Travel Nursing: Navigating Licensing and Credentialing

Navigating Licensing and Credentialing

Travel nurses have the unique opportunity to choose where they want to live and work. They can choose to explore a variety of locations, practice settings and patient populations. They can even take assignments in different states than where they currently reside. Yet crossing state lines to practice can add some complications when it comes to nurse licensing.

In fact, nurse licensing and credentialing plays a pivotal role in travel nursing, and the process can be complex. Some research and work will be required before you can begin your dream assignment, and working with a reputable travel nursing agency can help you understand your choices, streamline the process and set you up for success.

Understanding state licensing requirements

Michelle H., senior recruitment manager for travel nursing at AMN Healthcare, explained that if nurses are interested in working in a state other than their own, they should first understand that the nurse licensing process can take time. So plan accordingly.

“Talk with your recruiter about the timeline of when you’re looking to start work in another state,” she said. “This will allow you to only take as much time off as you want and can afford. Research and call the board of nursing for the state you're looking to apply to, in order to get exact timelines and any additional information.”

“Find out what the licensing requirements are, and create a timeline on how long it takes to be licensed,” Michelle continued. “You don’t want to be waiting 10 weeks only to find out you could have worked another assignment while you wait for your license. Your recruiter has a report on what the general estimated time is, but the state site will be the most accurate.”

The role of compact states

Licensing requirements for travel nursing vary by state, but the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) allows for nurses to have one multistate license with the ability to practice in all compact states. The NLC was first enacted over 20 years ago and, as of October 1, 2023, there are currently 41 jurisdictions that participate in the compact. See the most current map of compact states, maintained by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

“You are eligible to apply if you are a resident of the state you're applying for; you must have a valid state ID or driver’s license to be eligible,” Michelle said. “Be sure to select ‘Multistate’ on your application as not every state issues you a compact state license just because you live or reside in that state. You don’t want to find out the hard way or have to wait longer for a compact license if you're only issued a single state license. Check with your state to find out the process and timeline; each state will vary in fees and time for processing.”

Travel nurse licensure for non-compact states

If you live in a non-compact state and don’t qualify for a multistate nursing license, or want to work in a state that does not yet participate in the NLC, you will need to obtain a new, single-state nursing license. That process starts by contacting the state’s board of nursing and partnering with a credentialing specialist at your travel nursing agency. These professionals can help walk you through the process and ensure you have all of the appropriate paperwork in order to get your state nursing license.

Obtaining new nurse licensure for a travel assignment does involve fees that are unique to each state or jurisdiction, and Michelle explained that many times these fees will be reimbursed by your staffing agency. However, that isn’t always the case, so she recommends checking with your credentialing specialist or recruiter to ask about reimbursements.

“Speak to your recruiter about your pay package and see how to get the most out of your weekly pay,” she advised. “Be sure all license fees requested are listed on your contract upfront. Make sure you discuss all fees before booking to avoid any confusion or delay payout.”

Michelle noted that nurse licensing fees do not pay out automatically, and AMN Healthcare’s travel nurses need to request a reimbursement on the AMN Passport app. “You will be required to fill out a reimbursement request form and upload a receipt. Once you do this you can estimate a 14-16 business day turnaround.” She added that the company’s customer support team or a nurse’s personal recruiter may be contacted if assistance is needed.

Credentialing, verification and special certifications

Nurses need to provide a lot of documentation before they can begin an assignment with a new healthcare system or facility, and the proprietary AMN Passport app has been a tremendous help with the overall process of travel nurse licensure and credentialing, Michelle said. Yet it is only as good as the information that goes into it.

“Be sure to promptly upload all documents on the AMN Passport and double-check they are clear copies, have the clinic name, date, and clinician name or they will be rejected. Rejected items will continue to be listed as outstanding items on your list of to do’s and this can be confusing.”

Are there other ways to streamline the credentialing process? Michelle suggests nurses can help by giving one or two updates weekly with a list of their progress and attaching all documents instead of sending multiple emails every day. “This will help your credentialing team navigate your file and workload quicker. Also, be sure your email communication is clear in your subject line. As simple as this seems, it can be the difference between your email getting read the moment it's received or it sitting in an email box with 200 other emails waiting their turn.”

In addition to clear communication and documentation, travel nurses are often required to hold basic and specialty certifications (such as BLS, ACLS, PALS, etc.) that are approved by the American Heart Association and other credentialing bodies. Nurses can review the requirements for travel nursing jobs that interest them on the AMN Healthcare website or via the AMN Passport app.

“There will be a list of required certifications for each job. You will need to meet the minimum requirements to apply,” Michelle said. A credentialing specialist will also work you to be sure these certifications remain current throughout your assignment.

Final tips to speed up the process

Researching and planning for travel nurse licensing and credentialing can help set you up for a successful and stress-free experience. Michelle’s final piece of advice is simple: “Don’t wait until the last minute to do anything!”

The quicker you start on your list, the faster you will clear the requirements and have them out of the way. She recommends:

    1. The minute you get your email list of requirements from your credentialing analyst, make time that day to complete the information for your background check.
    2. Sign forms right away and reply back to all emails promptly.
    3. Keep your recruiter looped in to email communications to assist as needed.
    4. Upload all your current medical titers and vaccinations the moment your assignment is booked so AMN can schedule one trip to the clinic instead of going in multiple times.


Embarking on a travel nursing career

Do you have a certain state that is on your travel nurse bucket list? Check out the current travel nursing jobs available in your chosen state and specialty. Then apply with AMN Healthcare to connect with a recruiter and get on the fast track to a satisfying career as a travel nurse.


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