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Written by Leslie Catalano, MSN RN

Many new graduate nurses aim to enter travel nursing one day. As you gain experience in nursing, the following tips will prepare you for landing your first assignment.

What is Travel Nursing?

Travel nursing is an exciting career path for nurses comfortable with changing their place of employment every 13 weeks or so. When facilities are critically short-staffed, they contact a travel nurse agency to connect them with travel nurses. Some examples of places that contract with travel nurses are:

  • Hospitals
  • Correctional facilities
  • Schools
  • Home healthcare/Hospice
  • Nursing homes
  • Outpatient settings (physician’s offices, dialysis, clinics, etc.)

There are times when contracts can be longer or shorter than 13 weeks. Since travel nurses are filling critically needed positions, their orientation time is significantly less than staff nurses to get them working faster. Therefore, ensuring you are comfortable with your nursing skills is essential to hit the ground running. 

Can New Graduates Become Travel Nurses?

While there may be travel nurse agencies that will hire new graduate nurses right out of nursing school, this is not recommended and is likely not a reputable agency. As a novice nurse, you are still learning and becoming proficient. You will have plenty of questions to ask and will need time to acclimate to managing patient assignments and prioritizing your time.

Travel nursing requires a nurse to be confident and competent with minimal supervision. In many cases, your orientation is only a few days. In contrast, a new graduate nurse will receive six to eight weeks of orientation and a year of extra support and education to ensure you can safely care for patients. You’ll typically shadow another nurse for several shifts to ensure self-sufficiency and understanding of the facility's policies and documentation standards. For this reason, most travel agencies will only accept nurses with a minimum of one year of experience. 

If you’re considering becoming a travel nurse, it is imperative to make sure you have received enough on-the-job training to perform skills safely, assess patients accurately, recognize changes in patient conditions, and document accordingly. 

What are the Requirements for New Graduates to Become Travel Nurses?

There are three minimal requirements:

  1. Proof of an active nursing license. A compact license will afford you the opportunity to travel to 39 different states without applying and waiting for a license.
  2. A minimum of one year of experience.
  3. A minimum of a Basic Life Support (BLS) certificate, but many agencies want to see a variety of certifications, depending on your specialty.

How Can a New Grad Build a Competitive Travel Nurse Resume?

Here are four ways to build a competitive resume:

  1. Show your commitment to evidence-based practice and life-saving care by obtaining advanced certifications like:
  1. Get a specialty certification. After two years of working in a nursing specialty, nurses can take a national certification test to become certified in their unique specialty. Examples include Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification, Certified Emergency Nurse, and Inpatient Obstetric Nursing. Obtaining additional certifications shows that you are knowledgeable and dedicated to your specialty.
  1. Other education you receive after graduation is also an asset to a potential facility. These include:
  • Basic cardiac rhythms
  • Wound/ostomy care
  • Chemotherapy certification
  • Diabetes education
  • Stroke certification
  1. Another great aspect to add to a resume is any and all healthcare experience. This may include volunteer experience, clinical rotations in nursing school, and any experience in leadership positions such as a charge nurse or preceptor. 

Considerations When First Entering Travel Nursing

1. What specialty in travel nursing do you want to pursue?

Before you jump into travel nursing, it is important to gain experience in your chosen specialty. As mentioned, a year of experience is required before pursuing travel nursing and switching between specialties may delay your ability to travel.

The most popular specialty for new graduate nurses is medical-surgical nursing. This is a great starting point because you gain plenty of experience caring for an array of patient populations with diverse illnesses.

New graduate nurses often begin in the operating room, intensive care unit (ICU), or emergency department, and these are common specialties that always need travel nurses.

2. Are you willing to travel to different states, or do you prefer to work at facilities within your city?

Most travel nurses expect to travel to different locations across the United States. While this may sound fun and exciting, it is important to understand what goes into moving frequently. Nurses may not realize that local travel nursing is another option.

Local travel nursing, or even travel nursing within your home state, is a great option to get your feet wet in the world of travel nursing before committing to an assignment across the country.

3. What pay are you looking for as a travel nurse?

One of the largest draws to travel nursing is the extra pay you can earn. Salaries for travel nurses can fluctuate depending on the state, the specialty, and the facility's needs.

To receive the highest pay, it's crucial to research rates between agencies and in different regions. Keep in mind that higher rates may correspond with a facility that is severely understaffed or experiencing a surge in illnesses. As a nurse new to travel nursing, your pay will increase with your experience.

Partner with Medical Edge to start your career in travel nursing

Medical Edge Recruitment is a premier travel nursing recruitment agency. Our dedicated recruitment team loves working with new grads to help you land the perfect first travel nurse assignment. If you possess one year of experience and are ready for the next challenge, contact our Travel Team to get started!

About the Author:

Leslie Catalano, MSN RN is a nurse, educator, and freelance writer. She has 18 years of nursing experience, including two years as a travel nurse. She is the creator of the Health Nurse Connection. You can follow her on Facebook at TheHealthyNurseConnection.


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