklist to ensure you’re sufficiently packed with all necessary belongings and pack well in advance of your departure date.
Before you start filling boxes, research your travel assignment destination to familiarize yourself with weather patterns of the area, plus any housing amenities available to you. For example, are you booked in a hotel that’s equipped with a hair dryer? Or maybe you have a reservation where all kitchen appliances and utensils are readily available. Do your research to help determine what should come with you versus what can live at home.
At the end of the day, you can always buy whatever you need while you’re on your travel healthcare assignment. Focus on your necessities and rely on the local grocery store or outlet mall for anything that you may need while away from home.
No. 8: Your education never truly stops.
The learning never stops for traveling nurses. Although you’ve graduated school, earned licenses, gained experienced, and started traveling, there are still continued education units (CEUs) for you to complete.
CEUs are critical to expand your professional skillset and nursing specialty expertise. They also help keep your licenses and certifications valid so you’re able to travel the U.S. as a registered nurse. Additionally, CEUs empower you to be the best healthcare professional you can be by educating you on new medications, advanced technologies, updated protocols, and more.
No. 9: There’s a lot to learn from experienced travel nurses.
Life as a travel nurse is an adjustment for many first-time travelers and seasoned travel nurses have buckets of information you can’t find online or from a peer who’s also just starting out. These experienced professionals make wonderful nurse mentors for new travelers in the healthcare industry—all you have to do is ask.
Not only are they full of their own stories and lessons to share, they also offer vast emotional support. Being a professional travel nurse has its obstacles—sometimes you just need a sounding board with someone to encourage and build you back up after a tough day. Experienced travel nurses have likely been there and can offer sage wisdom and advice to help you on your professional journey.
No. 10: Fusion Marketplace gives you control of your travel nursing career.
Enjoy the view from the driver’s seat of your travel nursing career when you use Fusion Marketplace. Developed for professional healthcare travelers, Fusion Marketplace allows you to easily connect with staffing agencies, nationwide healthcare job opportunities, flexible housing, and more. This one-stop-shop is a traveler-first all-inclusive community meant to assist you in your career growth.
Use your Marketplace traveler profile to organize your important information and documentation. Then, use the “quick apply” function to submit your personalized profile resume to travel nursing opportunities across the U.S. Once your application is received, a recruiter from the staffing agency will reach out to learn more about your travel and career priorities, housing preferences, and who you are to place you with an assignment where you’ll be successful.
With a persistent nursing shortage, speed to placement is essential for professional travel nurses to land their ideal assignments. Fusion Marketplace enables a faster turnaround time with job posting submissions, hiring decisions, and travel placements with complete transparency to benefits and pay packages. Making the unknown known, Fusion Marketplace helps you manage your career as a professional travel nurse regardless of your division or specialty.
Travel nurses are important pieces in the puzzle that is the U.S. healthcare system. With diverse clinical, educational, and geographic backgrounds, traveling RNs fill staffing gaps in large and small hospitals, outpatient centers, and other healthcare facilities. These ten tips will help you flourish as a professional RN so you can provide the best care for your patients during every step of their healthcare journey.