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5 Things You Need to Do to Become a Travel Nurse

Travel nurse walking on mountain with backpack.
Learn the 5 things you need to do to become a travel nurse and get on your new career path now!

By Kerrey Brennan

Being a nurse is one of the noblest and rewarding jobs one can pursue. And becoming a travel nurse means you get to follow your passion to help others while also traveling and experiencing different cities and states across the nation. The demand for travel nurses is higher than ever. But the big question is, where do you start?

In this blog, we’ll discuss what you need to do to become a travel nurse — everything from getting your nursing degree to choosing the perfect travel nurse agency and getting your first travel job. Follow these steps and, at the end of the road, you’ll have an exciting career as a travel nurse. You’ll get to go on temporary assignments that can last anywhere between 13 to 26 weeks at a time. You’ll also be able to learn new techniques and try different specialties along the way.

Here are 5 things you need to do to become a travel nurse:

1. Earn Your Degree in Nursing

Your first step is to become a registered nurse (RN). To do this, you need to earn either an Associate of Science degree in Nursing (ASN/AND) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). It typically takes two to three years to acquire an ASN/AND degree. This degree offers a combination of classroom lectures and clinical rotations. A BSN, on the other hand, is a four-year program. While it too offers a combination of classroom lectures and clinical rotations, it also prepares RNs for jobs in leadership roles. Whichever educational path you choose, both of these degrees will make you eligible to take the NCLEX-RN. And that’s your next step toward becoming a travel nurse.

2. Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)

Once you’ve earned your degree, you need to get your RN or LPN license. To do that, you have to take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination, designed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). This exam will test your basic understanding and knowledge of nursing and will determine whether or not it is safe for you to begin practicing as an entry-level nurse. To take this exam, you must apply for a nursing license in the state in which you plan to work.

3. Gain Working Experience as a Registered Nurse

Now that you have your degree and your license to practice, it’s time to get some experience under your belt. Before becoming a travel nurse, you’ll need at least one year of permanent nursing experience at a hospital or other type of healthcare facility. This is when you can/should determine the specialty that interests you the most. Choosing a specialty in a high-demand area is a great way for you to more easily get a job as a travel nurse. This includes emergency room, ICU, labor and delivery, OR, telemetry, and much more.

4. Consider Professional Development Opportunities and Volunteer Work

Once you’ve had at least a year’s worth of experience as a practicing nurse, you are an eligible candidate for becoming a travel nurse. But, to get an edge over other candidates, there are some additional things you can do to make you more in demand.

For starters, the more facilities you work in, the more appealing you are. Travel nurses must quickly adapt to new hospitals and medical facilities, so if you can show that you’re capable of that, your travel nurse resume will stand out. A great way to do this without hopping from job to job regularly is to take advantage of professional development opportunities and resources.

Another way to stand out is to volunteer. Consider devoting your spare time to assisting underprivileged areas. This can mean exploring local opportunities or even traveling abroad and will help the healthcare industry combat nurse burnout. Both will help you gain valuable experience and show potential employers that you are capable of working with people from different backgrounds.

5. Find a Travel Nursing Agency

Once you’ve acquired your degree, your license, and you’ve got a good deal of on-site experience, it’s time to find your first job as a travel nurse. To make that happen, you now want to find a company that offers the benefits you desire, access to plenty of jobs to choose from, and a recruiter you can trust. To toot our own horn a bit, at Medical Solutions we work for you and in service of your career goals. With hospitals and healthcare facility connections nationwide, we help travelers find great travel nursing opportunities according to their desired location and specialty. Our recruiters are the best in the business because they focus on building a genuine relationship with each of their travelers. We also offer great pay, industry-leading benefits, and can assist with housing and relocation arrangements — anything to make the transition from assignment to assignment as smooth as possible.

As you can see, the path to travel nursing is not an easy one, nor is it a fast process. But it is certainly gratifying, and it’s a great way to ensure you’re in a profession that is always in demand — wherever your work may take you.

About the Author

Elena Barker is a professional writer for Medical Solutions, one of the nation's largest travel nurse staffing companies. Elena specializes in writing about the healthcare staffing industry.

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