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How to be a Traveling Nurse

How to be a Travel Nurse How to be a Travel Nurse

Guest Post by Caroline Hill

Caroline Hill is a digital marketing specialist and healthcare blogger. You can

read more topics like this from Caroline in her Travel Nursing Blog and another great resource is The Gypsy Nurse  by Candy Treft, the original gypsy nurse and expert.


How to be a Traveling Nurse

Hospital staffing shortages are nothing new. And neither is the travel nurse industry.

How to be a Travel Nurse

How to be a Travel Nurse

Many nurses are wary of venturing because it’s such a daunting concept.

The uncertainty of picking up and starting fresh in a place you aren’t used to, working with new people, figuring out the travel, and knowing how to get started can make even the most adventurous soul apprehensive.

Hopefully this information will serve as a brief guide for the nurse considering travel.


What is a traveling nurse?

A travel nurse is exactly, as the name would suggest, a nurse who travels to hospitals to work in times of staffing shortages, seasonal needs, or to fill in for a permanent employee who may be on temporary leave.

Travel nursing is mutually beneficial for both the short-staffed facility and the nurse who is rewarded with higher pay, valuable experience, and the opportunity to explore diverse locations.

How does travel nursing work?

Here’s a brief overview of how the travel nursing process works:

  • Decide where you want to work
  • Make sure you have the proper requirements (licensure & up-to-date resume),
  • Compare agencies and find a recruiter that meets your needs
  • Interview with a potential employer
  • Sign a travel contract

Your assignment can start as soon as a couple of days or as long as a few weeks from the time of agreement. Assignments are short-term, most about 3 months.


How to be a Travel Nurse

How to be a Travel Nurse

Why do RNs choose travel nursing?

1. Opportunity to travel

The blatantly obvious draw to travel nursing is the whole travel aspect. Nurses feel as if they are “vacationing” while still earning incomes.

And, in fact, their incomes are substantially increased because  short-staffed hospitals are willing to pay top-dollar to fill assignments during their times of desperation. It’s basically supply and demand.


2.  Altruism

Some nurses choose traveling for a more altruistic reason. In travel nursing, you can sleep easy at night knowing that you’re making a difference helping sick and injured in places that are in need of your care.

3. Benefits

Nurse staffing agencies offer perks that make traveling a lot easier than you would imagine. Recruiters take most of the guesswork out of planning your entire assignment from start to finish.

Most travel nurse staffing companies offer:

  •  Free housing (or stipends if you choose your own apartment)
  • Reimbursement for CEUs
  • 401k plans
  • Per diem tax breaks and
  • Reimbursement for travel expenses

Recruiters work with you if you have other concerns such as finding daycare options for your children. Also, they will help match you to your next assignment as soon as your current one ends (if you choose).

4. Flexibility

What makes travel nursing so intriguing (at least in my eyes) is that it’s probably the best way to provide flexibility in your RN career. With permanent jobs you don’t have the choice to leave if your co-workers are unfriendly, if your city is boring, or if you just want to mix things up.

The great part about being a travel nurse is that there are always so many jobs out there that you can essentially pick and choose which company you want to work for, where you want to go, and whether or not to stay in that location.

On average, a travel nurse assignment lasts 13 weeks. Therefore, if you’re not particularly happy in the place you’re working, you can simply just choose a different place for your next job. Or, you can take a break after one assignment ends and another one starts. Everyone (especially nurses) deserves a break now and again!

Retired nurses may choose travel nursing so they can still work and earn income, but not be tied-down to anything permanent. Plus, the whole free housing and travel is a great perk at that stage in life.

Nurses who are considering moving to a new location, but haven’t decided whether or not they like it, get a free place to live during their transition or consideration period.

You can start a travel assignment much faster than you can start a permanent position when you move to a new city. It gives you time to find a house in that city, too.

How do you prepare for your first travel assignment?

The first thing you should do is research. There are lots of resources online that can help you learn about how it works. You want to evaluate whether travel nursing is right for you.

Honestly, not all are cut out for it.

If you have kids in school or a partner with a job who can’t relocate or if you are afraid of starting fresh, then it is probably best to stay put. Should you decide that traveling is just what you need, then you need to compare locations and decide where you’d like to travel.


Keep in mind that you will need licensure for whichever state you would like to visit. Many agencies will compensate you for obtaining licensure. Traveling nurses with compact licenses get to roam all over the country. As of now, there are 24 compact states so you could easily be employed in about half of the country.

Tip: Getting your ECG Certificate or brushing up on your skills makes you more marketable



The next thing you should do is start your job search. Finding jobs you want to apply for is easy.

You have to know what the agency offers before you sign  a contract. Travel agencies all have different benefit packages and you need to be savvy before getting bogged down in a commitment.

Don’t be afraid to ask your recruiter a boat load of questions. Prepare your questions ahead of time.

You want to verify:

  • Pay rates
  • Benefit packages
  • Penalties in the event of emergency breaking of a contract
  • Housing details (cable/internet, etc.)
  • Orientation length

After you are offered a job,


I cannot stress this enough. In the industry, I’ve heard a few horror stories of people who did not understand the terms before starting. Sure, that doesn’t happen often. But you don’t want it to happen to you.


Your recruiter is  your best friend when you’re a travel nurse.

How to be a Traveling Nurse

How to be a Traveling Nurse

Your recruiter helps you through everything from arranging your loose ends to setting up your phone interview with your potential employer to getting you started with your next assignment.

They will also help you out with special concerns such as bringing other travelers along with you.

If you’re ready to begin a travel nurse career, the single most important thing to remember is to be open-minded.

It may take a huge leap of faith to get started. But when you do, you step into a whole new world with opportunities to meet new people, advance your career, and add a special spring to your step.


Happy Travels!

Caroline Hill Travel Nursing Blog

Hope you found this guest blog helpful. You may also enjoy reading

How do I become a Nurse Practitioner

What to do if you receive a warning at work

Nursing’s Dirty Little Secret

Until next time friend,

Nurse Beth

Come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth career column at for all kinds of  entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question 🙂




About Beth Hawkes (140 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.
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