How Can I Become a Travel Nurse?

Few careers are as rewarding as those in the medical field, and being a travel nurse provides plenty of opportunity to feel like you’re truly making a difference in someone’s life. Travel nursing jobs often combine your passion for helping people with an interest in travel and seeing parts of the world that you may never have had the opportunity to visit otherwise.

Although being a travel nurse sounds exotic, it’s not an impossible field to break into by any means. There’s always a high demand for these workers, and the experience gained while traveling can be used to further your career in other ways. Of course, there are a few drawbacks to the traveling lifestyle, and the pay is far from glamorous, but if you’re passionate about the field, you can have a rich and rewarding career.

What’s Necessary for Becoming a Travel Nurse?

First and foremost, you must complete a nursing program. After completing your schooling, including clinical hours in a local hospital, you will need to pass a certification and licensing exam. Once that’s finished, you can apply to be a traveling nurse.

Experience is a necessary component of a successful application, but specific requirements vary from one program to the next. You may not be able to get a traveling position immediately after you receive your certification, but you can usually start after 18 months to two years of on-the-job experience. The reason for this delay is to ensure that applicants are able to handle the day-to-day aspects of the job before adding the stress of travel.

Some specialty programs require substantially more experience. If you plan to specialize in psychiatric nursing, surgery or rehabilitation, you will likely need at least two years of experience. LPN/LVN nurses need as much as six years of experience.

What is the Compensation?

Traveling nurses earn similar wages to other types of nurses, but your income will usually go up with experience and specialization. You may also earn more for some assignments than others due to the hospital setting you’ll be working within.

In addition to your base pay, you could also be compensated for your travel. This is usually paid as a flat rate per mile traveled and does not include meals or hotel arrangements, but the company may pay for your housing costs while you’re in a new city. This might be in the form of a housing allowance, or you may be put up in an apartment near the hospital. These benefits often make traveling an attractive option to some as it frees up more of the paycheck for other uses aside from housing.

Many traveling nurse companies also offer bonuses after being in the program for a few years, and it’s often possible to get performance-based bonuses and incentives.

What is Being a Traveling Nurse Like?

There are several companies you can sign up with that will give you traveling assignments. When choosing a company, it’s a good idea to do some research and choose one that will provide you with the benefits you need, such as health insurance and loyalty programs. Also ask about housing compensation and pay. If you’re unhappy with your company, you can change to a different company; moving is often easy after you have experience as a traveling nurse.

Many companies will offer flexibility in choosing assignments. Your career is determined by demand, though, so you may not always be able to find work everywhere you want to travel. Many travel nurses primarily work in hospitals, and you can specify what type of facilities you prefer to work with.

Because different states have different licensing requirements, you may need to obtain a license in a new state before traveling there. The company you work with should be able to help make the necessary arrangements to obtain your license before you’re dispatched to your new job.

Traveling can get lonely, but you can bring friends or family with you to break up the monotony. If you choose, you can accept assignments with a colleague and share housing with them. If you plan to travel with someone else, just be sure you tell your recruiter so you can get appropriate housing.

Traveling nurses have an exciting, fast-paced job, but it’s not for everyone. For people with wanderlust and a desire to go where they’re needed most, a career as a traveling nurse could be the perfect choice.

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