How to Prepare to Be a Travel Nurse: Expert Tips From Industry Professionals

Becoming a travel nurse can be an exciting decision that allows you to perform a job you love while getting a chance to travel. However, it might feel a little daunting if you are new to this industry, especially if you don’t have many professional contacts. If you are wondering how to prepare to be a travel nurse, we have some tips to help you get started.

What to Know About Travel Nursing

A travel nurse is a registered nurse who takes temporary assignments at hospitals or medical facilities nationwide. One of the most common travel nursing questions for people considering this role is the contract length. Most assignments last 13 weeks, but you could experience jobs as short as four weeks or significantly longer. 

Traveling nurses fill care gaps in hospitals and other healthcare locations, including intensive care units, clinics, and community healthcare centers. These gaps can occur for various reasons, including nurses taking maternity leave, sick leave, or retiring. 

Luckily, many travel nurse benefits make this industry so attractive. The pay can be substantial and may include paid housing, so you don’t have to worry about rent or finding lodging. Travel nurses can also get a tax-free living stipend and most travel nurses choose this option. This is especially attractive because if you find housing that is less expensive than your tax-free stipend, you’re allowed to pocket the money.

Becoming a travel nurse also offers flexible scheduling. Traditional nurses typically have a few vacation days a year and can suffer burnout from excessive work. As a travel nurse, you can take time off between assignments to regroup and start fresh. 

There are some drawbacks to being a travel nurse, as well. You might find it challenging to settle into a new location and work environment, and if you have a family, it can put a lot of strain on your loved ones. Being on the go can be stressful for some people, but many professionals consider the adventure a benefit of travel nursing. 

One of the most important pieces of travel nursing advice is to know whether you can quickly adjust to new settings.  

10 Ways to Prepare to Be a Travel Nurse: Tips to Explore

Preparing for the job is essential if you’re considering becoming a travel nurse. But what travel nursing tips and tricks do you need to know? Learn more about how to prepare to be a travel nurse with these suggestions from professionals in the field. 

1. Understand the Role and Industry

It helps to precisely understand what the job entails and what you can expect from the experience. There are lots of travel nursing resources online, with blogs and websites dedicated to helping travel nurses connect and share information and the Triage blog is a great resource. 

Try to find other travel nurses you can talk to and ask questions since their insight will give you a real-life sense of the job. Inquire about the job’s good and bad aspects to prepare yourself, and ask travel nurses what they wish they’d known before starting their careers. There are a lot of social media groups that offer advice, but realize that you may need to take some things with a grain of salt. 

2. Get Your Credentials in Order

Among the most important travel nurse tips is getting all your credentials and paperwork in order. You don’t need special certifications to be a travel nurse. Still, you do need to have the required certifications that other nurses have, including Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support. 

However, licensing can be tricky, so pay attention to the details. If you are licensed in one of the states that participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact, you can work in the other states that follow the directive without having to get a new license. If not, you can only work in the states where you have proper credentials. 

You also need some clinical experience to be a travel nurse, so ensure you can provide the required documentation. Triage, like most travel nurse agencies, requires two years of recent, relevant clinical experience in your specialty.

3. Research Potential Assignments

Regarding travel nursing for beginners, start researching potential assignments. Take the time to read up on the healthcare environment you’d be working in if you accept the assignment. Also, look for any information about current employees. 

That can give you a better sense of whether this opportunity is right for you. For example, if you prefer working in a small team, you may choose to avoid taking a position at a huge hospital. 

Ideally, you want a clear idea of how long the assignment will be and what you can expect from your living situation. 

Of course, you also want to closely examine the location. There may be better options than a small-town facility if you feel more comfortable in large cities. Many traveling nurses choose their assignments based on the cities they want to see or even the geographic conditions. If you want to avoid harsh winters, you can select your assignments accordingly. But full transparency, if you’re looking for top pay, you can’t beat a winter assignment in a cold climate.

4. Financially Plan and Budget

Travel nursing can pay well, but not every assignment will pay the same rates—even for the same work. That means you have to take the time to plan financially. 

Budget for each assignment carefully. You want to set aside the money you’ll need for traveling to the assignment and any upfront fees you have to pay. Even if you’re reimbursed for these fees later, you don’t want to be left in the lurch when you arrive at your new location. 

One of the best tips for travel nursing is to have a savings account to set aside money for emergencies or to plan for time off. The harsh truth is that travel contracts can be canceled for any reason and while we do everything we can to avoid it, it’s a risk. That’s where some savings can offer the security and freedom you want. 

5. Build Professional Relationships

You want to build relationships with other professionals in your healthcare settings. It’s vital to also network with other travel nurses. You can do this by attending conferences or joining online forums for travel nurses. 

Having a network of travel nurses can help you when searching for your next assignment. You can get information on the most sought-after positions, including inside information on if they might become available. While on location, ask your coworkers if they know other travel nurses and if they can connect you with them. 

Stay in contact with those you’ve gotten to know. That doesn’t have to mean having long conversations with every contact in your phone, but you should reach out occasionally in a respectful and professional manner. 

