6 Steps to Becoming a Travel Nurse: Your Guide to Getting Started

Health Carousel Travel Nursing
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Picture this—you’ve been working as a registered nurse for a few years now (maybe more), and it hits you. You need to switch things up.

Whether you desire higher pay, a change in scenery, or just an escape from the hospital politics that are wearing you down, there may be a lucrative alternative to your current daily grind: travel nursing.

You’ve likely heard about travel nursing here and there, especially if you work alongside travelers at your current position or have friends who have taken travel jobs. With so many unknowns, however, getting started—or even exploring the option further—seems overwhelming.

Sound like your current situation? Then have no fear, the super sidekicks at Health Carousel Travel Nursing are here!

Here are six simple steps you can take to learn more about the realities of travel nursing and what it takes to land that first travel assignment.

1. Visit the Travel Nurse Academy

There’s no better way to start learning about the basics of travel nursing than from a source created specifically for first-time travelers. The Travel Nurse Academy has an easy-to-use suite of videos covering topics RNs who are just starting to explore travel nursing find incredibly helpful. Some video topics include:

To visit the Travel Nurse Academy now, click here.

2. Talk to travel nurses you know.

This step obviously depends on whether or not you know any travelers. If you have any friends, family, or co-workers who have travel experience, ask them about it. What is it like? What drew you to traveling? Would you recommend it? By asking someone who’s been there, you can set much more realistic expectations and put many of your concerns to rest. They may also be able to provide you with tips they wish they’d have known when starting out, and could even put you in contact with their travel nursing company or recruiter (if they’re happy with them, of course).

If you don’t know any travelers, no worries! We recommend you start asking your nurse friends (including your pediatric nursing friends) if they have anyone in their circles with travel experience. Leverage the networks of both your friends and co-workers—odds are pretty high that at least one person can put you in touch with an RN that has travel experience.

The key in both scenarios here: asking questions. Try to get candid answers from nurses who have been in your current situation. Doing so will give you a head start.

3. Research travel nursing online—but only on trusted websites.

Ah, our good friend Google. For many RNs considering travel jobs, the first thing they’ll do is turn to their preferred search engine for answers. While there are many valuable resources on the web for travel nurses that can be found via basic search (you may have even landed on this article from Google), there are many sites built with the intention to sell you on a specific job or travel nurse company, sometimes causing the information they present to be biased, muddied, or even false. Simply put, use your best judgement when evaluating online travel nurse resources, and consider whether or not the publisher has any incentive to mislead you.

Not all is doom and gloom on the Internet, though. Two sites we highly recommend for quality, unbiased travel nursing information: BluePipes and Highway Hypodermics. Both provide very useful info for new and experienced travelers from the viewpoint of actual, unbiased nurses. You can also find things like travel nurse company rankings on these sites that are compiled from reviews submitted by active travel nurses.

4. Polish up your résumé.

Even if you’re a few weeks (or even months) away from talking to a travel nursing company, start preparing your résumé. Depending on how long you’ve been at your current position, your résumé or CV may need some serious updates. This ever-important document will provide key decision-makers at medical facilities you’re interested in traveling at a first impression of you as an RN.

Check out this article on building a solid travel nurse resume, with tips on work history, EMR skills, licenses, and more.

5. Research the licensing requirements in states you’d like to travel in.

Speaking of licenses, be sure you understanding the nurse licensing requirements of any state you may want to travel to. This is one of the more daunting tasks to tackle as new traveler, especially if you’ve only practiced as an RN in a single state up to this point. If you work in a state that’s a member of the eNLC compact license agreement, you may be able to practice in many other U.S. states without additional licensure.

One thing to keep in mind that may ease your concerns when it comes to licensing: Most travel nursing companies have a credentialing center to help you get licensed in the state you want to travel to. In some cases, they may even pay any fees involved. You should visit that state’s board of nursing website to see the requirements for yourself, but don’t hesitate to ask a travel nurse recruiter about licensing, as well.

6. Talk to a First-Time Travel Nurse Specialist.

If and when you feel ready to talk to a travel nurse recruiter, we encourage you to sign up for the First-Time Travel Nurse Program at Health Carousel Travel Nursing. We’ve assembled a team who specializes in working with RNs completely new to the travel world. These First-Time Travel Nurse Specialists can answer any and all questions you have about travel nursing. (They’ve heard just about everything—no question is too far out there!) They’ll also provide you with helpful resources so you can make informed decisions about your career as a potential new traveler. Most importantly, our First-Time Travel Nurse Specialists will not be pushy—their first priority is to educate.

What are the benefits of travel nursing?

There are several benefits to travel nursing. Besides getting to travel and see new cities, you also have the opportunity to learn new nursing skills and work with different patient populations. You have the opportunity to work with a variety of healthcare professionals, including licensed practical nurses, respiratory therapists, and case managers.

How do I find a nurse staffing agency?

Finding a great travel nurse staffing agency takes time. Before committing to one staffing agency, interview and work with several recruiters. When you speak to the recruiters, mention your wants and needs in a travel nursing assignment. Don’t be afraid to ask for higher pay, special locations, or days off. Also, before accepting an assignment, review your pay package, which can include healthcare benefits, paid time off (PTO), and sick leave.

What Should I Know About Travel Nursing?

Travel nurses are usually required to hold a compact nursing license. This is because most traveling nurses wind up working in several states. You will also need to have your basic life support (BLS) and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certifications up to date.


How many years does it take to be a travel nurse?

Before you become a travel nurse, you must be a registered nurse. A registered nurse is required to earn at least an associate degree from an accredited nursing program. Then you must pass the national council licensure examination and apply for your nursing (RN) license. Becoming a travel nurse usually requires you to have at least two years of nursing experience in your specialty. This can vary per travel nursing agency, but most travel nurse agencies require it.

 Is it hard to be a traveling nurse?

Being a travel nurse has its pros and cons. As you begin your travel nursing career, you will be required to catch on quickly to new protocols, adapt to change, and sometimes learn new nursing skills. While American nurses have the opportunity to see the United States, it can be difficult at times to be away from family and friends. However, you will meet many new people and most likely make new friends with fellow travel nurses. Medical facilities also pay higher travel nurse salaries than staff nurses.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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