What Is a Travel Nurse? (And How to Become One)

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What Is a Travel Nurse?

Travel nurse – it is an RN that has experience in some clinical backgrounds and work for an independent staffing agency.

They can work in various care areas on a temporary basis when a short-term fill of an employment gap is required.

Travel nurses appeared when a nationwide shortage of nurses started to increase significantly.

There are unified positions in hospitals, clinics, and other medical and care facilities, as a result, there are lots of patients that need some qualified care.

In order to attract more qualified nurses, employers tend to offer various benefits, as well as a competitive salary, and even housing.

However, there are lots of medical facilities that look for qualified nurses to fill gaps and it is the case when travel nurses are required.

Travel nurses can work both within the country and outside of it as international nurses.

Lots of RNs are really interested in such a career as it offers some new opportunities, higher salaries, and other benefits.

Why Are Travel Nurses Important?

Travel nurses are really important in the healthcare system as these specialists allow to fill the gap between the demand in the sphere and supply.

According to the data, nurses help to not only lower patients’ mortality ratio but also increase their safety significantly.

It is a significant result and the number of states implementing staffing ratio legislation.

Nevertheless, there is an incredible demand for qualified nurses.

Travel nurses help to resolve the issue providing patients with the required care and increasing their safety.

One other point is that travel nurse has various educationals background, care areas, and even locations that allows improving the practice of nursing.

In other words, in such a way, nurses can share their experience and knowledge with each other.

What Do You Need to Become a Travel Nurse

If you want to become a travel nurse, you need to have a certain set of traits such as:

  • ability to enjoy new experiences such as new cities, towns, and organizations;
  • ability to enjoy freedom as it’s up to you what schedule you are going to have and where you’ll be working;
  • ability to enjoy flexibility as you’ll be responsible for your schedules, benefits packages, and income that depend on the agency you work at;
  • ability to thrive on challenges as traveling nurses travel a lot and constantly change their working environment so they need to learn new organizational systems and workflows;
  • ability to enjoy learning new things as each your employer has its own requirements and tools you should learn and use.

Moreover, it is important to have people that support you.

It is a challenging path as you need to move constantly taking your family with you or leaving them at home.

Also, moving to each new place, you are going to meet new people and build new relations with them.

Educational Requirements for Travel Nurses

If you are interested in this career option, first of all, you need to complete a nursing training program at a college.

You can apply for a two-year or four-year program.

You need to obtain an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) if you want to work as a travel nurse.

You aren’t obliged to complete a BSN but most employers give preference to nurses with a bachelor’s degree.

Just make sure that the agency you want to work matches your education level.

Also, you need to complete the NCLEX-RN as it is the main requirement for your licensing (see NCLEX-RN costs).

Moreover, in most cases, you need to have at least a year of working experience in your specialty area.

Also, there are agencies that hire only those nurses who have BSN.

Finally, working as a travel nurse, you need to be proficient in the language of the country you are working at.

To get more info, make sure to research the agencies in your area and learn about their requirements.

Required Certifications or Credentials

Usually, you don’t need to pass some additional exams to become a travel nurse.

However, you may be obliged to obtain a certain certification depending on your specialty, for example:

  • Intensive Care (ICU) nursing:
    • Basic Life Support (BLS);
    • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS);
    • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS);
    • Critical care nursing (adults, pediatric, neonatal);
  • Medical/Surgical nursing:
    • Basic Life Support (BLS);
    • Stroke care certification;
    • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS);
    • Telemetry certification;
  • Emergency Room nursing:
    • Basic Life Support (BLS);
    • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS);
    • Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP);
    • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS);
    • Trauma Nurse Core Course (TNCC) certification;
  • Women’s Health/Labor and Delivery nursing:
    • Basic Life Support (BLS);
    • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS);
    • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS);
    • Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) certification.

Among the additional requirements there can be:

  • A passport and work visa (usually handled by the agency);
  • Learning a new language;
  • Additional immunizations;
  • Learning about diseases unique to the area.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Travel Nurse?

It is clear that travel nurses perform a whole bunch of various responsibilities that significantly depend on the sphere they work at.

