Transitioning from Staff Nurse to Travel Nurse
Ready for something new? Looking forward to an adventure? Anxious to focus on patient care and not hospital committees or projects? Perhaps it is time to transition to travel nursing. More and more registered nurses are choosing a travel career path.
The following guide can help you understand the process to transition from staff nurse to the dynamic world of travel nursing.
Understanding the basics of travel nursing
Travel nursing refers to registered nurses who work for a staffing agency and accept temporary assignments in their chosen locations throughout the country. They may fill in for nurses on leave or on units with a shortage of staff nurses in hospitals or other clinical settings, such as ambulatory surgery centers, schools, and other settings. Travel nurses receive a brief orientation at each assignment before practicing side by side with staff nurses.
Travelers do not typically participate on committees or quality improvement or research projects, allowing them to focus solely on providing the best care possible.
A travel nursing career offers opportunities for personal and professional growth. Travel nurses generally receive a generous compensation package, free housing or a housing stipend, health benefits, and more. They also have the opportunity to experience working in different facilities, making new friends, and exploring life in new communities.
Travel nursing has been around for decades, and travel assignments remain a popular option for nurses seeking a change. In fact, the AMN Healthcare 2023 Survey of Registered Nurses found 12 percent of nurses plann to switch to travel nursing in the next year.
Assessing your readiness to travel
Although the prospect of travel nursing is intriguing for many, not everyone is ready to transition to travel nurse.
“Sit down, reflect, and be honest with yourself,” advised Kristina B., BSN, RN, clinical manager/consultant with AMN Healthcare. “Assess your readiness to travel. Are you adaptable? Are you comfortable with new environments? How confident are you in your skillset and experience? Are you able to work independently and as a team player in various healthcare settings?”
Travel nurses must be flexible, able to go with the flow, think critically, and navigate high-stake conversations and situations, she said.
Meeting licensure and certification requirements
When making the transition to travel nurse, the nurse must obtain a nursing license in the state where practicing. Forty-one jurisdictions in the United States currently participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact, allowing a nurse in one of those states to obtain a multistate license and practice in any of the other participating states.
Some assignments also require certifications, including basic life support (BLS) or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS). And any specialty certification always impresses.
The AMN Healthcare credentialing team helps travel nurses obtain a new license when needed for their next assignment, and the company will reimburse nurses for the licensing fees.
Nurses can look up the status of their license and request verifications of their license be sent to the state where the assignment is located through the Nursys database.
The AMN Passport app provides reminders for expiring credentials. It is geared for those already in the process of getting credentialed for assignments.
“Passport is where they put their work history, licensures, certificates,” Kristina said. “It’s like a resume builder and much more.”
Navigating the travel nurse job search
Staff nurses ready to transition to travel nurse should choose a reputable travel nursing agency, such as one certified by the Joint Commission. Larger firms like AMN Healthcare have more options for assignments, including some exclusive opportunities. They also have the resources and training to help connect nurses with their ideal jobs, guide them through the onboarding process, and support them while on assignment.
“We are here to help them along the way,” Kristina said. “We are here to make the traveler successful.”
Connecting with the right recruiter makes a big difference, so take the time to get to know each other in those initial conversations. Your recruiter will learn about your goals and preferences and use that information to identify assignments that match those desires.
Prepare a resume that highlights your accomplishments, experiences, skills, certifications and job history. Include any rewards received. This information will be used to create your traveler profile.
“Making sure your resume is geared towards your work history specialty is important,” Kristina said. “Include all healthcare experience and be honest when filling out your skill set checklists.”
Browse your agency’s travel nursing jobs, and then speak to your recruiter about the ones that interest you.
Preparing for life on the road
When it comes to accommodations, a travel nurse can choose to use their agency’s travel stipend and find their own place, or have their agency provide furnished housing. Before hitting the road, travelers will also need to make arrangements for their current living situation, whether it means getting a house sitter, storing their household items, and/or forwarding their mail.
Nurses can travel with family or pets. However, they should alert their recruiter and housing specialists.
When it comes to , less is more. Select clothes according to the weather. Make sure to include scrubs and a stethoscope. If planning to dine out at a fancy restaurant, especially in places like New York City, pack a nice outfit. Bring crafts or other hobby materials, which support self-care.
Adapting to new work environments
Kristina suggested that on the first day of your travel nursing assignment, arrive a little early and introduce yourself to the charge nurse and ask for a tour. Get to know the support staff and respect them. Keep a positive attitude and build a network.
“Be proactive and assertive that ‘I am here to work,’” Kristina added, noting that it is also important to make connections. “Some travelers will go out after hours with others on the unit.”
For more tips from an experienced travel nurse, check out Acclimating to a New Facility.
Embracing the travel nurse lifestyle
Self-care remains essential for travel nurses. Make time for a hobby and talking with friends and colleagues. Prioritize sleep, exercise, nutrition and hydration. Practice mindfulness and relaxation. Set clear boundaries between work and personal life and allow yourself to say no to additional shifts or responsibilities.
Explore each new location, try different cuisines, check out the local attractions, go to the beach, or stroll through a park. Make the most of every assignment.
The clinical team at AMN Healthcare can help a travel nurse adjust to feeling isolated or homesick. Additionally, the company has an employee assistance program and other supports. Travel nurses can also invite friends and family to come visit, and explore their assignment city together.
“Embrace the adventure,” Kristina advised. “Use this experience to grow personally and professionally. AMN Healthcare is here to support our travelers in this journey.”
Ready to start your travel nursing journey?
Are you ready to explore travel nursing opportunities with AMN Healthcare? Our experienced team is ready to assist in making your transition from staff nurse to travel nurse as smooth as possible, and to ensure your success.