Jetting off to a tropical location or new city for a few months while getting paid top dollar can be a no-brainer for nurses with limited responsibilities who love to travel. Travel nursing has become increasingly critical during the past year to help combat the impact of the pandemic, and more nurses are considering if it might be the right time to jump in. Nurses are tempted by crisis pay rates and may be feeling the urge to help, while also getting the opportunity to explore a new city. So, how does a nurse know if they're cut out for a nomadic lifestyle and if travel nursing is a fit for them?

Ready For A Change?

Travel nursing isn't only for the young and single. Many nurses travel with their children, spouses, and pets. That being said, it's important for a nurse to consider their lifestyle and daily routines before committing to such a significant change. Travel nursing typically requires a nurse to be away from home for 13 weeks. Here are a few additional factors to consider before hitting the road.

1. Is Traveling Enjoyable?

This may seem like an obvious answer, but consider the reality of it. Travel nurses are required to relocate to a new place they have likely never been before, and they may not know a single soul. They will be living in a rented space without access to most of their possessions. None of these are reasons to opt out — only to ensure that they are prepared.

2. It Isn't Just About the Job

It's important for nurses to consider additional inconveniences and obstacles that accompany traveling. How do they feel about navigating an unknown place? Are they comfortable with finding grocery stores, gyms, churches, or recreational activities? What if the area they find themselves in isn't safe? What if it's more rural than expected? These are all concerns that can be researched prior to accepting an assignment, but they are never a guarantee.

3. Is It Only For the Money?

Travel nursing is often the best way to make the most money as a nurse without obtaining an advanced degree. However, money should not be the sole reason to start travel nursing as it requires a large amount of change and quick adaptability to new situations. If a nurse is miserable in their new surroundings and counting down the days until the end of their assignment, the money won't be worth it.

4. Comfort Level with Skills and Charting.

Nursing is generally similar across the country when it comes to skills and treatments, but workflows and charting systems will differ. A nurse should be tech-savvy in order to keep up with the fast orientation to their travel assignment. Orientation is rarely more than a couple of shifts long if that. That's why it's recommended for nurses to have at least one year of experience before traveling. The greater amount of experience, the more comfortable they will be.

5. Personality Characteristics and Relationships

Travel nursing requires high amounts of independence. Nurses need to be prepared to handle situations alone, as friends and family won't be nearby. Extroverted nurses may excel at making new friends, or find themselves lonely and missing home. Introverted nurses may have less difficulty, as they typically prefer having their own time and space. Either way, travel nursing provides the opportunity to meet new people and strengthen one's sense of independence.

How are Travel Nurses Licensed?

Apart from the day-to-day requirements of a travel nurse, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with travel nurse-specific licensure requirements before pursuing this exciting career. Here are a few basic considerations:

  • RN License: If you haven’t done so already, you must first obtain a registered nurse (RN) license by passing the NCLEX-RN in the state where you intend to practice. This initial license serves as the foundation for your travel nursing career.
  • Compact Nursing License: Consider obtaining a multistate or compact nursing license if you plan to work in multiple states. The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) allows nurses to have one license in their primary state of residence while granting them the privilege to practice in other compact states without obtaining additional licenses. However, not all states participate in the compact, so check if the states you’re interested in are part of the compact.
  • State Licensure Requirements: Each state has its own licensure requirements and regulations for RNs. Before accepting a travel nursing assignment in a particular state, ensure that you meet all licensure requirements, including education, examination, background checks, and any additional documentation.
  • Endorsement or Reciprocity: If you want to work in a state where you’re not licensed, you may need to apply for licensure by endorsement or reciprocity. This process involves submitting your current license and meeting the specific requirements of the state licensing board, which may include additional exams, background checks, or continuing education.
  • Temporary Licenses: Some states offer temporary or expedited licensure options for travel nurses. These licenses allow you to practice in the state for a limited period, typically 30 to 90 days, without going through the full endorsement process. Temporary licenses are often granted more quickly to accommodate the urgent staffing needs of healthcare facilities.

Read More: RN License Transfer and NLC Guide

First Steps To Securing An Assignment

If a nurse has considered all of the factors above and feels confident that travel nursing is a perfect fit, what are the next steps? It's one thing to fantasize about a life of freedom and exploration, and another entirely to actually make the leap.

Travel nursing is constantly evolving. While it was previously necessary to contact a recruiter or agency to start an assignment, that isn't always the case today. Nomad is a tool that connects clinicians directly to facilities. Nurses can search for jobs based on their preferred location and specialty and if their skills are a match, the facility's hiring manager can schedule a phone interview and extend an offer.

Some nurses prefer to have all the negotiation and paperwork handled for them, including assistance in securing housing. This is a significant component of committing to an assignment and is highly individualized. Recruiters can set up housing, such as an apartment, by utilizing the nurse's housing stipend. Other nurses prefer to save their housing allowance by staying with a friend, rooming with a nurse they will be working with, or booking an affordable Airbnb.

Travel nursing can appear to be a glamorous escape that allows nurses to earn more money while seeing the world, but it requires careful consideration before signing a contract. For nurses with few obligations at home, a yearning to see other cities and meet new people, and the nursing experience to confidently provide care, travel nursing can't be beaten. If travel nursing is something that a nurse can't seem to stop thinking about, it's certainly worth contacting a reputable agency to see what adventures await them.