how-to-start-travel-nursing

How to Start Travel Nursing

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Today we’re going to be looking at how to start travel nursing and all the questions surrounding it!

Recently, there’s be a massive influx in the need for nurses. So, travel nurses or agency nurses have become a common practice in the industry. You can make more money, have a more flexible schedule, have more time off, and advance your career. What’s not to love?

We’ll be going over all of the ins-and-outs of becoming a travel nurse. And, what questions you should be asking for your first travel assignment. While it’s not rocket science, navigating the field can be tricky. It is important to arm yourself with the best information possible.

What is a Travel Nurse?

A travel nurse or agency nurse is a registered nurse that is an employee of a staffing agency. The staffing agency works as a middle-man between the nurse and the hiring hospital. Agency nurses are often known as “travel nurses” because of the typical assignments requiring some sort of travel.

Travel nurses are often referred to staff nurses as “travelers”, “agency nurses” or “travel nurses”.

What is an Agency Nurse?

An agency nurse is often referred to as a “travel nurse”. Agency nurses work for an employment agency that helps staff hospitals for temporary periods.

What Kinds of Travel Nurses Are There?

Travel nursing agencies hire pretty much any specialty of nurse out there. Assignments can range from an operating room nurse position to a vaccine nurse position. You can also find assignments for med-surg, ICU, ER, and other various nursing specialties.

Travel nurses are filling the positions at hospitals that are short staffed, so you can pretty much find any position you are looking for (depending on where you’re looking).

Where Can Travel Nurses Travel?

One of the biggest perks of travel nursing is the ability to travel. While you can take a travel assignment as little as 5-10 miles away, most nurses stick with over 50-75 miles (this allows you to take the biggest benefits and tax-free housing stipends, more on that later).

A lot nurses even travel to other cities or states. You can find an assignment in virtually any city you want, and get paid to work/live there. In addition, depending on how your license works, you might even be able to travel out of the country!

You can even travel to really cool places such as Hawaii!

For example, the Cleveland Clinic was sending nurses across the Atlantic Ocean to their new hospital branches in Dubai and London.

How Much Do Travel Nurses Make?

How much money do travel nurses make? Can you make a lot of money travel nursing? The answer is and always will be, YES. Travel nursing is incredibly lucrative, especially based on what specialty you are.

We’ll go into more depth into travel nursing pay later on, but depending on the need of your specialty travel nurses can make upwards of $12,000-$14,000 per week! On average, a travel nurses salary can range anywhere from $100,000-$250,000 per year.

travel-nurse-vs-staff-nurse-salary
Travel Nurse VS Staff Nurse Salary, What is Higher?

Why Do Travel Nurses Make So Much Money?

Why are travel nurses paid so well? There are several reasons why travel nurses make so much money.

  • High Demand: Nurses are a highly in-demand profession. With the typical supply-and-demand model, hospitals have to pay more and more money to acquire the “supply”. Additionally, high hospital influxes due to global pandemics have also increased this demand.
  • Tax-Free Stipends: Travel nurses that are outside of a certain distance range are eligible for tax-free housing stipends. These stipends are set by the state per city and are paid for by the hospital. They are designed so that the nurse can live in whatever city they are working comfortably. Typically these stipends are very generous and because they are tax-free, often are a major “bonus” in addition to your hourly wage.
  • High Hourly Wages: Nurses on assignment can typically expect significantly higher hourly wages than staff nurses. Why? The same supply-and-demand model from before. Hospitals have to beat out other hospitals for staffing, and one way to do this is to pay higher than other hospitals. This, in-turn, drives the wages up.
  • Work Acuity: The acuity of work is often another reason why travel nurses are paid so much. If a hospital is requiring help from travel nurses, often they can be very understaffed and overwhelmed. So, the work load on nurses can be very high compared to other hospitals. While this isn’t true in all cases, it does play a part in increasing travel nursing wages. 
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What Does a Travel Nurse Recruiter Do?

Travel nurse recruiters help travel nurses find assignments, act a liaison between the hospital and nurse, and help to get everything set to ensure a painless experience. They are basically the person that nurses contact to help get everything ready for an upcoming assignment. 

How Long Do You Have to Be a Nurse to Travel?

How long do you have to be a nurse to start travel nursing? Typically most agencies or hospitals require at least 2 years of nursing experience to start travel nursing. However, with recent staffing issues, some hospitals are only requiring 1 year of experience. And, in some rare cases only 6 months of experience.

Although 6 months does sound like a short time, these assignments are often for vaccine clinic positions or similar acuity positions. They don’t require a lot of orientation or prior experience to start working.

While you can start travel nursing with only a year or two of experience, it is highly recommended that you are confident before you start. Travel nurses aren’t going to receive much of an orientation and it is important that you are well-versed in your practice to ensure patient safety, and a good travel experience.

