If you’re a registered nurse who’s intrigued by the benefits of travel nursing: great pay, flexibility, job security, the chance to travel the country, you may be wondering if an RN can become a traveling nurse. The short answer is yes! Being a registered nurse is the first requirement to become a travel nurse.
Travel nursing is an ideal career path for nurses who have an adventurous spirit and love meeting new people and places. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of RNs have switched their permanent staff jobs for short-term assignments around the country. Thus, they end up doubling (or even tripling) their salary while enjoying the freedom of choosing when and where they work.
How Does Travel Nursing Work?
Travel Nursing is a job that involves registered nurses (RNs) or specialty nurses traveling around the country taking on short-term contracts. These contracts typically run for 13 weeks and are based in certain parts of the country where traveling nurses are needed to fill gaps in hospitals or other healthcare facilities with staffing shortages.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw the demand for traveling nurses rise by more than 35%. Salaries have recently skyrocketed and generally run higher than a staffing nurse. Traveling nurses all over the country boast about the freedom of hitting the road and exploring new places while receiving a steady income.
High Demand Specialities For Travel Nurses
One of the smartest things you can do to improve your chances of finding a great assignment is to have an area of focus or specialty. These are the top 4 most sought-after traveling nurse specialties:
1. Intensive Care Unit Nurses
While ICU nurses have always been in high demand, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been needed more than ever before. And even once the pandemic has gone away, ICU nurses will still be very much needed. Therefore having this specialty will get you the gig you want.
2. Emergency Room Nurses
It may keep you on your toes, and you must bring your quick thinking and calm demeanor with you, but ER nurses are always in a position that is in high demand. There are different types of ER nurses within the field, including:
- Pediatric ER nurse
- Trauma nurse
- Triage nurse
- Burn center nurse
3. Labor and Delivery Nurses
Labor and delivery nurses have a very rewarding job caring for both the mother and baby. You’ll be performing the same duties but will be working in maternity wards making sure mothers and everyone around them are taken care of.
4. Operating Room Nurses
Operating room nurses have several different yet unique roles. While you are working in a team as an OR nurse, you’ll typically take on one of three main roles:
- Pre-op: preparing the patient for the intervention
- Intra-op: assisting all medical personnel as needed
- Post-op: also called PACU nurse, responsible for taking care of the patient immediately following surgery.
5. Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nurses
PACU nurses are critical care nurses that care for patients who have just gotten out of surgery and are recovering from anesthesia. Their roles include recognizing and handling any negative effects of anesthesia, monitoring vital signs, and administering pain medication as necessary.
While there are a few of the top in-demand travel nursing specialties, there are many traveling opportunities for nurses in the fields of Occupation Therapy, Physical therapy, Speech-Language and Pathology, and more. Licensed Vocational Nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants can take on travel nursing jobs across the country.
How To Become a Traveling Nurse
The steps you’ll need to take to become a travel nurse will depend on how far you’re into your nursing career. For example, if you already are a registered nurse, all you have to do is find a recruiter to work with, as most travel nurses are placed through agencies. If you’re just getting started on your career, becoming a traveling nurse can take anywhere from 2 to 6 years, depending on your chosen path.
Here’s how you become a travel nurse:
- Complete your RN degree: the first step in becoming a traveling nurse is to get a college degree in nursing. There are two main options: Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). According to NurseJournal, while it’s possible to find a traveling nurse job with an ADN, most employers prefer nurses with BSN degrees.
- Pass the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Exam): after you’ve graduated with a BSN or ADN degree, you’ll have to pass the national council licensure exam to obtain your RN license. The NCLEX-RN is a computer-based exam that tests the skills, knowledge, and abilities that nurses must exhibit to safely and effectively practice nursing at the basic level.
- Become licensed in the state(s) where you want to practice: once you pass the NCLEX, you’ll be eligible to apply to your state’s Board of Nursing. Different states have different requirements. A staffing agency serving traveling nurses can help you with this process.
- Find a healthcare staffing agency: hospitals and healthcare facilities hire travel nurses through staffing agencies, so finding an agency that you trust is key. At TheraEx, we are here to help you navigate the world of travel nursing, whether you’re a seasoned pro or looking to embark on your first assignment. Read more about what sets us apart.
Travel nursing is an incredible opportunity to broaden your horizons, experience new adventures and add extensively to your resume. Traveling while making a solid income is a dream, and possessing some of the above specialties under your belt will level up your nursing career and, better yet, your compensation.
With such a crazy year behind us and many unknowns ahead of us, there is no better time than now to jump into a career path that can help you grow. Check out more here!