What is a Travel Nurse, and How Can You Become One?

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What is a travel nurse? Travel nurses take on assignments and relocate to work at hospitals experiencing a nursing shortage. As a travel nurse, you won’t be tied down to a single city and can instead explore different parts of the country, build your professional network, and receive lucrative opportunities.

nurse wearing face mask standing outside

Do you love to travel and explore different parts of the country? Through travel nursing, you can combine this passion with your nursing career and work in a variety of locations, meet new people, and further develop your nursing skills. So, what is a travel nurse? A travel nurse is a registered nurse who takes on assignments from different hospitals nationwide, working for a short time before moving on to their next job.

If travel nursing sounds appealing to you, the College of Mount Saint Vincent can help you take the first steps toward making it happen. Through our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, you can earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BS in Nursing) in as few as 16 months and be on your way to becoming a travel nurse.

Below, we answer the question, “What is travel nursing?” We provide more details on how to become one and explore the profession’s many benefits.

How Does Travel Nursing Work?

While it is possible to be an independent travel nurse, most travel nurses work with an agency. The agency contracts with short-staffed hospitals and organizes the assignment details for their travel nurses. The assignment length varies but typically ranges between 8 and 13 weeks. Once a travel nurse receives their assignment, they relocate to the hospital area before the start date, ready to begin working.

Travel nurses can collaborate with the agency to determine where and in which units they want to work. Whether you wish to stay close to your home base or travel across the country, your agency can work to make it happen.

Agencies also offer their nurses benefits packages, another reason many nurses choose to work with an agency rather than independently. Many agencies offer medical coverage and retirement plans, which hospitals don’t offer to independent travel nurses.

nurse wearing face mask standing on side of road

What Do Travel Nurses Do?

As a travel nurse, you fill the role of a full-time staff nurse and work with the healthcare team to provide patient care. Specifics may vary depending on the healthcare unit and assignment; however, your responsibilities are the same as those of a staff nurse, except you will leave at the end of your assignment to fill another position.

As a travel nurse, you must be quick on your feet and take in information quickly. While this is important for all registered nurses, travel nurses have minimal time to acclimate to a new position. They must be ready to adjust to the hospital’s processes and adapt to different technologies.

Travel Nurse Qualifications and Skills

Now that we have covered “What is a travel nurse?” let’s explore how you can become one. Travel nurses receive the same training as registered nurses. To become a travel nurse, you must first complete a nursing program and earn your nursing degree.

While you can become a travel nurse with an associate’s degree, a BS in Nursing is quickly becoming the preferred credential for registered nurses. Earning your BS in Nursing can set you up for more lucrative opportunities as a registered nurse and as a travel nurse.

Once you earn your nursing degree, you can take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and earn your nursing license. However, most travel agencies require travel nurses to have clinical experience before they can apply. While specifics vary, you typically need at least two years of clinical experience before becoming a travel nurse.

While it may seem disheartening that you cannot enter travel nursing right after graduation, a few years of clinical experience is worthwhile. As a travel nurse, you must acclimate to new clinical environments quickly. Gaining experience will build your confidence and make the transition much easier.

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Your education and clinical experience also promote the development of valuable skills needed as a travel nurse. Here are some skills that will support you in your travel nursing career:

  • Adaptability
  • Communication skills
  • Flexibility
  • Critical thinking
  • Love for traveling

Travel nurses must be adaptable and team players. They continuously enter new situations, work with new people, and learn new procedures.

Benefits of Travel Nursing

Nurses turn to travel nursing because of the many benefits. Travel nurse agencies typically offer high pay and bonuses to their nurses, as well as a housing allowance, medical benefits, and travel reimbursements, among others. These benefits packages are intended to attract registered nurses to travel nursing so agencies can quickly fill openings in hospitals needing nurses.

nurse standing in parking lot talking on phone

Travel nursing can also be a fulfilling experience. It can lead you on a tour across the country, where you can explore new locations, breaking up the monotony. It also gives you a unique opportunity to build your professional network with people you otherwise would never have the chance to meet.

As a travel nurse, you will have the chance to:

  • Expand your career by working in a variety of healthcare facilities in different environments.
  • Take time off between assignments to focus on other interests or return to school for an advanced degree.
  • Enhance your skillset by working with different patient populations.
  • Work in a wide range of specialties and gain new experiences.

The travel nursing benefits make it an exciting option for nurses looking to gain diverse experiences and explore different parts of the country. If you are considering travel nursing and have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you can take the first steps by earning your BS in Nursing with Mount Saint Vincent.

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Take the Next Steps Today

Now that you can answer the question “What is a travel nurse?” you can take the next steps toward becoming one. Mount Saint Vincent provides a comprehensive curriculum that prepares you for all nursing career paths. Through coursework, nursing simulation labs, and clinical rotations, you gain the knowledge and skills necessary to confidently take the NCLEX and earn your nursing license.

Contact us today to begin your nursing school journey. You will be assigned a dedicated admission counselor who will guide you throughout the admission process and put you on a path to accomplishing your career goals.