What is Block Scheduling?

Block scheduling is a strategy often used by travel nurses to keep all of their work days in a row. For example, if you were working a 3×12 assignment, then your schedule would be Mon-Weds, or Weds-Fri, or however 3 days in a row would work out.

Not all places accept block scheduling, however it can be something that you can negotiate in your terms.

How Long Are Travel Nursing Assignments?

How long do travel nurse assignments typically last? Well, length varies based on what speciality and hospital you’re working with. But, most assignments are 12-13 weeks long.

This variation in length helps to keep you flexible, but also provides enough stability to plan for several weeks/months ahead.

How Often Are Travel Nurses Paid?

How often are travel nurses paid? How are travel nurses paid? When it comes to pay, agency nurses are often compensated weekly. This weekly pay will come from the travel agency NOT the hospital. This is because you are technically an employee of the agency, not the hospital.

Because of this, some agencies with poor pay records can have inconsistent payments. While it’s not very common, it is an issue that happens. 

Do Travel Nurses Get Insurance?

When it comes to insurance, travel agencies are required to provide insurance to full-time employees. Although this insurance might not be as good as what you would get from a typical hospital. It just depends on what your agency provides. Make sure to bring this up in your initial conversations with travel agencies.

Do Travel Nurses Get Retirement?

Retirement can vary greatly among travel agencies. Some will provide insurance, some will not, and some will only provide it after a year of employment. It just depends on the agency. You should bring up retirement in your initial conversation with agencies.

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We recommend starting your own retirement account such as

How to Start as a Travel Nurse?

How do you start travel nursing? Travel nursing isn’t as hard as you would think to get into. Travel nursing agencies make the barrier to entry extremely easy. Once you are all set up with a travel agency, it can be a simple as clicking “apply” to start finding new assignments.

Steps to Start Travel Nursing:

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1. Find a Staffing Agency

First, in order to start travel nursing, you need to find a staffing agency you want to work with. Typically it’s fairly simple to apply to some of the bigger nationwide agencies, however it might be beneficial to find a smaller more local agency. Each agency will have their own requirements for applicants, but you should have good references, an updated resume, and previous work experience. 

2. Find a Recruiter

Finding a good recruiter is important for your experience and the hospital’s experience. If possible, try to get a recommendation from a co-worker or someone you know on a recruiter. 

3. Find an Assignment

The next step is to work with your recruiter to find an assignment. You’ll give them the details of the “must-haves”. Such as block assignments, 12, 10 or 8 hour shifts, location, and several other qualifiers.

4. Negotiations

Negotiating is a common practice in travel nursing. Your recruiter will act as a liaison between you and the hospital to find common ground. For example, you might want a higher wage, or better schedule. You can always ask for different terms. An experienced recruiter will know exactly what to try and negotiate and what to stay away from.

5. Interview

Next, you’ll have to interview with the hiring manager. Traditionally in an interview, the manager will ask you the questions. However, in this step for travel nursing, it’s your turn to interview. You should ask questions like “what type of patients do you see”, “what is a common nurse-to-patient ratio”, “is overtime allowed”, and etc. We’ll have a list of common questions to ask below.

6. Final Preparations

-Finally, you’ll have a short period of time before you start your assignment to make sure all of your certifications are in order. Along with this, you’ll be expected to have whatever vaccinations, lab tests, and BLS/ACLS good to go. It is important that you work with your recruiting agency to meet the hospital’s requirements.

Is Travel Nursing Worth It?

A common question people have been asking recently is, “is travel nursing worth it?”. Well, that’s totally up to you, but if you are able to then it is an extremely lucrative way for nurses to make more money. 

The best part about travel nursing is the flexibility. You can pretty much do whatever you want for however long you want. If you only want to take 3 assignments per year and take the holidays off, then you can do that. Or if you want to work all year, you can do that too. Totally up to you!

Pros of Travel Nursing

What are the pros of travel nursing?

  • Flexibility
  • High pay
  • Variation in experience
  • Travel
  • Time off

Cons of Travel Nursing

What are the cons of travel nursing?

  • Possible poor stability
  • Pay can be inconsistent (depending on the agency)
  • Retirement packages can be unavailable
  • Insurance might not be as well-sourced

Common Travel Nurse FAQ’s

Travel nursing can be incredibly lucrative. High hourly wages combined with tax-free stipends make travel nursing a well-paid gig.

Yes, travel nurses will be provided insurance options from their agency.

Travel nurse agencies will occasionally have a retirement plan, however it is recommended that you start your own IRA or Roth-IRA.

Travel nurses typically, on average, make almost $30,000 more per year than staff nurses.

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