(Last Updated On: March 30, 2020)
You’re reading this article, which leads me to believe that you are trying to gain information on travel nursing. Luckily, you’re in the right place! I have been a nurse for over 5 years now, and have been a travel nurse for 3 years, more than half of my nursing career. Which means that I know a few things when it comes to the travel nurse industry. Including basic travel nursing information which was hard to come by when I was starting out.
I remember when I first decided that I wanted to jump into the world of travel nursing. I was excited, a little bit nervous, and mainly confused. How could this profession exist with so little resources? There were so many recruiters vying for my attention and throwing around lingo that I didn’t understand. So that’s where I come in! To sort through some of the confusion and hopefully answering the questions that you’ve been having. And more than likely also bringing up questions that you didn’t even know you should be asking.
[Disclaimer: I work in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), so all of my knowledge about travel nursing (and nursing in general) centers around being a NICU nurse. Some of the things that I say may not apply to what specialty you are in.]
Travel Nursing Information – The Basics to Starting Out
Where to Begin
My first question to you would be, “How many years of experience do you have?” I highly recommend having 2 years of experience before becoming a travel nurse. I have spoken to people that have become travel nurses after only having 1.5 years of experience, but they’ve all said that it was more difficult for them to find jobs. After 2 years you should have enough experience to be able to walk into another unit with very little orientation and pick things up quickly. (Please note that for some specialties such as MedSurg, its easier to begin travel nursing after only having 1 year of experience).
You’ve been a nurse for 2+ years, you still want to start travel nursing, now what? Now is the time that you need to find a company to work with! Lucky for you there are TONS of companies and TONS of recruiters just waiting for you to fill out an application. Unlucky for you there are TONS of companies and TONS of recruiters just waiting for you to fill out an application. Once you put your name and contact information out there into the world wide web, things can begin to get overwhelming. Expect lots of recruiters calling you all the time to tell you why you should choose them, when you don’t even know the right questions to be asking!
Up Next… Finding a Company and a Recruiter
I started finding travel nurse agencies based on word of mouth and Google. The truth of the matter is that all companies offer different things; you have to find what works best for you. And remember, what works for you may not work for someone else and vice versa. Once you talk with a recruiter, trust your gut! Don’t let anyone push you into something that doesn’t feel 100% right and authentic. Truth be told, some recruiters can be pretty pushy sometimes. Stand your ground and remember what you’re looking for in a travel assignment. And maybe think about making a list before speaking with someone so that you don’t lose focus! For more specifics on finding on a recruiter that is right for you, read this post and this post.
Now to the really important, basic, stuff. Like what kinds of questions should you be asking? If I only knew these things before beginning. Luckily, I ended up with a recruiter who was patient with me, but if I had been more prepared I would definitely have made more money than I started out making. That experience alone is why I now offer 1:1 mentoring for those who wish to take the leap from staff nurse to travel nurse!
Important Questions to Ask Your Recruiter
- What kind of health insurance do you offer, and when will I be covered? Some company’s health plans don’t kick in for 30 days into your assignment and some start the day you start work. Know what kind of health insurance you need and go from there.
- Will I accrue PTO?
- What will my travel nursing salary be? AFTER taxes? I always iterate the AFTER taxes part to ensure I will know what will be in my account every week. I also ask recruiters what tax rate they are using to calculate my pay (typical is 22-25%). I have heard of recruiters quoting take home pay using a much lower tax rate resulting in less money in your bank account and a very surprised nurse!
- What is your policy if I call in sick? Some companies take away your living stipend for the week, some don’t. It’s best to know ahead of time.
- What will I be getting for travel reimbursement?
- Do you reimburse me for my state licensure and certifications?
- Do you offer a matching 401K?
- Is there a 36-hour guarantee? If not, what is the hospital cancellation policy? Its important to know that in some cases the hospital can cancel you for low census and you will not be getting paid.
Again, it is important to know what YOU are looking for. Some of the questions I want answered may not seem like a big deal to you! And that is okay. Make a list before contacting any recruiter so that you make sure all of your questions get answered.
Begin Searching for Travel Nurse Jobs
Now that you have gained the experience, have contacted different companies and found a recruiter you want to work with, its now time to beginning submitting yourself to jobs! Of course, this part isn’t on you, it’s on your recruiter. Once you have a clear idea of what kind of job you want and where you want to work your recruiter can start submitting you. All you have to do is sit back and wait for your phone to ring.
The Basic Travel Nursing Information Summarized
You have the experience. You have the desire. You now know which companies you want to work with and probably have a few recruiters already contacting you. Plus, you are armed with a list of great questions to ask! So what are you waiting for?! Once you pick a recruiter (or a few), they will take it from there and help you figure out all your paperwork, immunization needs, drug screening, etc. Just remember to follow your gut and don’t let anyone push you into something that you don’t want. The perfect assignment is out there. You just have to be patient.
Planning on becoming a travel nurse and want more guidance? Check these posts out….