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Nurse First News Blog

Travel Nursing: How Does It Work?

Posted July 7, 2020

Travel nursing is an exhilarating career path. Imagine being able to choose anywhere in the country to work for 13 weeks at a time.  Amazing, right?!  As you can imagine, being a travel nurse feels like an extended vacation.  You’ll explore new cities, cultures, build one heck of a resume, and make everlasting friendships. This blog will walk you through how this travel nursing thing works and how you can add adventure to your nursing career.

This article contains: 

What is Travel Nursing?

How Does Travel Nursing Work?

How to Become a Travel Nurse?

Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing

What is Travel Nursing?

Travel nurses fill openings at facilities and hospitals throughout the country for a specified period of time.  Most of these contract positions are 13 weeks long but can extend based on need.  Facilities and hospitals have vacancies for a variety of reasons, which include but are not limited to the following: lack of qualified applicants, maternity leaves, and/or census changes. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for registered nurses are intended to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028.  Hospitals and facilities are always looking to fill vacancies, which puts travel nurses in high demand. 

How Does Travel Nursing Work?

Typically, nurses interested in traveling will find a healthcare staffing agency to help them through the process of finding a contract.  Travel nurses apply through the agency and a recruiter is assigned to the nurse to ensure the hiring process goes smoothly. In essence, you are working and getting paid through the agency representing you. 

You and your recruiter will discuss your job experience, salary expectations, location desires, and how you’ll work together as a team to create the best travel nursing experience for you. Your recruiter and account manager will work diligently to find the best openings that meet your wants out of a position.  You’ll be presented with job options and an account manager will submit you to ones that you’re interested in.  It is best to get a plan in place with your recruiter so you can have a leg up on the competition, the quicker you are submitted to a position the better chance you have securing that opening. 

If you get scheduled for a phone interview, most recruiters will give you interviewing tips and coach you on how to best respond to that particular facility. We’re here to root you on!  If you are offered the position and want to accept we will send you a “letter of acceptance” form and walk you through the next steps in the process.  You can rest assured that you’ll never feel left in the dark during the process -communication between you and your recruiter is key. Before you know it, you’ll be walking into your first day as a travel nurse!

How to Become a Travel Nurse?

The process of becoming a travel nurse is quite seamless; however, there are a few requirements that must be met before you can set sail on your new adventure. 

Earn an Associate of Science in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

In order to pursue your dream of travel nursing, you must first receive your ADN or BSN degree in nursing.  An Associate of Science in Nursing is typically a two-year program, whereas, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is approximately a four-year program.  Both programs will get you to an RN status – the main difference is that a BSN degree is two additional years of schooling and will give you more opportunities for leadership roles and essentially higher wages throughout your career. 

Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

Once you graduate from a nursing program you will apply for licensure to the Nursing Regulatory Body and register for the NCLEX exam with Pearson Vue.  Once you complete those steps you will receive an Authorization to Test (ATT), which you will need in order to schedule your NCLEX exam.  The exam is meant to test your knowledge on various topics that you studied in your undergraduate program. Passing this exam indicates that you are ready to begin practicing as a registered nurse.

Start Your Career as a Registered Nurse

You’ve completed your degree and successfully passed the NCLEX exam – time to celebrate and start applying for your first nursing job!  With your eyes set on travel nursing, you must first get some experience under your belt before you begin your travel nursing career.  Typically, travel nurses will need one year of experience in the last two years in their desired specialty to begin working as a travel nurse.  

Getting experience in high demand specialties such as; intensive care unit, operating room, labor & delivery, medical-surgical, telemetry, neonatal intensive care unit, pediatric intensive care unit, psychiatric, emergency room and pediatric will make you much more marketable as a travel nurse.  Landing a position in one of these specialties will open the door to more opportunities down the road. 

Apply with a Healthcare Staffing Agency

Healthcare staffing agencies are the middleman between you and the facility that you are applying to. Agencies have a relationship with a variety of facilities and hospitals throughout the country to better serve nurses’ needs and wants. A recruiter from the agency will help you through the hiring process and search out openings that best fit your ideal position. As a travel nurse, you are in full control of accepting or denying certain positions brought to you. This is one of the perks when working with an agency- you are in the driver’s seat. 

Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing

excited nurse thinking about the pros to travel nursing

Pros of Travel Nursing

Travel the Country

If you get bored with the same old routine then travel nursing is the perfect fit for you.  When you are a travel nurse you can explore all areas of the country (assuming you have a compact license or a license to work in your desired location).  Let’s say you live in Wisconsin and you despise the winter months – you have the ability to escape the cold and head to a warmer climate for a 13-week contract.  You could also create a “destination bucket list” and try to go to as many new places as possible.  How many people can explore new destinations and get paid to do it?!

Earn More Money

Travel nurses can expect to earn more money than they would at a permanent position.  On average, our nurses at Nurses PRN tend to earn 20% more than permanent employees. Although, pay quotes are determined based on the facility, years of experience, specialty, benefits, and housing. Your recruiter can help customize your specific pay package. 

Work with an Agency

Travel nursing should be a fun and exciting experience – working with an agency can ensure a positive experience for you.  At Nurses PRN, we are “Nurse First”, which means that we strive to do right by you.  We want nurses to feel supported, valued, fulfilled and empowered to succeed. One of our top priorities is to get to know you and ensure that you have the best travel nursing experience possible. 

Bye-Bye Hospital Politics

As a travel nurse, you don’t have to get caught up in the drama of hospital politics.  You can tell yourself that you have 13 weeks on your contract and can move on to the next – easy way to move past any drama.  However, if you do have an issue during your contact be sure to reach out to your agency to assist with the situation. You are never “alone” during your contract – your agency will always be there for you. 

Cons of Travel Nursing

shocked nurse reacting to the cons of travel nursing

Adapting to a New Facility

At each facility, you will find similarities and differences from your past experiences.  It can be difficult to adjust to new ways of doing things, but you will be surprised how quickly you adapt to your current situation.  Don’t be afraid to find a nurse mentor on your floor, it’ll make for an easier transition. 


After the excitement of your new adventure wears off you might be feeling lonely and missing the familiarity of home. Try combating homesickness by skyping/facetiming family and friends, bringing a token of “home” with you, and trying to keep in mind that this contract will go quickly.  Another way to embrace your current situation is to get involved and accumulated to your new city by joining a gym, volunteering, exploring a farmer’s market, or checking out a local band.  Isolating yourself will only bring on more loneliness, so try your best to put yourself out there!


The reality of staying on your floor for your full 13-week contract is probably not realistic.  You are more than likely to float where help is needed most. It is good to wrap your mind around this before you decide to become a travel nurse. More than likely you will float, but the good news is that you’re confident and capable to take on the demands of nursing!


As a travel nurse, you don’t have the luxury of job stability because you’re constantly hopping from one contract to the next. So, naturally, you will feel some stress as you begin your career as a travel nurse. However, you will quickly learn that there will always be travel nursing contracts available. If you are working with a healthcare staffing agency your recruiter will start looking for your next opportunity well before your current contract ends. 


Travel nursing is one of the greatest adventures you can go on.  Experiencing new facilities, gaining new friendships, seeing gorgeous areas of the country, and adding phenomenal experience to your resume – to name a few perks. Whether travel nursing is your lifelong career path or something you try for a few contracts, you’ll be happy it was an adventure you took.  


Employee Applicant Statement

I certify that the information provided by me in this application is true and complete to the best of my knowledge. I understand that if I am employed, any false statements or omissions can lead to immediate dismissal, and I agree that Nurses PRN shall not be held liable in any respect if my employment is terminated for that reason. Nurses PRN is hereby authorized to verify the information I have supplied and to conduct any investigation of my personal history records. I authorize the companies, schools, and persons named in this application to give any information requested regarding my employment, character, and qualifications, and release and hold harmless Nurses PRN and the companies, schools, and persons from any liability. I understand and agree that if hired, my employment is at-will, for no definite period and may be terminated at any time without prior notice and without cause. I further understand that any offer of employment may be conditioned upon the results of a physical examination, including tests for the use of controlled substances in accordance with applicable laws.

If hired, I agree to abide by all rules and regulations of Nurses PRN, which I understand are subject to change by Nurses PRN at any time for any reason without prior notice.

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Should an investigation or legal proceeding adversely affect my professional license/certification or ability to perform the functions of the job, I understand that I am obligated to immediately report said occurrence to Nurses PRN’s Chief Nursing Officer at 888-830-8811. Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.

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