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Managing Your Career
Get Ready for Travel Nursing

You may just be embarking on your nursing career but have your sights set on travel nursing. You'll be able to see the world, get great benefits, and hone your problem solving and clinical skills.

But there's a catch: you'll need two years experience first. Here Jeff Long,  marketing manager of Medical Solutions, a staffing company that places nurses in travel nursing jobs, talks about what you need to know and can do now to be ready for your dream job tomorrow:

Why aren't new nurses hired for travel nursing?

This is one of the strange things about travel nursing. Nurses with the lifestyle that would allow them to travel easiest are new grads. However, a travel nursing career requires a nurse to immediately step in with less orientation than a permanent staff nurse. That's why both hospitals and staffing companies tend to hold to a two-year experience minimum.

This works in the best interest of all involved: a hospital wants an experienced nurse, the traveling nurse doesn't want to be in over her head, and the staffing company wants both to be happy with the match.

Is there anything new nurses can do now to prepare for a travel nursing job two years from now?

Be ready. Right now with the travel nursing job market down like it is, it is important to be organized and have all your certifications, licensures, vaccinations, etc. in one easy to access location (a three-ring binder is an easy way to do this).  And make sure everything is always up to date. Keeping these things organized is easier the sooner you start.

What areas of the country do you find more jobs than applicants?

At this time we are not seeing any area of the country with more jobs than applicants. This is due primarily to the overall shortage of jobs in the industry and the unwillingness of travelers to work wherever they can. The majority of our placements have been in the Midwest (Kansas, Texas) and California over the past six months.

What questions must new nurses ask recruiters?

Travel nurses should exhaust their recruiter with questions, but overall they should dig into six key areas:

  • Housing and location

  • Recruiter

  • Company

  • Compensation, costs, and expenses

  • Benefits

  • Specifics of the job he/she will be doing.

There are a lot of good resources online and books written by travel nurses with lists of questions that you should ask. These resources can expand on the six areas I mentioned.

What are the qualities of a good recruiter?

It really comes down to a relationship.

A good recruiter is not only knowledgeable about the industry, but she should be genuinely interested in you and your career. If you feel like you are being treated like a paycheck by the recruiter, then you probably are. It may take working with a couple of different recruiters to get a feel for what is a good. Sometimes you're lucky and find a great one right off the bat.

Generally, though, you want them to be honest and up front, just as a recruiter wants that from you.  Neither of you want surprises during the assignment.

Why do nurses fail at travel nursing?

There are a variety of reasons, but the most common are:

  • Homesickness;

  • Preference for more stability;

  • Not mentally strong enough for the challenge;

  • Conflict with staff/doctors, didn't like the hospital or area, or weren't a good fit for the unit;

  • Personal issues/events (death in the family, sickness, etc);

  • Not skilled enough to hit the ground running in their modality;

  • Not strong enough personality to break the ice with the perm staff or get used to being treated different from staff and management in some cases; and,

  • Difficulty staying out of the hospital politics.

Do recruiters value nonprofit medical nursing experience (like mission trips, service nursing)?

Most travel agencies don't look at volunteering as part of the two-year experience requirement, and we have never seen a hospital ask for it. While it probably does not hurt, it does not really help either. It really comes down to skills and years of experience in their specialty.

Read more Managing Your Career articles

One Response to “Get Ready for Travel Nursing”

  1. materrano Says:

    I am a new grad working in the OR. I plan on staying here for about 3 years. Are there traveler opportunities if my experience is strictly in the OR?

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