5 Stages to Becoming a Travel Nurse

Travel nurses are nurses who work temporary assignments around the country throughout the year. These assignments are typically 13 weeks long and are a great way for nurses to gain experience in a variety of locations, facility settings, and different patient populations.

There are a number of great reasons to start travel nursing - whether you’ve just begun your career or you’re a seasoned professional - including:

  • Getting paid to travel
  • Earning on average 18% more money
  • Trying out diverse practice settings
  • Changing up your life in a positive way
  • Enjoying the freedom to control your schedule

If you've decided you want to become a travel nurse, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for the 5 stages of becoming a travel nurse and how to make sure you’re set up for success.

Stage 1: Build a Solid Foundation

The only requirement for qualifying for a travel nursing position is having at least 1-2 years of experience in the specialty that you’re applying for.

But just having the experience won’t guarantee that you will get the position - so take some time to build up a strong foundation and bolster your resume. This includes things like:

  • Getting a BSN or MSN degree. You only need an ASN to qualify for a degree but facilities will be impressed if they see you’ve taken the time to get a BSN or MSN.
  • Receiving certifications like ACLS, PALS, TNCC and CCRN. These are certifications that can be done online in a few hours and really help to strengthen your resume and give you a chance to work in higher demand (and higher paying) specialties.
  • Get licensed in more states. If you live and are licensed in an eNLC state you’re well on your way to being able to work all over the country. If you are interested in working in a non-eNLC state, go ahead and look into how to get licensed there so you’re prepared when the time comes.

Stage 2: Submit Your First Application

Now that you have a solid foundation and strong resume, it’s time to submit your first application! There are a number of documents, requirements and information you will want to have on hand so that you can fill out an application quickly.

This information will be required by any position you apply to, so just having it handy will make the process much faster. We recommend keeping all this information on your resume - and keeping your resume up to date - for easy referencing.

  • A strong personal statement. While this is something that nurses often put on their resume, we also recommend putting it on your Nomad profile. This is the first thing potential employers will see and is your chance to sell yourself - so don’t sell yourself short! Read our tips and see examples of great nursing personal statements here.
  • Complete education history.
    This includes:
    Any degrees - ASN, BSN, MSN, BS, BA, etc.
    State licenses - even expired ones!
  • Complete work history.
    This includes:
    Any permanent or per diem (or travel!) positions you’ve done
    What unit you worked in
    Type of facility - teaching? Trauma I?
    Charge experience
    Explanations of any gaps in your experience that are longer than 30 days
  • References. This should include the contact information - email and phone number - of 3-5 of your supervisors in past experiences. They should be charge nurses or higher positions within the hospital and have witnessed your clinical abilities.
  • Continued education. List any certifications you have and skills you’ve acquired.

Stage 3: Moving From Application to Offer

After you’ve submitted your initial application, the facility will be reviewing your application and your Nomad Navigator may reach out for some additional information. Make sure to pay attention to your phone and email and respond as quickly as possible.

A few things that will happen before you can be offered the job:

  • Fill out your skills checklists. You will be asked to fill out various skill checklists depending on what specialty you’ve applied for. These can be done on your phone and take no more than 15 minutes. Complete these within 48 hours of receiving them to move your application along quickly.
  • Give your references a heads up. They will be contacted as part of the application so make sure they’re on the lookout for an email or a phone call.
  • Figure out your scheduling needs. During your initial phone interview, you will be asked about any time off requests and what day you can start working. Have your requests ready to discuss - and if possible, be flexible!
  • Keep an eye on your phone! Facilities could call at any time to conduct a phone interview so make sure to be ready. This is your chance to ask any questions you have about the position - things like the speed of the facility, patient ratios, and any other details you may want to learn that would help you decide if you want to work there.
  • Complete compliance requirements. Once you accept a contract, you will be required to go complete compliance. This will require things like immunizations, HIPAA training certification, and medical records. Make sure you have the necessary forms on hand so you can quickly submit them when asked.

Stage 4: Accepting the Offer and Signing the Contract

Congrats, you’ve been offered the job! Now the ball is now in your court to make sure that all of the details of the jobs fit what you’ve agreed on with the facility.

Expect an email from your Nomad Navigator outlining all of the details of the job including:

  • Pay rate
  • Start and End date of your assignment
  • Approved requested time off
  • Facility name and location
  • Unit you will be working in
  • Shift you will be working
  • Guaranteed hours every week

Take this chance to review the details well - it’s your last chance to make any amends. Once everything looks right, respond with your written agreement to receive your contract.

Once your contract is signed, you will be asked to fill out a compliance checklist. This should be quick to complete if you already have all your requirements ready to go.

And that’s it! The only thing left to do is get excited for your first day! You should receive an email from your Nomad Navigator with first-day information before you begin your assignment.

Stage 5: Starting Your Assignment

It’s time to start your first travel nursing assignment! This is one of the most exciting career choices you can make - and you can certainly expect to learn a lot.

A few tips from our Nomad Navigators on how to best navigate your first assignment:

  • Every facility is different - orientation is your chance to ask any questions you have. The main difference travel nurses learn is that every facility has different policies and procedures. Be vigilant during orientations and ask any and all questions you have about what’s expected of you.
  • Cultivate relationships. This means make friends with not just other travelers but also staff nurses within the facility! Having a group of friends during your assignment can help you really feel like a part of the community. Build relationships with your charge nurse and other managers as they will be the ones who can be your references for future assignments.
  • Extend at the same facility if possible! If you find that you really enjoy your assignment, start the conversation with your nurse manager about extending your stay. Not only does it look great on your resume, it also gives you more time to build relationships with everyone at the facility and continue learning.
  • Keep in contact with your Nomad Navigator! We’re here to be your advocate so don’t be afraid to reach out if you have any questions or have requests for help. Let us know how you’re feeling about your assignment so we can help you mitigate any issues or so that we know what to help you look for in your next assignment!

Becoming a travel nurse is a big decision and one that can seem intimidating if you don’t know what to expect. But now that you have all of the information at your fingertips, you can prepare to submit your first travel nursing application with ease!

If you’re ready to start searching for your first travel nursing position, you can search for travel nursing jobs here.

If you have questions about travel nursing, feel free to reach out to our Nomad Navigators here.

Happy Traveling!

The Nomad Team

Last Updated:
June 26, 2018

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