50 Useful Travel Nursing Tips for First-Timers in 2023
Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Are you an experienced nurse looking for some excitement and a change but not sure what options are available? Do you enjoy traveling? Does meeting new people and learning about new cultures excite you? If so, have you considered what it would be like to become a travel nurse? Perhaps you are wondering how to get started or asking, "What are some useful tips for first-time travel nurses?” If this sounds like you, the 50 useful travel nursing tips for first-timers in 2023 featured in this article are just for you!
WHAT ARE SOME USEFUL TIPS FOR FIRST-TIME TRAVEL NURSES?
(The following are 50 useful tips to help prepare for your first ever travel nursing assignment.)
1. Learn about travel nursing and what it involves.
Travel nursing offers some exciting opportunities, and one of the best tips for new travel nurses is to learn as much about travel nursing as possible. You can work in a different city or state every few months, get experience in different specialties, and make friends everywhere you go. However, travel nursing is not always the best choice for everyone. Take the time to learn about travel nursing, what to watch for, and the pros and cons
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2. Determine your availability to work as a travel nurse.
One of the great things about travel nursing is deciding when you want to work. Decide if you want to work certain months of the year. Do you prefer to have some downtime between contracts, or are you ready to jump right in and work back-to-back contracts? It is necessary to decide your availability and make it clear to recruiters so you can avoid being paired for an assignment that does not agree with your schedule.
3. Consider Working as a Float Nurse at Your Current Nursing Job.
Travel nurses must be comfortable working in different hospitals or healthcare settings while performing their job with high-quality skills and ease. One way to prepare for the diversity in assignments is to become a float nurse at your current job.
4. Consider getting a Compact Nursing License.
Currently, thirty-four states have implemented the Nursing Licensure Compact. The NLC allows eligible nurses to possess one nursing license and work in any compact state.
5. Update your resume.
Nurses should update their resumes with each new job, experience, certification, or change. Before applying for your first travel nursing job, update your resume with all relevant nursing experience, education, certifications, and references. Update your resume with the latest job experience at the end of each contract. The more travel nurse experience you have, the easier it will be to secure your next job.
6. Make sure all licenses and certifications, and immunizations are current.
One of the best travel nursing tips I can offer is for you to keep your licenses and certifications up-to-date, organized, and easily accessible.
7. Create a medical records portfolio and keep it up to date.
Travel nursing agencies and the organizations that use them have different requirements for medical records and clearances. To help save time and frustration, be sure to keep immunizations up-to-date and have some type of documentation about your physical health that states you can handle the physical job requirements.
8. Gather necessary documents.
Having all your necessary documents in place for easy access is essential for travel nurses. To create a complete portfolio, you should include an up-to-date resume, names and contact information for references, immunization record, most recent PPD/Chest x-ray, copies of your BLS/ACLS, copies of all licenses and certifications, annual physical form, driver's license, social security card or passport, and a notarized I9 form. Many travel nursing agencies also require nurses to submit a Skills Checklist. If you have completed one at your recent employer, ask for a copy and ensure your recruiter has it in one file.
9. Get excellent letters of professional reference.
Your resume should list personal and professional references, but you should also consider having three to five letters of professional recommendation. Letters of reference can offer more detail than your resume's simple name and contact information. Ask former supervisors, charge nurses, or college professors. The letters should speak to your likelihood of success as a travel nurse. Ask the preparer to include information such as how you demonstrate good communication and interprofessional skills, your flexibility with work assignments, and your work ethic.
10. Don't burn bridges.
Becoming a traveling nurse offers some excellent personal and professional growth opportunities, all while enjoying the many sites and cultures of different states and countries. However, it is necessary to think ahead for your career's long-term as well. You may find at some point that you wish to return to an old job or need a break from traveling. It will be easier to transition from a travel nurse to a stationary position if you have left previous employers on good terms.
