Take these 6 steps to become a travel nurse

Written by Michael Hoon

If you love the idea of supplying patients with quality medical assistance but aren’t crazy about working in the same environment every day, then you may want to consider becoming a travel nurse. Travel nurses work at temporary jobs in locations all over the country, usually for periods of a dozen weeks or so.

Since being a travel nurse comes with its own particular set of challenges, you may need some extra direction when pursuing this particular career. Here are some tips that should help you achieve your goal of becoming a travel nurse.

1. Become a registered nurse.

To become a travel nurse, you must first become a nurse. That means you have to graduate high school or get your GED, complete an accredited nursing program at the college level, and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Some hospitals might also require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), and if its relevant to your area of specialization, Basic Life Support (BLS) or Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certification. Before becoming a travel nurse, you also need a minimum of one year of specialized nursing experience. For travel nurses, those specializations include ER, PEDS, TELE, and Home Health. If ICU or OB is your area of specialization, you may need more than one year of experience.

2. Consider your goals.

In what kind of environment do you want to work? To where do you want to travel? You should consider such goals to pin down your ideal position since all travel-nursing agencies are different. You must also think the salary and benefits you expect to earn. Since moving around is involved in your work, such benefits as housing, travel stipends, and rental cars might be considerations along with more standard benefits such as medical and 401k packages. Make a list of your ideals so you know what to look for when viewing job listings and deciding where to apply.

4. Compare agencies to find the one for you.

Travel nurses get jobs through agencies, and all agencies are different. If you have specific goals, you will want to find an agency most in line with your particular ones. Consider these agency’s online ratings as well. A great online tool is BluePipes, which is like LinkedIn for healthcare professionals. If you know trustworthy travel nurses, perhaps they can refer you to a quality agency.

5. Prepare your paperwork.

There’s quite a bit of paperwork involved in securing a travel nurse position. An application, skills checklist, and clinical references will be included in your submission profile. Your nursing agency will provide you with these documents and expect you to complete them. However, if you use BluePipes to prepare your submission profile, you may not have to fill out a new one every time you visit a new agency. Also be sure to have all required licenses and certifications, as well as recently obtained medical records, in order.

6. Establish a tax home.

In order to qualify as a travel nurse with tax-free stipends, you will have to establish and maintain a “tax home.” In order to qualify, you must work far enough away to have to stay overnight in a place other than your residence when working. You must fill out a form to qualify for tax-free stipends. The good news is that even if you fail to qualify for tax-free stipends, you can still work as a travel nurse.

About the author

Michael Hoon