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How to Become a Travel Nurse [With Best Pay & Benefits]

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With the problem of nursing shortage in healthcare facilities nationwide, the need for travel nurses continues to rise. 

A travel nurse job is an on-demand nursing career with a competitive salary and many incentives.

On top of that, nurses get the chance to explore different places without worrying about housing or travel expenses. 

So, if you’re a registered nurse looking for a nursing job to broaden your skills, you’re fit for this role.

This guide highlights the requirements and steps on how to become a travel nurse, with helpful tips to succeed in this profession. 

An Overview of Travel Nursing: A Primer

According to Zippia, the labor statistics for travel nurses currently employed in the United States is over 1,700,000. For such a high number of traveling nurses, there are only around 300 travel nurse agencies catering to the profession in the country.

At the same time, becoming a travel nurse is one of the most popular travel jobs. This concept debunks the idea that nurses can only work within hospital premises or healthcare facilities. 

Through travel nursing, nurses can also explore areas outside the healthcare setting. They can work for several professional industries like education, pharmaceuticals, technology, and even customer service. 

Apart from that, travel nurses can also work for the government and media.

Meanwhile, a nurse’s role mainly focuses on patient care. Here are some of the most common roles and responsibilities of travel nurses:

  • Travel to different organizations or facilities like nursing homes, schools, and hospitals
  • Collect the patient’s health history and update the patient’s medical chart 
  • Work alongside physicians for holistic patient care and treatment (assisting in surgeries and reporting observations to doctors)
  • Perform and run examinations and bedside tests like glucose monitoring
  • Patient assessment and monitoring (check vitals like pulse rate, temperature, and blood pressure)
  • Administer vaccines, immunizations, and medications
  • Patient education and support
  • Record-keeping and documentation
  • Operate, clean, and maintain medical equipment and tools 

How Much Do Travel Nurses Make?

According to Indeed, the average travel nurse’s salary is over $2,250 per week, with some travel nursing agencies offering around $4,000 weekly. 

Every year, travel nurses make an average earning of around $100,000. In fact, becoming a travel nurse pays more compared to staff nurses that are stationary in hospitals.

A female Travel Nurse checking the blood pressure of a patient in a hospital room

Moreover, specific qualifications and certifications impact the net salary of travel nurses; the more certifications you have, the higher your pay will be.

For example, a registered nurse with Basic Life Support or BLS Certification can earn 57.16% more than the base pay. 

The same scenario applies to travel nurses with Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) and Fetal Monitoring certifications. They can earn around 14% to 26.75% more.

What You’ll Need to Become a Travel Nurse [& Associated Costs]

If you’re looking to explore a travel nursing career, take a look at the following requirements and qualifications that you need to accomplish:

  • A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN): According to Nurse Journal, attending nursing school can cost between $8,000 to $100,000 or more. Note that tuition fees are relatively lower in public schools.  
  • A valid Registered Nurse or RN license: To obtain an RN license, you must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for RNs or NCLEX-RN. Taking the exam costs around $200.
  • Certifications: Most agencies require traveling nurses to have basic certifications for additional credentials. BLS and ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) certifications are sought after. These certifications can cost around $15 to $400.
  • Relevant experience: Most travel nursing agencies require at least one year of experience for travel nursing applicants. Some agencies may require two years of nursing job experience or more. 

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Travel Nurse?

From finishing nursing school to earning certifications, it can cost from $8,215 to around $200,000. This rough estimate is on top of other expenses and miscellaneous fees. 

Is it Hard to Become a Travel Nurse?

While it’s a grueling process, becoming a travel nurse is bearable as long as you’re competent, adaptive, and passionate about patient care. The opportunity to travel and see new places is a bonus!

Apart from that, you can expand your horizons and hone your skills. Plus, you get to meet new people and experience different cultures. 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Travel Nurse?

A high-paying job that allows you to travel; that’s the definition of a gig job that most of us dream of.

However, becoming a travel nurse can take five years or more, given that you must finish a 4-year nursing program and obtain years of relevant experience. 

Regarding job perks, a traveling nurse may receive benefit packages apart from competitive pay. 

On top of that, they also receive insurance, stipends, and travel reimbursements. Note that benefits and salary packages vary per travel nursing agency.

While the compensation and benefits are pretty enticing, you need to know that there are several challenges in working as a traveling nurse:

  1. Demanding workload and inconsistent shifts (oftentimes working overnight)
  2. Cultural challenges 
  3. Working in fast-paced and stressful environments
  4. Mental health challenges
  5. Being away from home or loved ones most of the time
  6. Maintaining a work-life balance is pretty challenging

How to Become a Travel Nurse in Five Simple Steps 

Become a travel nurse by following these steps:

A male travel nurse working on a desktop computer

STEP 1: Finish Nursing School

Finishing a nursing program is a prerequisite to qualify as a travel nurse. A BSN or ADN program lasts 2 to 4 years and equips you with the foundations you’ll need to work as a nurse later. 