11. Choose the type of transportation you want to use.
Whether you fly or decide to take your own car, you will likely be reimbursed for some, if not all, of your travel expenses. If you plan to fly, you will need to decide whether to get a rental car or use another form of transportation to and from work once you arrive at your destination. Keep in mind the average travel nursing contract lasts about thirteen weeks. So, factor in the cost of a rental vs. the cost of taking your own car and the amount of reimbursement you should receive.
12. Take care of the tiny details, so you don't feel overwhelmed later.
Most travel nurse assignments are thirteen weeks. Before you hit the road, take care of details such as forwarding mail or having it held for you. If you live in a rural area like me, you may consider getting a post office box and letting the postmaster know you travel and that you will not empty the box until you return. Decide whether you want to keep your utilities turned on at your home and if so, you may want to set up auto payments so you don't forget to pay them.
13. Do your research.
There are more travel nurse opportunities than I could mention in one article, and there are several people to assist you as you prepare for your first travel nursing assignment. Still, it is a good idea to do your own research before signing a contract. Think about the geographical location or type of facility you would like to work in.
14. Consider getting a recruiter or agency representative.
Another great option for first-time travel nurses is to find a recruiter. Travel nursing recruiters educate, advise, and mentor travel nurses. These representatives help nurses find assignments appropriate for their skills and experience. Recruiters usually know the best housing options and help secure places to stay if needed.
15. Prepare for the interview.
Think about why you want to become a travel nurse. What do you expect to gain from the experience? What can you contribute to the facilities where you work? Review sample travel nursing interview questions
and think of how you will answer them.
16. Be honest with recruiters and potential employers.
If you really want an assignment, you may find yourself wanting to "embellish" your resume or list of skills and experience. Don't do it! No nurse knows everything about every illness, treatment, or possible situation. Be honest about your work experiences and the things that interest you. Also, if there is a specialty you are not as comfortable with, make it clear to the decision-makers. Practicing honesty could save a lot of frustration later.
17. Ask questions.
You can never ask too many questions. Before you apply for a travel nursing job, make a list of questions to ask your recruiter or the facility offering a contract. A few examples include: What are the benefits/reimbursements for traveling nurses? What is the salary? Does the contract include any insurance benefits? What is the orientation process like? Are there perks for travel nurses? Perks may include rental car discounts, free housing, uniform discounts, and overtime bonuses.
18. Read the fine print in your contract.
I have always told nursing students, "If you didn't chart it, you didn't do it." The same principle applies to your contract. If something isn't written in the contract, do not expect it to be implied. Be sure the contract lists your hourly or weekly rate, any housing stipends, the length of the contract, and has a clear outline of your role and responsibilities. The contract should include the Agency name, location and contact information, hospital name, location and contact information, your name and address, start and end date of the contract, the shift you will work, number of shifts per week, including the contracted hours for each shift, overtime rate, and limits, pay frequency, benefits, and stipends.
19. Create a budget.
I realize creating a budget may not seem like one of the most useful travel nursing tips. However, it's important to keep in mind that travel nurses may not work back-to-back assignments. If you do not leave one assignment and immediately begin another one, you need to make sure you have enough money to handle your financial responsibilities. Creating a budget that outlines your bills and incidental expenses plus your expected income will help you stay on track financially, which can help reduce stress.
20. Find out what the early cancellation penalty is.
Of all the travel nursing tips, do not overlook this one. When you enter a contract to take a travel nursing assignment, the company expects you to honor it. Sometimes the unexpected happens, but if you aren't covered by a no-penalty contract, you may have problems.
21. Ask if you will be reimbursed if the hospital cancels your contract.
Traveling for work can be costly, especially if you must wait for your first check to receive travel reimbursements. In some cases, hospitals or other facilities may cancel your travel nurse contract right before the start date. See if you can get a clause in your contract that covers reimbursement for travel if the hiring agency cancels your contract for reasons unrelated to you or your license.
22. Consider getting a personal liability insurance policy.
While it is not a legal requirement, the American Nurses Association recommends all nurses have their own liability insurance policies. Many nurses never need the coverage provided by liability insurance. However, if a situation should arise where you may be personally responsible, or your license is in jeopardy, it could be well worth having.
