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7 Tips for Newly Licensed Travel Nurses

Are you considering becoming a travel nurse? While travel nurse job openings are no longer as plentiful as during the early days of the pandemic, travel nursing remains a rewarding career move for nurses willing to think outside the box. 

Here are seven tips for the newly licensed nurse who wants to enter the travel nurse market as a competitive player.

Experience Matters

To get hired as a travel nurse, you will need at least 1 to 2 years of experience in your chosen specialty area. Travel nurses are expected to hit the ground running after a minimum of onboarding. Instead of a 6 to 12-week orientation, travelers usually receive a one-week orientation. 

Experience in more than one specialty can put your resume at the top of the pile. Look for cross-training programs that allow new nurses to rotate through several related specialty units. Being experienced in different areas, such as ICU and med-surg/telemetry, makes a travel nurse more marketable. Travel nurses are more likely to float to other units when staffing needs change.  

Apply for a Compact License

If you live in a compact state and decide you want to work as a travel nurse, apply for a compact license. This multistate license allows you to work in any compact state without needing a license in each state.

Get Certified

The more certifications you get before your first travel assignment, the better. As a travel nurse, bulking up your credentials with certifications, such as BLS, ACLS, and PALS, makes you more marketable. 

Don’t count on obtaining certifications while you’re working as a travel nurse, though. Travel nurses aren’t reimbursed by the hospital for certifications, so you’ll pay those fees out of pocket. However, if you get certifications while you’re still working as a staff nurse, most hospitals reimburse for those certifications that relate to your job. 

Apply to the Best Hospitals

Consider a level I trauma center for your first gig. Level I trauma centers provide the highest level of medical care and are leaders in healthcare education and research. The experience you gain at a level I healthcare facility will serve you well in the fast-paced world of travel nursing. 

Nurse managers see the level I trauma centers as the pinnacle of experience. If you learned the ropes at one of these facilities, nurse managers are confident that you will do well in any facility. 

Peds or L&D Nurse? You Can Travel Too

Yes, ICU, med-surg/tele, and ER assignments are the most common travel nurse jobs. However, nurses with experience in NICU, PICU, pediatrics, and labor and delivery are also in demand. Patience is key though, as the number of open travel jobs is smaller for peds nurses. 

In addition, pediatrics, NICU, and PICU assignments require more experience, 3 to 5 years in some cases. Managers may also require you to have completed a previous travel assignment in that specialty area. It’s also helpful to have some cross-training under your belt. For example, facilities may look closer at your resume if you can float between the PICU and the NICU.

But if you’re a pediatric, NICU, or PICU nurse and want to join the ranks of travelers, your patience and perseverance could pay big dividends. Pediatric specialties tend to pay more because it’s tough to find good NICU, PICU, and pediatric nurses. 

Interview Travel Nurse Agencies 

Once you are a few months out from when you want to apply for your first travel assignment, it’s time to start vetting travel nurse agencies. 

Some agencies have a stronger presence in some areas of the country than others. And if you’re interested in specific hospitals, you’ll want to find an agency that has a good relationship with those facilities. 

When considering agencies, look for a responsive recruiter who works hard to find assignments where you’ll be successful. Maintain a good working relationship with your recruiter by keeping the lines of communication open. 

Consider working with more than just one agency so that you’ll have access to a wider range of opportunities. Don’t worry. Recruiters have no problem with you working with another agency, as long as you are honest about it. 

Still on the Fence About Traveling?

Travel nursing doesn’t mean you have to pack up and move across the country. Find an agency that works with facilities in your area and stay local for your first travel assignment or two. This will allow you the opportunity to test the waters and decide if travel nursing is for you.


Photo Credit: Canva 

By Alexis Zess, National Recruiter, Planet Healthcare