In nursing school, you’ll learn the fundamentals of nursing, pharmacology, and other related courses. 

You’ll also gain exposure to the actual work setting through an internship or practicum, where you’ll serve a certain number of clinical hours in a hospital or healthcare facility. 

STEP 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN and Earn a License

After finishing nursing school, you’re now ready to take the NCLEX-RN. Here are the steps that you need to take:

  1. Choose a state for NCLEX and undergo a pre-qualification process
  2. After passing the pre-qualification, send your school documents and credentials to the Nursing Board for evaluation
  3. Once your application is approved, you can register for Authorization to Test or ATT
  4. After receiving ATT approval, you can now choose an exam schedule
  5. Go to the test center as scheduled, take the exam, and pass to get that RN license

Note that it’s more advantageous if you gained your license from a state that belongs to the Nurse Licensure Compact or NLC. The license you got from that participating state is also valid in other participating states.

STEP 3: Gain Experience and Earn Certifications

Now that you have the license, it’s time to focus on your specialty and gain relevant experience. Whether pediatrics, surgical, neonatal, or any specialty, your clinical background determines your traveling nurse qualifications. 

In addition to experience, obtaining certifications is a must before signing in to different travel nurse agencies. 

Certifications are essential in proving your expertise and making your resume more appealing to the travel agencies you’re eyeing for. 

Here’s a list of other nursing certification programs you can obtain:

  • Adult, Pediatric, and Neonatal Critical Care Nurses (CCRN)
  • Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC)
  • Certified Nurse Educator (CNE)
  • Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC)
  • Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP)
  • Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN)
  • Stroke Certified Registered Nurse (SCRN)

STEP 4: Apply to a Reputable Travel Nursing Agency

It’s time to research and explore which travel nursing companies suit you best. Check out forums, websites, and don’t forget to read the company reviews. 

It’s also essential to keep an eye out for incentive programs, pay packages, and benefits that many travel nursing agencies offer.

To help you decide, you can list your prospect agencies and compare their offers. After that, start filling out application forms and submit preliminary requirements.

STEP 5: Complete All Necessary Paperwork and Medical Exams

Now that you’re almost ready to begin your journey, it’s time to collect your certificates, skills checklist, credentials, and all the important documents you’ll need to complete the application process. 

Ensure that all your documents or licenses are valid and up-to-date. Some nursing agencies may require you to have a valid driver’s license. Pulse, you’ll need to undergo physical examinations or medical exams. 

After accomplishing all requirements, you may be ready for an interview and contract signing!

Reasons to Consider Becoming a Travel Nurse

A travel nurse helping an old lady in a wheelchair in the hospital

A travel nursing job is a gateway to many opportunities and experiences that will look good on your resume and impact your outlook in life.

Here are the reasons why a travel nursing job is worth it:

  • Competitive pay with many benefits: A travel nurse’s job pays more than a regular nurse’s. Additionally, travel nurses receive benefits that may include insurance, stipends, travel reimbursements, and healthcare packages.
  • See new places and meet new people: By traveling as a nurse, you experience different cultures and explore places you’ve only seen in books. From blinding city lights to breathtaking rural landscapes, your job may allow you to indulge in sights you’ve never seen!
  • Break free from expensive living costs: Some companies offer free housing and tax-free stipends, so you can hop from one place to another without worrying about monthly bills. 
  • Broaden your skillset: Professional growth is more valuable than money, and that’s the most important thing you’ll gain from working as a travel nurse. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of nurses get paid the most?

Oncology, home health, travel, and operating room nurses are some of the highest-paying nurse specialties. 

Which country pays nurses the most?

Luxembourg is the top country in the world that offers the highest salary for nurses. Countries like Switzerland, Germany, the USA, and Canada are also on the list of countries with high nurse salaries.

Similar Gigs to Check Out

If you love healthcare work and travel at the same time, here are other similar roles you might want to check out:

  • How to Become a Nutritionist: If you’re passionate about diet and a healthy lifestyle, then becoming a nutritionist is a viable option.
  • How to Become a Disney Travel Agent: Do you want to earn commission by booking trips for travelers wanting to explore the happiest place on earth? Then, you might want to become a travel agent for Disney!
  • How to Become a Travelling Hair Stylist: Provide hairstyle services and give yourself some time for leisure too! Indeed, there’ll be no bad hair days for traveling hair stylists. 

Wrapping Up

While the process on how to become a travel nurse is quite lengthy, it’s a rewarding job that allows nurses to travel and work at the same time.  

A travel nursing job is a high-paying profession requiring applicants to finish a nursing degree, pass the nursing licensure exam, and have years of nursing experience or nursing specialty. 

That said, travel nursing is a worthwhile opportunity that nurses shouldn’t miss if they want professional growth. 

If you like this article, please leave a comment and feel free to share this with your friends. We’ll see you on the next one!

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