23. Think about health insurance.
If you have a health insurance plan with your current employer, you will need to choose the type of coverage you want when you leave. Some travel nursing agencies offer health insurance packages, but they are not always tailored for specific individual or family needs. Check into different options and make the decision that best suits your needs.
24. Be flexible.
As with most jobs, more experienced nurses may get to choose their preferred assignment before a first-time travel nurse. Be flexible about the setting, facility, and location, within reason so that you can get a travel nursing job faster. Once you establish yourself with an agency or organization that hires travel nurses, you will probably have more options for where to work.
25. Plan for housing.
Some travel nursing assignments include optional housing facilities or housing stipends. You should verify with the hiring agency ahead of time to determine the process for using this benefit. If you prefer to find your own housing or if housing assistance is not available, plan for housing as soon as possible. If you aren’t sure where to find a long-term rental, consider booking through VRBO
(Vacation Rentals By Owner) or Airbnb for the first part of your assignment. Once you get to your destination, make sure that the contract has not been canceled, and know your anticipated work schedule, you can then look for something more convenient.
26. Don’t pack your whole house!
I must admit, I tend to overpack for EVERYTHING. Remember, your travel nursing assignment is usually no longer than thirteen weeks unless your contract is renewed. As tempting as it may be, you don't have to pack everything in your closet. There will probably be a TV where you stay, so you should not need to take one with you.
27. Get to know other travel nurses.
One of the best ways to find useful travel nursing tips is to talk to current travel nurses. Take the time to network with other travel nurses. Ask their opinions about the best and worse places to work as a new travel nurse. Find out which agencies they use to help them find work.
28. Don’t forget about your fur-babies!
One of the travel nursing tips nurses often overlook is to make plans for what to do about pets. If you have pets and want them to travel with you, you will need to find housing that allows pets. It is usually easy to find rentals that allow pets, but you may need to pay a pet deposit.
29. Be confident about your knowledge and skills.
Even experienced nurses naturally feel anxious about how others will view them at their contracted assignments. In most cases, staff nurses are helpful and courteous. They usually appreciate having someone there willing to help. Once you are oriented and know your duties, work like you would at a regular nursing job. When you take the initiative to work hard, your coworkers will see you as a valuable part of the team.
30. Try not to take things personally.
Nursing is a wonderful career, but it can be stressful. Travel nurses often feel the stress of the job a little more than the nurses who work in a facility full-time. It is easier to misunderstand others' intentions or comments when you're stressed. Remember, you are a licensed nurse. You have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform your travel nursing job efficiently. So, when things seem a little frustrating, don't take it personally.
31. If you have a recruiter, stay connected with them.
Good travel nurse recruiters offer support before, during, and after assignments. Communication must go both ways to be successful, though. Make sure you keep in touch with your recruiter. Share your thoughts and feelings about your assignment. If you want or need things related to your assignment, your recruiter can help make them happen.
32. Accept assignments with an open mind.
While most permanent nursing staff are courteous and inviting, you may find some coworkers who try to test your nursing knowledge and skills. Supervisors may give you assignments that you would not choose for yourself. Be open-minded and accept the challenges. As management and staff get to know you and see how well you work, things will ease up.
33. Don’t forget self-care!
As a nurse, I understand how easy it can be to put others before your own well-being. Unfortunately, that is one of the worse things you can do. I have always advised my nursing students that it is easier to care for others when we are well cared for. Self-care includes getting plenty of rest, eating a well-balanced diet, and exercising. Take some time for yourself to relax and unwind. You will find the better you care for yourself, the better you care for others.
34. Arrive in your new town a few days early, if possible.
Nothing is more frustrating than being late for your first day of work because you don’t know where you’re going. One of the simplest travel nursing tips you can follow is to get to your new town a day or two before your assignment starts (at least) and find your way around. Find a few alternative routes from where you are staying to get to work and familiarize yourself with them.
35. Be early for work.
You only have one chance to make a first impression, and being late for work is not a good start. Leave home in plenty of time to arrive at least fifteen minutes early.
