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How to Become a Travel Nurse

Posted in Travel Nursing

How to Become a Travel Nurse

To become a travel nurse you must have an active license as an RN or LP/VN (practical or vocational nurse) in good standing. You must also have at least one year of recent hospital nursing experience.

The next step is to do your homework. Research and decide where you think you would like to spend a travel assignment and for how long. California, Arizona and Florida usually have the most opportunities, but travel nurses are used in all 50 states. Most travel assignments last from four to twenty-six weeks. The average is thirteen. You can also opt to renew and stay on at a facility if they choose to offer a renewal of the contract.

Next you need to research travel nursing agencies who will help you to become a travel nurse. They will recruit for the assignment, arrange contracts and assist in finding housing, etc. There are many to choose from in all different sizes and varieties. Some offer a benefits package, completion or referral bonuses, and an array of other perks. Some are very hands-on and others expect to give you information and expect you to do the leg work.

For example, to be a travel nurse, you will need a nursing license in each of the state(s) where you wish to work. Some agencies will assist you with the process, and others will simply give you the information and expect you to accomplish this yourself. Some states need fingerprints and some do not. Some take a couple of weeks to process and others only a couple of days.

Some states have a “compact” license. There is a national coalition of states that allow you to work in their state with a license from any of the other states which subscribe to the “compact” agreement. Only about one-third of the states currently subscribe to this policy though. In these states however, all you have to do is present the hospital with your current license from any compact state.

By doing your homework, you’ll find many sources to help you become a travel nurse. Many online nursing forums have active discussions about the pros and cons of travel nursing and various travel nursing agencies. You can read and discuss the options with peers to help make your decisions. You can sign up with more than one travel nursing agency, and of course, change at will. This is your career and you are in charge.

Contact the agency and schedule an interview or sign up online. They will have you complete some forms and conduct a background check. Usually they will arrange an interview and conduct a skills assessment to make appropriate decisions about placing you.

You’ll be assigned a recruiter to discuss your specific needs, goals and the travel nursing opportunities available. When a match is available, the recruiter will contact you. Be sure to explore all aspects of the assignment before making a commitment. Most importantly, be sure you are serious and prepared to fulfill the obligation.

By Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN
Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book, and author/owner of