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What if you had the freedom to choose when and where you wanted to work? Want to visit every state park in the United States? Want to meet new people and visit new places every few months? Maybe you are looking to increase your resume by working in a variety of specialties and facilities? Travel nursing allows you to choose your assignment based on what matters most to you, so you never have to choose between work and life.

Florence Nightingale could be called one of the original travel nurses. In 1854, she volunteered to travel from England to Turkey during the Crimean War to assist wounded English soldiers. The current concept of travel nursing originated in New Orleans in 1978 as a response to the increase in patients during Mardi Gras. Since the increase only happened once a year, hiring additional nurses to work during the month of Mardi Gras made a lot of sense.

Travel nursing gained mainstream popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic as the wave of cases across the country increased demand and dictated where nurses were needed the most. The ongoing shortage of nurses, due to the aging population of existing nurses and nurse educators - which means fewer nursing school graduates, means travel nursing will remain in great demand for years to come. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 6% increase in registered nurse positions is expected from 2021 to 2030, with the Nurse Journal forecasting a 9% increase in travel nurse positions from 2020 to 2030.

What does a Travel Nurse do?

Instead of working for one hospital system or facility, travel nurses typically work for staffing agencies that recruit for positions across the United States. The positions are usually short-term assignments to fill short-term staffing gaps. These assignments are typically between 8 to 26 weeks, with the average being 13 weeks, but many assignments can be longer in duration.

While assignments are common in hospitals, travel nurses can also work in various healthcare settings including long-term care facilities, mental health centers, rural clinics and skilled nursing facilities. It is common for contracts to be extended as needed, so if you fall in love with a location or facility, it’s likely your contract can be extended.

What’s needed to become a Travel Nurse?

1. Understand the Role

Travel nursing is a great way to experience our country’s diversity and find new activities that are unique to each assignment area. In addition to adventure and freedom, travel nurses can make as much as 30% more than permanent staff nurses. Gaining experience in different facilities increases your knowledge and earning potential.

In exchange for higher pay, travel nurses must spend time apart from their family and friends, although lots of travel nurses bring their families along when they can or take assignments with another travel nurse buddy. Additionally, short-term housing is sometimes hard to find and may be more expensive than longer lease situations. To be eligible for national assignments, travel nurses may be required to hold multiple state licenses or additional certifications.

Think you’re a good fit? A travel nurse should enjoy learning new things (assignments expand your experience in facilities, equipment, and specialties), freedom (to choose where and when they work), flexibility (to create their own schedules and income), and adventure (moving to different states and different facilities often).

2. Degree Requirements

The majority of travel positions exist for Registered Nurses (RN), but Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurses (LPN/LVN), Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) and even allied health positions are needed as well. To become a Registered Nurse, you must first earn either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), however some hospitals, agencies and healthcare facilities will only hire nurses with a BSN. If you already hold a non-nursing degree, an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing in an intensive program can be earned in less than 18 months.

3. Pass the Exam and Get Licensed

After completion of a nursing program, successful completion of the National Council Licensure Exam NCLEX-RN is required. Once you pass the exam, you must apply for a license in the state(s) you wish to work in. Some states give reciprocity through the Nursing Licensure Company (NLC) agreement. In these states, holding a compact state nursing license makes you automatically licensed in multiple states. Consult the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to find out which states participate.

In addition to getting licensed, most facilities require Basic Life Support (BLS) certification. For ER or critical care, Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certification may also be required.

4. Gain Experience

Since travel nurses must adapt rapidly to changing healthcare settings, schedules and staff, most facilities require at least 1 year of nursing experience. If you choose to specialize in a field such as pediatrics, medical/surgical, ER/trauma, intensive care or neonatal, these specialties usually require at least 2 years’ experience and additional certifications. 

5. Find your Agency

Staffing agencies typically contract with multiple facilities across the country to provide multiple opportunities at any given time. A recruiter will work with you to find the right job and provide 24/7 support. They learn your history, your interests, and your goals to find the absolute right fit for you. A good agency should also provide clinical support, medical/dental/vision benefits, help with credentialing, onboarding and housing, and paid time off - allowing you to have the benefits of staff nursing with the freedom of a travel nurse adventure!

Need help finding your next adventure?

Medical Edge Recruitment is the premier travel nursing recruitment agency, specializing in providing top talent to clients in the healthcare industry. We connect clinical and allied providers to their ideal opportunities, focusing on building long-lasting relationships through honesty and transparency. In travel nursing, bigger does not always mean better. While we have an extensive network of job opportunities, our experienced team is dedicated to making your personalized provider experience our priority. There are a lot of moving parts in getting set up for a new assignment, but we take care of all the details along the way. Adventure awaits, let Medical Edge Recruitment show you where to go next! 

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