36. Find a mentor.
Working as a traveling nurse has lots of perks. However, it can feel a little daunting, especially for first-timers. Ask the charge nurse or supervisor if there is a nurse you can shadow, if necessary. Keep in mind that good nurses never stop learning. So, it's okay to look to someone for advice or direction.
37. Learn coping mechanisms to help reduce stress and promote a positive outlook.
First-time travel nurses may feel overwhelmed, and that's understandable. Still, you don't want anxiety to interfere with your ability to work or make you feel negative. Learn measures to cope with stress and implement them daily to help reduce the impact of stress on your attitude and ability to be productive.
38. Develop friendships with your new coworkers.
Settling into a new town or job is a lot easier when you are engaged with others. Get to know your new coworkers. Ask them to join you for lunch or coffee after work. Find out what they enjoy doing in their free time. Ask about local activities and see if there is something that interests you.
39. Enjoy your new town!
One of the perks of travel nursing is the opportunity to experience new places. When you have a day off, take some time to explore your new town. This is a great way to get to know friends in new places and relax a bit. Also, it could lead to contacts for future job opportunities if you are interested.
40. Embrace opportunities to learn and master new skills.
One of the best ways to feel confident as a nurse is to develop strong skills. Travel nurses have the unique opportunity to work in diverse settings in as many places as they please. Take advantage of opportunities to grow your professional skills and apply them to your next assignment.
41. Create a healthy work-life balance.
Another of the most useful travel nursing tips is to be sure to establish a balance between work and your personal life. First-time travel nurses sometimes struggle with balancing their new assignments and other life responsibilities. If you have family that travels with you, you should establish a pattern of family time. On your day off, consider going for an outing or having a picnic in the park. Creating a healthy life balance can benefit you personally and professionally.
42. Leave work at work.
For nurses, it is sometimes difficult to clock out at the end of a shift and not think about work. Creating a healthy work-life balance means knowing where to draw the line between work and personal time.
43. Don’t limit yourself to one agency.
You may find a travel nurse recruiter or agency that you prefer to work with, but that doesn't mean you should close the door for opportunities offered by others. A few travel nurse agencies you may want to consider include Aya Healthcare
, Travel Nurse Across America
, and American Mobile Travel Nursing
44. Remember, travel nurse agencies and recruiters work for you as much as you work for them.
There are benefits to working with agencies and recruiters. However, it is important to understand your rights, establish your goals, and not be taken advantage of. Travel nurse agencies and recruiters earn an average of 30% of the total contract bill. For example, if an organization offers a thirteen-week contract with a total payout of $30,000, the travel nurse agency/recruiter will usually get about $9,000 of that money. It is in the recruiter's interest to negotiate a contract that pays well and meets your other requests, so don't be afraid to ask for what you want.
45. Consider earning a certification.
Although a nursing certification may not be necessary for specific travel nursing jobs, earning a certification can help boost your career. Certification means you have validated skills in your RN specialty. Also, certified nurses improve their chances of getting the assignments they want instead of settling for whatever is available.
46. Get experience in different specialty areas.
Even if you do not opt to earn a certification right away, gaining experience in different specialty areas will help increase your marketability. Seasonal illnesses, a nationwide shortage of nurses, regional demographics, and the COVID-19 pandemic all contribute to the demand for travel nurses. Some of the most in-demand specialty areas for travel nursing currently are Intensive Care Units, Emergency Nursing, Telemetry, and Neonatal and Pediatric Intensive Care.
47. Never stop learning!
One of the most important tips for first-time travel nurses is to always find something new to learn. The healthcare industry is constantly growing and evolving. To be successful, nurses must keep up with those changes. Make sure you participate in as many continuing education opportunities as possible. Ask to be included in in-services wherever you are assigned. Knowledge is something no one can take from you. Treat it like a prized position and gather as much as possible.
48. Be committed.
No matter where you work, you will find people with different personalities and diverse work environments. So, you can expect some challenges from time to time. If you keep your goals and dreams in front of you and remain committed, there is no limit to what you can do as a travel nurse.