The list of general responsibilities includes:

  • Using the nursing process of assessing, planning, diagnosing, evaluating, and implementing to care for patients in various settings;
  • Reviewing and interpreting diagnostic tests such as lab work and imaging;
  • Administering medications, fluids, assisting with daily activities and mobility issues;
  • Developing a plan of care together with physicians;
  • Monitoring and oversight in all aspects of patient care;
  • Recognizing and intervening in clinically unstable patients;
  • Assessing the psychosocial needs of patients and families;
  • Educating patients and families in all areas of healthcare maintenance and prevention;
  • Providing resources for patients and refer as necessary;
  • Learning various patient care systems/documentation;
  • Working in assignments anywhere from eight to thirteen weeks (on average) in the U.S., one to two years if outside the U.S.;
  • Domestic and international travel nurses also have different characteristics specific to their role;
  • Providing immediate medical care and aid for large populations during times of war or disaster.

Domestic Travel Nurses

This type of travel nurse works in the USA.

Usually, they have assignments that range from 8 to 13 weeks.

You can work in the areas that experience any type of natural disaster or some disease outbreak.

International Travel Nurses

Speaking of international travel nurses, they need to have some excellent communication skills, be ready for new experiences and challenges.

Also, they should be able to learn new things quickly.

Typically, these nurses perform a whole variety of responsibilities that depends on their medical specialty and sphere they work at.

Among the general responsibilities, there are administering medication, wound care, and providing emergency medical services and care.

Also, they may provide education for family members and caretakers about various issues of patients and medical care.

These specialists usually:

  • Work outside the U.S.;
  • Have assignments that range from one to two years;
  • Work in areas that experience natural disaster or disease outbreak;
  • Provide medical care and aid at underserved, rural, and remote areas;
  • Must wait for document processing before traveling.

Working Conditions of Travel Nurses

Of course, like any other job, this career option has its own advantages and disadvantages.

First of all, this career is very stressful and challenging as you need to deal with lots of patients and make some critical decisions.

Also, because of the constant necessity to move to new places, travel nurses may feel somehow isolated.

However, you can deal with it if you have some great sense of independence and some support from people around you.

Moreover, sometimes, travel nurses are obliged to work in areas with a high-risk rate.

It may even involve such problems as workplace violence, dangerous chemicals, and bloodborne pathogens.

It means that these specialists should know well and constantly follow all possible safety standards.

If you work as an international travel nurse, you also need to learn about laws, culture, traditions, religion, and other important aspects of the country you are going at.

Despite having some significant considerations, this career option is also very rewarding.

First of all, there are lots of medical facilities that really need and appreciate some help from these specialists.

Travel nurses not only support patients but they can help staff to reduce burnout.

When it comes to international travel nurses, they are also very appreciated as they can help people in remote and underserved areas.

Also, they help people who live in war zones and in areas where some disaster occurred.

Travel Nurse Employment and Salary Outlook

The American Nurses Association claims that in 2015 only 14 states had legislation on nurse-patient ratios.

Nurses all over the country push for federal support of this legislation that can lead even to bigger demand for nurses.

At the same time, travel nurses can help significantly reduce the shortage.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistica, by 2024 the number of nursing job offers will increase by about 16%.

Travel nurses have a whole variety of benefits provided by employers including such aspects as:

  • Travel reimbursement
  • Free housing
  • Bonuses
  • Medical, dental, and vision coverage
  • Retirement plans
  • Assistance in obtaining passports/work visas
  • Choice of location
  • Selection of hours/shifts worked
  • Competitive pay
  • Higher-than-average pay for RNs

The data from Indeed shows that the average annual salary of a travel nurse is about $75 109.

Considering the fact that this sphere is highly competitive, there are agencies that can even offer about $100 000 per year.

When it comes to international travel nurses, they usually have a lower salary than domestic ones except those who work in some middle eastern countries.

Just keep in mind that your salary significantly depends on your employer so make sure to research various agencies.

Helpful Organizations, Societies, & Agencies

  • International Council of Nurses;
  • American Travel Health Nurses Association;
  • National Association of Travel Healthcare Organizations;
  • Professional Association of Nurse Travelers.

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