Searching for a travel nursing assignment can be difficult. With thousands of hospitals across the U.S., finding the right location for a travel nursing assignment requires a lot of forethought and careful decision-making. This article is designed to help you figure out which aspects of your next assignment are most important to you, and which you can compromise on. Read on to find out how to find your perfect travel nursing destination!
1. GO WITH THE SEASONS
Time for an economics lesson! Travel nursing is built on supply and demand – and these two variables can change in different parts of the country and different times of the year. Some parts of the country actually have a nursing surplus, while others have a deep shortage. These differences can affect the amount that travel nurses are paid, and the amount of travel nurse contracts available, in cities and states across the U.S.
If you are a first-time travel nurse or seasoned traveler, always prioritize your wants and needs before starting your search. If you’re interested in travel nursing for the lifestyle, you could escape the winter by taking an assignment in Florida during the winter months – but keep in mind that many other nurses may want to do the same thing. This means that assignments will be more competitive, and you may also have to settle for lower pay since travel nurses will be driving the price down due to a high supply of nurses available for the facilities to hire.
This law of supply and demand cuts the other way, too. You can make a six-figure income if you’re flexible on where you’ll take an assignment and take assignments at facilities that have a dire need for nurses. This might mean going to North Dakota in the middle of the winter, or spending the summer in the Texas heat, but you’ll be handsomely rewarded for accepting travel nursing assignments that other nurses are reluctant to take.
2. LICENSING TIME AND EASE
The most crucial aspect of finding a travel nursing assignment and going where you want is to be licensed in the states you’d like to travel to. When working with a travel nursing agency, most facilities and healthcare systems are looking for a nurse to start as quickly as possible – usually, no facility will want to wait more than 4 weeks after posting an assignment to hire a travel nurse, meaning that if it will take longer than 4 weeks to become licensed in the state you want to travel to, you probably won’t be hired for this assignment. Make sure you’re thinking ahead and getting your travel nursing license in states that you’d like to work in well in advance of applying for these assignments.
One of the best ways to make sure you’re always ready for assignments in a variety of different states is to apply for your compact nursing license (also known as the Nursing Licensure Compact, or NLC). This license will allow you to practice in any of the following states:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Additionally, if you have a nursing license in any of these states, and it’s the same state as your permanent residence, your license is already a compact license! That means that you can travel to any of the compact states listed above and practice as a travel nurse without acquiring any other licensure documentation.
There are also some states that are classified as “walk-through” states. These states allow you to accept a travel nursing assignment with a temporary nursing license for the state, which you can acquire by visiting the board of nursing and filling out the requisite paperwork. However, it’s up to the discretion of the hospitals as to whether they will hire nurses with temporary licenses, so it doesn’t mean that finding a travel nurse job in a walk-through state in a short amount of time is a sure thing.
Here’s a list of “walk-through” states:
- South Carolina
Also, if you have your nurse practitioner license, you will want to disclose this to your recruiter. Many travel nursing agencies and state licensing entities require that you disclose this on your state licensure application. Some travel nurse agencies even offer locum tenens contracts for nurse practitioners as well, including Health Carousel.
3. DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT
Now that you know all the nitty-gritty details regarding travel nurse pay and licensing, you’re ready to decide on what matters the most to you on a travel nursing assignment. If you are looking for an assignment where you go to a beautiful destination and spend time hiking and exploring, you may have to compromise and take a lower pay rate while staying in an area with a higher cost of living. If you’re looking for an assignment where you can make the highest possible pay rate and find housing that’s inexpensive so that you can maximize your take-home pay and savings, you may be looking for areas that aren’t as glamorous or exciting as Hawaii or Florida.
The key to finding your perfect assignment is working with a recruiter who you connect with! They’ll be able to find assignments for you in exotic travel destinations, and have the know-how and experience to help you find the highest-paying nursing assignments across the country that also let you take the highest amount of your paycheck home, after paying for your living expenses.
4. Have Your Documents in Order
In addition to your state nursing license, you will also need to have several documents in order. Have these ready so you can start your travel nursing job quickly. These may be required by the travel nursing agency or facility prior to your interview. Most travel nursing assignments will require that you show proof well before your start date. If you cannot provide documentation, the facility may decline you from starting your new job. These documents typically include your up-to-date resume, basic life support (BLS) certification, immunization records, and two forms of identification. Depending on the healthcare facility, they may require proof of COVID-19 vaccination, N95 fit testing documentation, or other documents related to your travel nursing job.
5. Utilize Your Travel Nurse Recruiter
Before accepting any travel nurse contract, utilize your travel nurse recruiter as much as you need. Travel nurse recruiters are your liaison between the hiring healthcare facility and you. They will advocate your needs and wants in your travel nurse assignment. If you need certain days off or have a scheduled vacation, communicate these to your travel nursing recruiter.
If you’re a first-time travel nurse or seasoned traveler, ask your recruiter as many questions as you need prior to accepting your assignment. Before signing your travel nursing contract, you should have all of your questions answered and feel comfortable with the contract terms. Terms can include travel reimbursement, housing, and meal stipends, licensure, guaranteed hours, and floating to different units.
6. Research the Area
Before accepting any travel nurse assignment, you need to complete your own research in the area. Travel nurses travel to areas where there are nursing shortages and there is high demand. Not every assignment is in a fun, exciting destination.
Research cost of housing and other travel-related expenses. If you fly to your destination and need to rent a car, factor these into your expenses as well. Expenses like these can add up and cut into your compensation package and desired budget. If you notice that your travel reimbursement is less than the amount it takes to get to and from your destination, address this with your recruiter prior to signing your contract. They may be able to negotiate a higher travel reimbursement amount or give you a completion bonus to cover the extra expense.
Also, research activities around the area to complete on your off days. Make sure these activities align with your hobbies and interests. Even search for activities two to four hours away from your area. You never know when you might have a few extra days off to take a short getaway trip. Familiarize yourself with the local restaurants and shopping.