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Managing Your Career
International Travel Nursing

What To Expect As An International Travel Nurse

International travel nursing can be a great opportunity to experience life in another country. Many of these opportunities also provide the experience of giving service to those less fortunate. Plus, international travel nursing can offer high pay rates.

Many countries today have shortages of nurses. Nursing shortage statistics are quite interesting. Nurses form the largest skill block in the medical field and there are less people entering the profession than are needed to provide care of all types. Nurses with basic as well as advanced skill levels such as ICU nurses are needed. These shortages can be more pronounced in countries where it is not traditional for women to leave the home and work in a profession. Despite the increase of male nurses, nursing remains a profession that is still 80-90% female. All of these factors combine to create a need for cross country travel nursing.

International travel nursing requires the traveling professional to go through a few more hoops than travel nurses who work in their own country. In the same country, one simply needs to be approved by the nursing board that covers the area in which you want to work. However, more is required internationally.

First, to enter a foreign country a visa and entry papers must be obtained. A passport is also needed. These will limit your working to a set time period and often includes limitations to one company or hospital. Most popular countries have waiting lists for these visas. Often the visas are restricted to areas where the country feels there are nursing skill shortages. A good nursing travel company can help a candidate navigate through this paperwork.

Most foreign countries also require a language test. This holds true even if you speak English and intend to travel to an English speaking country. Most employment agencies offer these tests or have study guides to help candidate prepare for the exam.

And, of course, a candidate must maintain their license in their home country. Generally, a year of experience is required, but there are travel positions that will train graduates. These positions are often in less desirable locations such as Africa or the Middle East, but certainly can offer a great experience.

Many international travel jobs seek nurses trained at the RN level, but there are also LPN travel jobs available. Some of the LPN jobs are more likely to be volunteer positions than RN positions, but still provide the unique experience of living abroad. Internationally, there are shortages of nurses trained at the LPN level.

Once in the country, the travel nurse has a position at a local hospital or clinic. The job involves the same nursing skills already possessed by the traveler. Some locations may not have as modern equipment such as electric beds or air conditioning, but with the training provided under the contract, a traveling nurse will fit right in. Be prepared to learn cultural differences that may affect the way you need to deliver care.

Looking at nursing shortage statistics, many of the areas with the greatest shortages are in countries with lower levels of living than the United States. The Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International, states "Canada, the Philippines, Australia, and Western Europe are reporting significant nursing shortages. Reports of shortages are also coming from Africa and South America. This does not mean that serving in these areas cannot pay well or offer a great experience. Serving in the less popular third world areas is a good way to get established with an international nursing travel agency. As your reputation builds with good service, the company should recommend you for the more sought after countries.

Travel nursing within the same country often involves service for a period of weeks to months. International travel nursing tends to be longer. This is due to the cost of bringing the candidate over and the needs of the country. Expect to serve for periods of six months to two years. This can be a benefit to the nurse who wants to be a travel nurse, but does not want to change jobs every couple of months.

Your nursing school can provide good sources for international travel nursing. Another good source to check are nursing organizations.


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