49. Prepare for your next assignment.
New travel nursing contracts can take as little as one week or up to six weeks (or longer) to finalize. One of the useful travel nursing tips I’d like to offer is to prepare ahead of time for the next job. If you have an agent, they will probably have prospective offers lined up for when your current contract expires. However, it is up to you to make sure the offers are coming in and that you take care of things on your end.
50. Have fun!!
Not everyone can say they have a rewarding career while enjoying the perks of not being tied down to one place. Of the many excellent travel nursing tips, one of the best I can offer is to HAVE FUN!
Useful Resources To Help Prepare For Your First Ever Travel Nursing Assignment
There are several places to find information about travel nursing. In this section, you’ll find some useful resources for travel nursing tips and information on how to get started. The following are some popular YouTube videos, podcasts, books, and websites/blogs dedicated to first-time travel nurses.
YouTube host, Sincerely Shannon, shares useful travel nursing tips and information about things to look for as you prepare to become a travel nurse. Learn tips about money, good places to work, and questions to ask.
In this YouTube video, hear stories from nurses around the United States who left full-time nursing positions to become travel nurses. Short-term assignments, higher income potential, and opportunities to see the country are a few reasons they cite for making the change.
This Los Angeles-based podcast features stories about providing care as a travel nurse that are entertaining, educational, inspiring, and designed to motivate. Guests include traveling nurses as well as travel nurse recruiters and CEOs of healthcare organizations.
This is a weekly podcast that provides information about everything it takes to be a successful travel nurse in today’s healthcare market. The podcast discusses topics including travel nursing pay, tax-free stipends, housing, where to find the best jobs, and how to negotiate a contract.
(Shalon Weddington-Kearney): In this book, the author offers practical travel nursing tips and information for nurses considering becoming traveling nurses. She offers insight into topics including finances, tax strategies, travel staffing services, and international travel. The book also features a few self-assessment quizzes to help you determine if travel nursing is the right option for you.
(Kyle Schmidt): This book offers a look at the world of travel nursing from the perspective of a former travel healthcare recruiter. Kyle Schmidt provides information about how to compare travel service agencies, compensation packages, and important contract details.
• American Traveler
is a travel nursing blog that offers advice for travel nurses. The blog offers great insight for first-time travel nurses.
• The Fabuleux Nurse
is a blog written by a traveling nurse who has multiple sclerosis. She uses the blog to inspire and inform other travel nurses and would-be travel nurses about traveling nurses' lives, lifestyle tips, and measures to handle stress.
• The Traveling NP
is written by a nurse practitioner who discusses issues such as networking, traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic, and establishing relationships with recruiters. The blog has personal stories, recommendations for travel credit cards and hotels, and insight from experiences at different travel nursing sites.
My Final Thoughts
In this article, you found answers to the question, “What are some useful tips for first-time travel nurses?” There are many opportunities worldwide for nurses who want to travel and provide patient care. The 50 useful travel nursing tips for first-timers in 2023 featured here can help you know what’s important and how to get started on the journey to travel nursing!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR EXPERT
1. Is It a Good Idea to Start as a Travel Nurse Right Out of College?
The most important thing you need to become a travel nurse is experience. Most travel nursing agencies and the organizations that hire travel nurses require nurses to have at least two years of nursing experience before they become eligible to fill travel nursing contract positions.
2. Will Travel Nursing Look Good on My Nursing Resume?
Travel nurses are often exposed to advanced technology procedures and practices that benefit them and their patients. Prospective employers know travel nurses must demonstrate experience, knowledge, skills, and a strong work ethic. Therefore, travel nursing is a great way to build up your resume.
3. When Can I Start Applying for My First Travel Nursing Assignment?
Although you need experience to begin work as a travel nurse, some nurses begin applying for positions after earning as few as nine months of experience. First-time travel nurses may find it easier to land their first assignments by working with a recruiter. Recruiters can help you prepare for your first travel nursing contract and make sure you are on track with your experience, and help you get your needs met.
