The Complete Travel Nursing Placement Timeline

December 29, 2022
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If you’re a registered nurse trying to break into travel nursing, you might be intimidated by the process of getting placed on an assignment. Submitting documents, finding your perfect recruiter, and deciding on a great assignment takes time – but how much time will you spend waiting before you can get your feet on the ground at a new facility? We’ll outline each step of the journey to getting a great travel nursing assignment, so you know what to expect.


Figure out your availability date. Are you trying to start as quickly as possible? Are you trying to find an assignment in 6 months once you’ve reached your two-year mark at your permanent position? What is your standard notice period at your facility (2 weeks, 30 days, etc.)? Most employers are now requiring 30 days' notice. Will your employer pay out your remaining PTO, if applicable? Considering all of these questions, try to decide on a date, or a date range, that you would be available to start your travel nursing assignment. Recruiters will use your availability date when deciding which assignments to submit you to (that meet your specifications) and when to initiate various parts of the onboarding process on their end.

Start talking to recruiters. Having a recruiter you trust and who understands what you want to get out of travel nursing is the most important piece of the puzzle when trying to find an assignment you love. You don’t want a recruiter who will submit you to assignments without telling you or a recruiter who isn’t focused on your goals. Find someone who you know will go above and beyond for you. You don’t need to settle on one – working with a couple of recruiters is a good way to ensure you’re catching all the assignments you’re interested in. This process should take about 1 week if you’re thorough.

Once you’ve got recruiters you want to move forward with, it’s time to submit your documents. You’ll need to send your recruiter your resume, references, and pictures of your certifications. You’ll also need to complete documents like your Clinical Skills Checklist and pre-employment questionnaire. These are typically quick and can be done in as little as 1 day if you already have your documents prepared. Once your recruiter has these documents, they can start submitting you to travel nursing assignments, which means your travel nursing assignment search can begin!


Once you’ve taken care of these three steps, it’s time to start being submitted to assignments by your recruiters. It’s all right to work with multiple recruiters, but make sure you’re aware of where you’re being submitted: being submitted by multiple recruiters to the same assignment is a big no-no and could hurt your chances at working with these recruiters in the future. You’ll also want to ensure you’re not overwhelming your references with phone calls. Be certain about the assignments you’re submitting.

Once you’re submitted to an assignment, your references will be contacted, and you’ll be interviewed for the position. If you ace the interview and the facility and your references check out, congrats! You’re on your way to starting your travel nursing assignment! 

Because you’re working as a travel nurse, your travel nurse staffing agency will normally handle the HR duties that the facility would normally handle. This includes processes like background checks, drug screens, and TB tests. These processes should take the agency staff around 2 weeks to complete.

Once these steps have been cleared, you’re ready to start your assignment. However, your start date depends on the facility you have joined as a travel nurse. The facility has the final say in your start date, and your recruiter will help you ensure you get to your assignment safely and promptly so that you can start as fast as possible!

These steps are highly variable and can dramatically differ depending on your desired location, nursing specialty, and timeframe. It’s not unheard of for nurses who know exactly where they want to be placed within one business day, but this is very rare. Some nurses take six months to complete this process, preparing meticulously until they can travel and get an assignment quickly due to their diligence and preparation. The average time it usually takes for a travel nurse to get placed on an assignment, based on our experience, is 4-5 weeks.


You might have noticed something missing in this article that is crucial to travel nursing: licensing. This is one of the hardest parts of travel nursing, as all 50 states are different. If you have the good fortune of living in a compact state (click here for a list of compact states), your compact nursing license will be accepted in any of the other compact states, and there will be no need to apply for a new license. 

Just remember, to become a travel nurse, you will already need to have passed your national council licensure exam (NCLEX RN) and gain nursing experience for two years in your specialty. The licensing process is a bit trickier for registered nurses who don’t live in compact states.

Some states are “walk-through” states, meaning you can start an assignment without a nursing license in that state and acquire it during your assignment. Other states will issue your license in under a month, which perfectly aligns with the usual timeline for getting placed on a travel nursing assignment. However, a few states have long turnaround times for licensing, like New York and California. Make sure you plan accordingly if you wish to travel in these states!

This should give you a good idea of how long the average traveling nurse takes to get placed on a travel nursing assignment. But every nurse’s circumstances are different, and at Health Carousel Travel Nursing, we work to ensure you have the best experience possible. You can click here to talk to a recruiter about your unique circumstances or learn more about the travel nursing basics, like travel nurse pay and housing.


How long does it take to get a travel nursing assignment?

Typically, it takes an average of 4-5 weeks to land a travel nursing assignment. This depends on your level of nursing experience, specialty, location, and the current job market.

How long are travel nurse placements?

Travel nursing assignments are usually 13-week assignments. However, this varies on the healthcare facility’s needs. Some hospitals have shorter contract lengths, like 6 weeks, while other hospitals may have 13 weeks as a minimum assignment length.

How long does it take to get an interview with travel nursing?

The time it takes to get an interview depends on the job market, the facility’s needs, your specialty, and availability. Most of the time, hospitals like travel nurses to have at least two years of direct patient care nursing experience before pursuing travel nurse positions (and no, clinical rotations do not count).

Also, consider that some hospitals are Magnet hospitals, where they will only accept healthcare professionals from a Bachelor’s degree nursing program and not associate’s degree nursing schools (ADN programs).

Is it hard to get hired as a travel nurse?

As mentioned, the demand, specialty, and location may determine how difficult it is to land a travel nursing position. If you find it hard to get an interview, consider exploring other locations or cities from the job board.


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

Get Started Now


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

Find the Travel Job that’s Right for You

Interested in how the pay stacks up in other states not on this list? Our trusty Super Nurse sidekicks are standing by to answer any questions you have. Click below to get information on opportunities in other states!

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