Travel Nursing Abroad: What You Need to Know About Working Internationally

If you’re looking to mix your love of healthcare with your sense of adventure, consider a career as a travel nurse abroad. Along with roles across the United States, you may find opportunities for international travel nursing jobs in destinations such as Europe, Australia, and the Middle East.

A career in overseas nursing can come with a lot of questions, from where you can go to how much money you can make. Use this guide as a starting point to get the answers you need to these questions and more.

How International Travel Nursing Works

Like with travel nursing in the U.S., international nursing jobs are typically found through agencies within their home countries. The first step is getting any necessary nursing license in the country where you’d like to work. Each country will have its own requirements, so it’s up to you to do adequate research.

Where are travel nurses needed overseas?

You can find opportunities for travel nursing abroad in destinations across the world. Some of the areas with the highest need for nurses include Australia, New Zealand, China, and the Middle East. Areas prone to high rates of disease and natural disasters may also have a demand for rapid response nurses who can provide critical care in the aftermath of these events.

It’s important to note, however, that it’s not common to find an agency that’ll send you to a country where you don’t speak the language. You’ll be expected to have at least a working knowledge of the local language before you’ll be considered for a nursing role in a foreign country.

What kind of jobs are available?

Jobs for travel nurses are available in a wide variety of areas. You’ll find patient populations ranging from the very young to the very old, and any number of conditions or diseases. You may find yourself working in a range of medical settings, from low-income clinics to state-of-the-art facilities.

You can tailor your job more specifically by having a specialty. In-demand specialties include emergency room, medical-surgical, pediatric nursing, intensive care, anesthesia, and labor and delivery. You can gain these credentials through organizations like the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, though you may need to gain additional certification in the country where you work.

How long are the assignments?

While travel nursing assignments in the U.S. typically last between 8 and 26 weeks, nursing jobs abroad are often longer. You’ll likely work for at least a year in destinations like Australia and Europe, while it’s common to commit to at least 2 years while working in the Middle East.

Who handles travel arrangements and expenses?

Within the U.S., travel arrangements and expenses are typically handled by your agency. However, every agency works differently, so it’s important to ask questions to understand exactly how they operate. An agency may handle setting up your travel and housing, or they may provide you with stipends to do so on your own.

Benefits of International Travel Nursing

Not only does international travel nursing allow you to experience other cultures in new parts of the world, it can expand your own skills as a nurse as well. You’ll likely be exposed to different types of medical procedures and learn how to better communicate with a variety of patients. You’ll get to grow your own abilities while also lending your talents to a likely underserved area.

After completing an assignment, you also have the option to take time off. Some agencies allow you to take as much time off between assignments as you choose, while others put a cap on the number of days you can take in a row. However, taking an extended amount of time off could affect any benefits you might have, so make sure you fully understand the way your agency works.

Salary & Benefits

Every country will have different salary ranges, but even in places where compensation doesn’t reach U.S. levels, there are other benefits that can make overseas nursing a rewarding job in many ways.

How much do international travel nurses get paid?

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Most countries around the world pay significantly less than you’ll find for travel nursing jobs across the United States. Furthermore, the pay will vary widely depending on your location and specialty, so there’s no solid answer to be given here.

You might expect to earn more if you specialize in areas such as cardiac catheterization, oncology, anesthesia, and pediatric and neonatal intensive care.

Where will I make the most money?

There are some locations, however, that are known to pay more than others. Outside the U.S. and Canada, the Middle East is where you’re likely to make the highest salary.

How do compensation and benefits work overseas?

Compensation and benefits work differently depending on your city, your country, and your agency. The only way to know exactly how your package will break down is to ask the agency for which you work.

Usually, you’ll receive an hourly wage that might seem somewhat low, but your pay is supplemented with additional benefits. Most agencies provide furnished housing for the duration of your contract, along with stipends for meals and additional travel. Your agency might also offer medical, dental, and vision insurance, as well as paid time off, reimbursement for licensing, and end-of-assignment bonuses.

How to Become an International Travel Nurse

Pursuing a travel nurse career means taking a few extra steps to be prepared for work in your new home.

Education requirements

To work as travel nurse, you’ll first need to complete your education through an accredited licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN) program. Keep in mind that while not all assignments will require a bachelor’s degree, hospitals are increasingly making this a requirement.

Timeline

The timeline for your education will depend on what kind of program you choose. LPN programs typically last between 12 and 18 months, associate’s degree programs can take 2 years, and bachelor’s degrees can take 4 years. You can also choose to pursue additional education in the form of a master’s or doctoral degree.

Remember: The higher education you have, the more travel nurse opportunities you’re likely to find.

Licensing and certification requirements

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Following successful completion of your program, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) in order to apply for a nursing license in the U.S. But if you’re planning to pursue travel nursing positions abroad, you’ll also need to secure any additional credentials that your travel country requires. This could mean simply taking a test, gaining certification, or completing an entirely new program.

You’ll then need to make sure you have a passport, a visa, a work permit, and any sponsorship that’s necessary. Each country will also have their own list of other documentation you need to present, such as your birth certificate, immunization records, and professional references. The full process can sometimes take a year to complete and may also be expensive depending on additional requirements.

Finding Overseas Nursing Jobs

As previously stated, travel nursing jobs are typically found through an agency. Different agencies work with different locations and specialties, so it’s recommended to work with multiple agencies to find an assignment that meets your needs.

While researching agencies and contracts, ask questions such as:

  • What locations do you serve?
  • How is your pay package structured?
  • What do you provide in terms of health insurance?
  • Do you provide free housing or a housing stipend?
  • Do you offer paid time off?
  • Are there any signing incentives or end-of-assignment bonuses?
  • How much time can I take off between assignments?

Living Abroad as a Travel Nurse

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Travel nursing abroad can be an incredibly exciting but also overwhelming experience. It can be tough to know exactly what to expect and being far away from family and friends can sometimes lead to feeling homesick.

If this is something you’re worried about, there are ways to make the transition easier. You might be able to bring along a significant other, but this will vary depending on your contract and housing situation. Another option is to buddy up with a friend who’s also a travel nurse. You can work with the same agencies and try to secure assignments in the same locations at the same time.

You might also be able to bring along a pet, but keep in mind that each country has its own rules for bringing animals in. You’ll likely need to get an import permit and have a health assessment performed by a vet. Pets may or may not need to be quarantined for a period of time upon arrival in the country.

When packing to head abroad, keep things as simple as possible. Furniture and other household items will likely be provided by your agency, so often clothing and personal care items are all that you need.

When it’s time to start your assignment, don’t wait until the last minute to arrive. Give yourself time to settle into your apartment, get a rental car if needed, and get familiar with the city. Allow plenty of time to shop for any necessary items and figure out your daily commute.

It’s also a good idea to arrange a visit to the medical facility before your start date. Talk to your manager, get a tour of the unit, and ask any questions related to orientation or the day-to-day duties you’ll be tackling.

Once you start, you might have a day or 2 to familiarize yourself with the procedures and protocols of the unit, but you’re likely to be expected to jump right in. Take initiative and ask questions whenever needed. If you have the experience and certifications to back up your skills, you should be able to walk in confident that you can work under pressure and with any patient.

Ready to Get Started?

Whether you’re just starting a career as an RN or you’re an established nurse looking to shake things up, pursuing a career as a travel nurse may be just what you’re looking for.

If you want to explore the world of travel nursing but don’t yet have your license, learn more about the education you’ll need or use the Find Schools button to research programs near you.

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