4. What Do I Need to Make Sure of in My First Travel Nurse Contract?
Some of the tips for first-time travel nurses are related to your contract. Be sure to pay attention to the contract's language and make sure exact information is included, such as your pay rate, overtime pay, schedule, start and end dates, and your job description.
5. As A First-Time Travel Nurse, Can I Choose Where to Go?
If you receive an offer for a contract that is not where you want to work or live, you have the right to decline the offer. First-time travel nurses may find it easier to find a travel opportunity by keeping options open. Then, with experience, you may decide to be pickier about the contracts you choose.
6. I'd Prefer to Drive to My First Travel Nursing Job. Can I Do That?
Many travel nurses choose to drive to the location of their assignment. When you drive to your travel job, you have the benefit of having your own transportation. It is always best to weigh the pros and cons, including what it will cost you to get to your first travel nursing job, how long you will be there, and whether travel reimbursement is available when using your own vehicle.
7. What If I Get My First Travel Nursing Assignment and I Hate It?
There is nothing that says you will love every travel nursing assignment you accept. It is important to treat a travel nursing job like any other job. Talk to your recruiter, if you have one, and see if there is a way to work out the problem. One of the most crucial travel nursing tips is, if possible, try to finish the contract. This is important so you don't face the consequences of early termination. Remember, once a contract ends, you do not have to accept another one at the same place.
8. As A First-Time Travel Nurse, Can I Make My Own Schedule?
Although some facilities may allow first-time travel nurses to make their own schedules, it is not guaranteed that any travel nurse can. Travel nurses fill spots where nurses are needed and, therefore, are usually scheduled where there is the greatest need. If working a particular schedule is important to you, it is best to discuss it with your recruiter or the hiring agency and be sure it is in your contract before committing.
9. Do First-Time Travel Nurses Get Health Insurance And 401K?
Many travel nurse agencies offer travel nurses health insurance and employer-sponsored traditional 401(k) plans. However, many nurses opt to find a private insurance plan and set up their own retirement accounts so they can have services and benefits tailored to their needs. Experienced travel nurses say one of the best tips for first-time travel nurses is to ensure your health and retirement are covered.
10. As A First Timer, Can I Negotiate My Pay with My Travel Nurse Recruiter?
All travel nurses, including first-time travel nurses, can negotiate their pay. As with other nursing jobs, it is natural to assume that salary is commensurate with experience and the type of facility where the nurse will work.
11. As A First-Time Travel Nurse, How Much Will I Make?
The average salary for a travel nurse is $56.49 hourly, $2,259 weekly, $9,790 monthly, or $117,490 yearly. As a first-time travel nurse your salary will vary based on your specialty, level of experience, geographic location, number of hours and shift you work, and the type of facility.
| Level of Experience ||Hourly ||Weekly ||Monthly||Annual|
| Entry-Level ||$37.71 ||$1,508||$6,540 ||$78,430 |
| 1-4 Years of Experience ||$43.51 ||$1,740||$7,540 ||$90,500 |
| 5-9 Years of Experience ||$53.18 ||$2,127||$9,220 ||$110,620 |
| 10-19 Years of Experience ||$66.07 ||$2,643||$11,450 ||$137,430 |
| 20 Years or More Experience ||$82.06 ||$3,282||$14,220 ||$170,680 |
|Average Salary||$56.49 ||$2,259||$9,790 ||$117,490 |
|(Source: Indeed.com) |
12. Will My First Travel Nurse Stipend Be Taxable?
Stipends may or may not be taxable. Because they are not equivalent to wages, employers may not hold Social Security or Medicare taxes out of stipends. However, in many cases, they are considered taxable income. One of the most useful travel nursing tips is to always consult with a tax professional to determine how much, if any taxes, should be set aside from your stipend check.
13. Can First-Time Travel Nurses Travel on International Assignments?
While some first-time travel nurses may find an international assignment, it is usually recommended to work a few domestic assignments first. Working domestic travel nurse assignments will give you the experience of working in different places without having to travel internationally. This is especially important because international travel nursing assignments typically last between twelve and twenty-four months, much longer than an average domestic assignment.
Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).