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10 Ways to Prepare for a Career in Travel Nursing

Posted on: September 21, 2021


written by

Risa Kerslake, RN

Top 10 Nurse Blog

Travel nursing is a great way to see all those places you’ve wanted to travel to, and get paid while doing it. 

It can be an exciting career path, but it still involves a lot of planning. Luckily, there are some things you can do to get yourself as ready as you can before you make the leap. Here are 10 ways you can prepare for a career as a travel nurse.

Do your research

There are a lot of things to be aware of before you start planning your life as a travel nurse. You’ll want to research travel nurse agencies, and the benefits they have to offer. Having a savings to fall back on for emergencies is helpful to have, so it’s a good idea to start putting some money aside for your “just-in-case” fund in between assignments. Keep all your research in one place, so you can look back on it.

Connect with other travel nurses

Other travel nurses are going to be the best people to talk with because they’re the ones doing this job. Connect with them in social media groups, or by attending in-person or virtual conferences. You may have travel nurses you work with now in your unit. Ask around to find out the best agencies to work with, what questions you should ask, and how other nurses keep themselves organized. 

Get a year (or more!) of experience

Most agencies require a year of experience in nursing before you can work with them as a travel nurse. Nursing, in general, is a demanding career, and you need the basics down before you start traveling to different facilities. Handling multiple patients, working with providers, and being able to prioritize your day are duties you need to feel confident about before traveling. 

Consider what area you want to work in

Being a travel nurse doesn’t mean you work in different specialties all the time. In fact, many facilities want travel nurses who have experience in certain areas. For example, if you love working in telemetry, consider working a year on a telemetry floor to gain experience. You may decide to specialize in one area to travel to different units that have a need for these specialties.

Think about the certifications you need

You don’t have to have a specialty certification, but they can help you to stand out. You’ll also need to make sure your nursing license and basic life support are up to date, as well as any other certifications you may hold, such as ACLS, or PALS. 

Decide where you want to travel

In the beginning, you may need to accept assignments that aren’t your first choice, but as you gain experience, you’ll have the ability to choose where you travel. If you’ve always wanted to see the coast or work in a small suburban hospital, you can start thinking now about those places and how they can fit in with your career as a travel nurse. 

Be comfortable with change

As a travel nurse, you need to be comfortable working in a variety of places with different co-workers. You need to be able to adapt to change quickly as most orientations as a travel nurse are much shorter than regular employees. If you love change and seeing new places, then you can thrive in travel nursing.

Get your own health in order

When you arrive at a new assignment you’ll want to scope out a clinic and pharmacy where you can receive your own health care. It's a good idea before you head out on assignment to be up to date on any vaccines or routine physicals that you need. Make sure that you have refills of your medication ready to bring along.

Become a master packer

You need to pack smart when you head out on assignments. Purchase a good suitcase or two and decide what you want to take with and what you can leave behind. Depending on how long your assignment is and the location will determine what and how much you need to bring.

Plan ahead for exploring

Many travel assignments are 13 weeks. You might consider planning to arrive early in order to sightsee and find new restaurants or spend time hiking. Make a list of places in your location you want to visit and find a travel guide you can take with you to refer to.

Ready to go on assignment? Contact the Barton Healthcare Staffing team today to get started!

Risa Kerslake, RN
About Risa Kerslake, RN

Risa Kerslake, RN, BSN is a Minnesota-based nurse and freelance writer. She has experience in a variety of settings including psychiatric nursing, triage, and case management. Learn more about her freelance writing at