How to Become a Travel Nurse

Wanderlust and nursing might not seem like a conventional pairing at first glance. However, when combined, they give rise to one of the most dynamic, rewarding, and exciting professions out there: travel nursing. For those nurses with an itch to explore, meet diverse people, and face new challenges, travel nursing offers a unique avenue to merge professional growth with personal adventure. But how does one embark on this journey? Let’s navigate the roadmap to becoming a successful travel nurse.

1. Begin with a Solid Foundation: Education and Training

The Essentials: A travel nurse is, first and foremost, a registered nurse (RN). This means you'll need:

  • A nursing degree - ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) or BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing).
  • Licensure - After graduating, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become a licensed RN.

2. Gain Experience

Why it Matters: Travel nurses are often expected to hit the ground running, with minimal orientation in new settings.

The Path: After becoming an RN, work for at least one to two years in a clinical setting to hone your skills, especially in specialties that are in high demand in travel nursing, like ICU, OR, or ER.

3. Acquire Certifications

Why it Matters: Certifications can bolster your resume and make you more attractive to travel nursing agencies.

The Path: Consider certifications relevant to your specialty. For instance, if you're an ICU nurse, the CCRN (Critical Care Registered Nurse) certification could be beneficial.

4. Research and Choose a Travel Nursing Agency

Why it Matters: The right agency can make or break your experience. They'll be your primary point of contact, helping with assignments, housing, and even certain benefits.

The Path:

  • Research agencies, considering their reputation, reviews, and the benefits they offer.
  • Speak to current or former travel nurses to gain insights about their experiences with particular agencies.

5. Obtain a Multi-State Nursing License

Why it Matters: As a travel nurse, you’ll be moving between states. A multi-state license simplifies the process.

The Path: Consider obtaining the Compact Nursing License, which allows you to practice in multiple participating states without needing individual licenses.

6. Prepare for Flexibility and Adaptability

Why it Matters: Travel nursing can be unpredictable. Adapting to new work cultures, locations, and clinical challenges is part of the job.

The Path: Keep an open mind. Consider each assignment as a learning opportunity, both professionally and personally.

7. Secure Your First Assignment

Why it Matters: Your first assignment is a significant step into the world of travel nursing.

The Path:

  • Work closely with your agency to find assignments that align with your preferences and skills.
  • Ensure you understand the terms of the contract, including duration, benefits, and expectations.

Becoming a travel nurse is a unique confluence of adventure, professional growth, and personal fulfillment. While the path requires dedication, the rewards — diverse experiences, the joy of travel, and the gratification of making a difference in varied settings — are unparalleled. So, pack your stethoscope and your passion for nursing, and embark on a journey where every destination holds a new story, a new challenge, and a new opportunity to shine.