6. Understand the New Work Environment

One of the challenges of travel nursing is quickly understanding and adapting to a new work environment. It can take practice, but there are great tips for travel nurses that can help you do this faster. 

Make sure you get a tour of your unit. You’ll likely be offered one on your first day, but if you’re not, ask for one because you need to know where the supplies are kept or even where the bathroom is. It helps to have someone willing to show you the ropes for a day or two. You can turn to this person if you have questions or issues. 

Ensure you understand the rules and protocols of the establishment. These can vary between facilities, so don’t assume you know what they are. You can also ask for procedural and policy manuals. That is particularly important when dealing with computer systems since every facility may rely on a different program. 

Learn where the crash carts are kept and memorize all of the codes so that you are an asset during an emergency. Try to form relationships with supervisors as early as possible. It’s helpful to know what their preferred mode of communication is. Some prefer text, while others want to meet in person if you have questions or issues. 

Pay attention to scheduling and timetables. Facilities can have different ways of scheduling traveling nurses. Some may have you floating between floors, while others could have you working overtime.  

7. Manage Stress and Maintain Work-Life Balance

When it comes to how to prepare to be a travel nurse, stress management is a crucial skill for any nurse. It’s arguably even more critical for a travel nurse. Traveling can take a toll on your physical and mental health, as can the need to quickly adjust to your new work environment. High levels of stress can lead to a lower quality of life and even health issues. That’s why it’s essential to be proactive regarding stress management.

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to get enough sleep. That can be challenging for travel nurses, especially when switching to a different time zone. Especially after a big transition, you may be sleeping less than your body needs. Find out whether your facility provides locations where employees can take naps. If this option isn’t available, try to get to bed at a reasonable hour when you are off work.

Getting a good night’s rest starts with exercise. You likely do a lot of walking during your nursing shifts, but this isn’t the same as getting a few minutes of concentrated exercise. If possible, do this outside. Exercise will also help you relieve stress and establish a healthy sleep pattern.

Another crucial way of managing stress is to leave your work at work. It’s common for nurses to worry about patients when they’re no longer on duty, but that’s detrimental to your health. The only thing extra worry will accomplish is elevating your stress levels. When you leave work, focus on activities that add joy and meaning to your life. 

8. Focus on Continuous Learning and Skill Development

Improve your nursing skills with continuing education. That lets you ensure your skills and techniques are current and follow the most up-to-date standards. 

Skill development allows you to expand your knowledge, take on new responsibilities, and advance your career. It can also increase your earning potential. Travel nurses with competitive skills can earn better pay and be more eligible for the most sought-after locations. 

Continuous learning also allows you to meet other people and extend your network. Every time you take a course, you meet others dedicated to offering patients the care they deserve. 

9. Evaluate and Choose the Right Staffing Agency

It’s essential to choose the right staffing agency to help you find your next assignment. Always do a good amount of research and consider many options before settling on an agency. 

At Triage, we have assignments in every state and we’re always going after new positions in areas our travelers want to be in. And because we know that sometimes the pay affects where you want to be, we provide a pay estimate on each assignment. 

Some agencies also send you to multiple folks throughout your assignment. At Triage, we set you up with a recruiter who’s available to help throughout your assignment. When you’re going through the compliance process, you’ll work with a dedicated compliance person to make sure you fit all the requirements of your assignment well before you’re set to start.

Lastly, check if you receive comprehensive benefits from that agency. Triage offers Day One insurance that spans the entire U.S. so you can always find an in-network doctor when you need it. We also offer a Safe-Harbor 401k match that kicks in after you’ve worked for one calendar year and worked at least 1,000 hours. Before the match kicks in though, you’re eligible to enroll in the 401k after your first paycheck so you never have to wait to save. 

At Triage Staffing, we offer a range of positions and locations, including prime ones. We’re not interested in telling you what you want to hear just to get you to sign on the dotted line. Instead, we build long-term relationships with our travelers every step of the way. 

10. Plan for the Future

As a travel nurse, you must look ahead. You should prepare for transitions between assignments and make it as streamlined as possible. Don’t forget—budgeting plays a big role in this. If you want to take time off between positions, save money accordingly.

Lastly, focus on your career goals and find the right opportunities to get you on your chosen path. For some, that can mean getting as much varied experience as possible, while for others, it can mean becoming an expert in one aspect of nursing. 

Find Your Next Travel Nurse Assignment With Triage Staffing

Stepping into the travel nursing industry requires a blend of professional readiness and personal adaptability. Equip yourself with the necessary certifications, embrace a flexible mindset, and stay informed about the ever-evolving healthcare developments. By doing so, you’ll thrive in diverse clinical environments and enrich your career and life with unique experiences and growth opportunities.

Triage Staffing is here to help you find the best opportunities in the field. Our travel nurse agency offers a variety of quality assignments that will take your career to the next level. Visit Triage Staffing to learn more about our travel nurse jobs, and get started today!