If you’re like me, and you are a nurse who knows that you’re ready for travel nursing, but don’t know where to start you’re in the right place. Maybe you’re at the point in your nursing career where you’re ready to start traveling, and you might be thinking to yourself, “How do you become a travel nurse?” When I started travel nursing there was very little information out there on how to do it so I just jumped in blind. Now, after 3+ years of traveling, I can look back and tell you that becoming a travel nurse is really quite simple. Here’s exactly how to become a travel nurse and the 3 requirements to be a travel nurse.
Requirements to Be a Travel Nurse
Requirement 1: You Need an RN, BSN
To be a travel nurse, you first have to be a nurse. To become an RN (registered nurse), you have to go to school for your ADN (associate’s degree in nursing) or your BSN (bachelor’s degree in nursing). While some hospitals may employ nurses who have an associate’s degree, these days nursing is getting more and more competitive. To be a travel nurse I’d highly recommend having your bachelor’s degree to give you an edge over the rest of the competition!
Once you graduate from your program you will have your BSN, but you still have to earn your RN. You do this by taking the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination). The NCLEX is a timed test made up of a series of nursing-related questions. Once you pass the NCLEX, now you are an RN, BSN, and ready to move to the next step!
My tip for passing the NCLEX: Practice, practice, practice! Buy practice books and take practice tests over practice tests to best get a feel for the questions asked and the types of answers the NCLEX is looking for.
Requirement 2: It’s All About the Experience
“How long does it take to become a travel nurse?” A question I get asked time and time again. And the truth is that there is no magic to travel nursing. What it comes down to is experience. And to become a travel nurse you need at least two years of experience in the unit you’re in. This does not mean two years of nursing experience bouncing between units. It means that you have two years of experience in one unit. This tells a potential manager that you have had enough time to hone in on your skills and learn how to take care of patients on whatever floor you have experience.
There are some travel nurses that start traveling after only 1-1.5 years of experience. I personally would never recommend this and know that nurses who travel after a short amount of time are limited in the places that they are allowed to go.
Requirement 3: Find a Travel Nurse Recruiter
Now that you’ve had the experience, it’s time to find a recruiter! I recommend reaching out to a travel nurse recruiter 4-5 months before you’re ready to become a travel nurse. This ensures that you’re able to fill out your skills checklist, submit your references, and complete any other miscellaneous forms the company needs you to complete. It’s now that you can start asking your recruiter about the information on travel nursing and get to know the industry a little bit better.
If you’re looking for more information on travel nurse recruiters, check out these posts:
Requirement 4: Start Applying for Different State Nursing Licenses
One of the requirements to be a travel nurse is to be licensed in whichever state you want to travel to. Please note, that depending on what state you want to work in, steps 2 and 3 can be interchangeable. For instance, if you want to work in California or Massachusetts, those licenses take a long time to obtain and it might be worth applying for them ahead of time; before reaching out to a recruiter. Always remember to keep your receipts! All licensures should be reimbursed by the company you work with.
If you have a “compact license”, meaning that you are licensed in a state that has an NLC (nurse licensure compact) agreement, you can practice in other NLC states without obtaining further licensure. For a list of states that are part of the NLC, click here. If you do not have a compact license that you will need to obtain a nursing license for every state that you want to practice in.
And that is the path to travel nursing made easy! If you’re wondering, “How do I become a travel nurse”?… it truly is that simple. You need to put in the time to craft your skills as a nurse before you can start traveling. Once you’re at about the year and a half mark, it’s time to reach out to a recruiter. And once you narrow down where it is that you want to travel to, it’s time to apply for licensure!
For tips on how to build a travel nurse resume that will have hospitals scrambling to work with you, make sure to read How to Put Together a Travel Nurse Resume