Travel Nursing: Preparing and Transitioning
IN A NUTSHELL:
- Preparing and transitioning for travel nursing takes more time and effort
- Be aware of how travel nursing could impact your personal life
- Calculate the extra financial impacts it could have
Whether you’re a seasoned nurse, one with only a few years of experience, a prospective or current nursing student exploring your career options—travel nursing is an exciting way to advance your healthcare career.
Unlike traditional nursing jobs, there is a bit more involved in travel nursing than responding to a job posting. What exactly do you need to do to become a traveling nurse and how can you successfully transition into your assignments?
The following tips will set you well on your way to achieving your career goals:
Ask yourself the important questions
Travel nursing is rewarding but will be different from any other nursing job you’ve had. This is no small decision. So, before you take the leap, ask yourself these questions:
- Can I handle being away from home for long stretches of time?
- Do I enjoy constantly being on the go?
- Will this kind of job suit not only my needs, but the needs of my family?
- What sacrifices will I have to make in order to be successful?
Being honest in your answers to these questions is critical. After all, if you choose to pursue this new path, you will be parting ways with several things, namely, your current job. Before you put in your two weeks’ notice, sell your home or temporarily say goodbye to your family, be sure to carefully ponder if this is the right choice for you.
Of course, you need a license to practice nursing, but did you know you need to be licensed in each state you plan to work as a traveling nurse? Your NP, RN or LPN credentials in your home state will not always suffice. To make things easier, you can consider the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which consists of 34 states, and allows you to practice nursing without acquiring additional licenses. However, if you know that travel nursing is something you would like to pursue, it’s a good idea to think about which states you’d like to work in and pursue licenses in those states or confirm that they participate in NLC.
Since you may end up with several licenses, it is important to have a way to manage your credentials and licenses in a central location, such as an app for your smartphone.
It is important to note that while not impossible, becoming a traveling nurse as an LPN is uncommon. LPNs are licensed nurses but have less responsibility than RNs and NPs. If you are currently an LPN interested in becoming a traveling nurse, it may be wise to do additional research on credentialing to see how advanced licensing can benefit you. Moreover, even if you already hold RN or NP status, continuing education opportunities may be what you need to set you apart from other traveling nurse candidates. To help you determine which continuing education opportunities are worthwhile for you, it may be helpful to research traveling nurse specialties that are in demand.
Find a staffing agency
Once you’ve determined whether travel nursing is a good fit for you and have done the proper research, you can begin job hunting. To find an assignment, you should contact a travel nursing agency. These agencies can help you find jobs, complete necessary paperwork and recommend temporary housing. Some nurses choose to work with multiple agencies to ensure optimal job opportunities.
Healthcare staffing agencies don’t just help you find your first travel nursing job; if you continue to work with them, they will assist you each time you are ready for a new assignment. Because travel nursing requires constant change, having at least one agency on your side can help to take off some of the pressure and make each transition to a new role easier.
Determine your living arrangements
One of the biggest challenges of travel nursing is figuring out where you will live, not only when you’re on an assignment, but also when you are in between positions. Though there are many housing options available, they are generally temporary, which can feel unsettling. And if you don’t already own a home, purchasing one may seem like a waste of money for someone who is always on the go.
More recently, some travel nurses have given mobile and tiny living a try. This nomadic lifestyle is not conventional but depending on your personality you will enjoy having a place to call your own. Nomadism includes, but is not limited to living in RVs, vans, cars, tiny homes, and even converted school buses. To cover the cost of any of these options, you might need to dip into savings or take out a loan. In addition to determining how you pay for your new mobile home, you should also consider where you will park it both during and between assignments.
Being on the go means you can’t take everything with you. How much you choose to get rid of and what you choose to get rid of really depends on your living arrangements. For instance, if you are planning to sell your home, you may choose to only get rid of larger items, put some things in storage and take only what you can fit in your car or suitcase to your next assignment. Nurses venturing into tiny or mobile living may need to pare down more, as your living space will be much smaller than a traditional home, but you can utilize a storage unit, as well. If you plan to return to your home or apartment between assignments, downsizing will involve being particular about what you chose to bring with you on each journey.
Downsizing is also a great opportunity to sell items you don’t need anymore. For nurses looking to pare down before making this career change, and overcome debt, selling unwanted or unused goods is a great way to do so. So, embrace downsizing and learn how to do it properly before embarking on your new journey.
Visit your assignment location
If you can, try to visit your new assignment before your start date. Getting a lay of the land before you temporarily settle in can be very helpful. You will likely be required to attend an orientation and undergo some training, but depending on how long the assignment will be, it also may be nice to get a feel for your new stomping grounds, including where the nearest grocery store is located and what there is to do for fun. If you have any hobbies you like to do, like sports, crafting, or even exercising, do some research on interest groups in the community. This will allow you to not only participate in your favorite activities during down time, but also make new friends. Even after your assignment is complete, you’ll have somewhere to visit and a reason to do so!
Have a good attitude
Travel nursing involves constant change, but with that change comes the opportunity to make a difference in so many parts of the country. You’ll enjoy each assignment to the fullest if you embrace change. As with most things in life, a positive attitude goes a long way. While the work you do will certainly come with challenges, each position will help you to grow both personally and professionally. If you take the necessary steps to prepare and transition into this new role, it won’t be difficult for you to maintain a good attitude as you touch the lives of many from state to state.
As with any field in health care, it is important to effectively manage your career, licenses, and reputation.