Travel Nursing Career and Education Overview

From Ebola outbreaks to facility assistance, a travel nursing career will set you on the front lines of healthcare.

Becoming a travel nurse doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be flying off to West Africa to deal with victims of the Ebola crisis. For sure, you’ll encounter risk if you choose it, but you’ll also encounter great reward no matter where you decide to serve. Truth is, a travel nursing career is highly versatile in nature.

If you’re the adventurous type, becoming an RN (at minimum) and deciding to take on short-term contract assignments in parts of the U.S. or overseas may serve the dual purpose of fulfilling your love of travel as well as your desire to help people in need.

How does a travel nursing career work?

Typically travel nurses work with agencies who will place them in positions in hospitals and other employers in areas that have suffered due to a nursing shortage, or because there has been an emergency situation that requires additional staffing. Travel nurses may also be independent contractors and negotiate their own assignments and benefits.

What are the requirements for travel nurses?

Generally a travel nurse is an RN who has passed the NCLEX-RN exam, with a minimum of one year of clinical experience in your area of specialty. Travel nurses must be licensed in the state in which they plan to practice, so often your home state board of nursing will implement a reciprocity process with the state in which you intend to work. Travel nurses must undergo certain medical tests, such as a TB test, and have the required immunizations prior to starting an assignment.
The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) is another option for travel nurse licensure. This is a joint initiative to help expand nurse mobility around the nation. So far 24 states participate in the NLC, which allows nurses to have one multistate license so that they can practice in their home state and any other state that is part of the alliance.

What types of travel nurse are there?

Here are four of the most typical types of travel nurses:

  • Basic Travel Nurse—These nurses typically work 13 week periods in an area and move around the country, or world, as needed. Assignments can last as little as eight weeks or as much as 25 weeks.
  • Rapid Response Travel Nurse—You’ll work at short-term assignments as a rapid or crisis response nurse—typically in response to critical outbreak situations, such as influenza or Ebola. These nurses administer care in the aftermath of a disaster, such as a hurricane, tsunami or earthquake.
  • Strike Travel Nurse—Strike nursing is different from other travel nurse assignments in that because you are filling in for striking staff regulars, you may find yourself in an understaffed and unfamiliar environment and be expected to administer quality health care. Assignments are tenuous because a strike can be settled at any time or continue for weeks, and you’ll need to be prepared to possibly find a new assignment quickly, or forgo a previously accepted assignment.
  • EMR Conversion Nurse—As hospitals and medical facilities implement new government-mandated requirements for Emergency Medical Record conversions, RN travel nurses trained specifically in EMR systems help facilities provide care for patients, maintain efficiency, and train staff in EMR software. These positions are usually four–13 weeks in length.

What are some of the benefits of the job?

Working as a travel nurse includes a variety of benefits. Here are some of the top perks of the job:

  • Better-than-average nursing pay
  • Housing may be provided
  • Travel allowance
  • Licensure reimbursement
  • Some agencies may offer vacation and sick days
  • CEU reimbursement
  • Sign-on and completion bonuses

Travel nursing can be as adventurous and flexible as you want it to be. If you want to see the world while working in a rewarding, challenging career, becoming a travel nurse may be for you, whether you’re a new RN or an established nurse looking for a change. If you don’t have your RN yet, but want to explore the world of travel nursing, now is a great time to get started. See our selection of nursing schools and programs to find the best fit for your educational needs.

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