You’re reading this article. Which leads me to believe that you are interested in travel nursing. Or you just love reading my blog posts (ha). Or you are my mom (very likely). Anyways, I have been a nurse for 3.5 years now, and have been traveling for 1.5 years. Which makes me far from a pro… but it definitely makes me more than a novice. I remember when I first decided that I wanted to start “traveling”. I was so excited, and SO confused. So many recruiters saying things to me that made absolutely NO sense! That is where I come in! To sort through some of the confusion and hopefully answer some questions that you’ve been asking. And honestly probably 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.]
Where to Start
My first question to you would be, “How many years of experience do you have?” I highly recommend 2 years of experience before venturing onto travel. I know people that have done it in 1.5 years, but I’ve been told that it was harder for them to find jobs. After 2 years you should have enough experience to feel sure of yourself and have others feel sure of you as well.
…You’ve been a nurse for 2+ years, you still want to start travel nursing. Now what? Well, 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 online application. Unlucky for you there are TONS of companies and TONS of recruiters just waiting for you to fill out an online application. Trust me, it can get overwhelming. Loads 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!
Searching for the Right Company, and the Right Recruiter
I started finding companies 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. Maybe make a list before speaking with someone so that you don’t lose focus!
Now to the important stuff. What kinds of questions should you be asking?! Man! I wish I knew this! Lucky for me I ended up with a great recruiter on my first assignment that didn’t take advantage of my “newness”.
Questions to Ask
- 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 is my take home pay 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 to calculate my take home using a 25% rate. 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 is best to know ahead of time.
- What will I be getting for travel reimbursement?
- Do you reimburse me for my state licensure if I have never worked in that specific state before?
- Do you offer a matching 401K?
- Is there a 36-hour guarantee? If not, 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.
You have the experience. You have the desire. You now know that there are TONS of recruiters out there just waiting for you to reach out! And trust me, once you reach out more recruiters will come knocking! (Or calling in this day and age). Plus, you are armed with a list of great questions to ask! So what are you waiting for?! Once you pick a recruiter, 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? Read my post Five Steps to Killing Your Interview