If you are a qualified nurse then you likely understand that nursing has always provided stable employment. Irrespective of how the US economy is faring and despite increased focus on the nation’s health and rising concerns with health issues such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes…there’s STILL a growing shortage of qualified nurses. The problem is exacerbated by health service requirements continuing to increase as the population ages. The health sector continues to grow and the shortage of nurses increases proportionately. The issue is being tackled nationally by promoting the benefits of working in nursing, but the profession has responded it is own right by the development of travel nursing.
Travel nursing is not a knee-jerk fix but a very real career opportunity for nurses looking for change, enhancement of their professional skills, portfolio and career progression and better pay. As of 2016, there were 332 travel nursing companies.
Travel Nurses work on short to long term temporary assignments in healthcare facilities with immediate needs for experienced healthcare professionals either due to staff shortages or for special projects. Typical assignments last one to three months, but can be for longer periods and the national shortage of nurses means that the assignments might be in your home town or a thousand miles away. Other countries are also dealing with a lack of nurses so travel nurses may also work outside their home nation.
Travel nurses need to be Registered or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), and have a minimum of one year’s clinical experience. Generally if you can demonstrate two to three year’s work you are in good standing and obviously, the greater your experience the greater the number of opportunities that will be open for you.
Travel Nursing is not suitable for new qualifiers. Assignments require that you assimilate yourself to new surroundings and adapt to the new position very quickly. As well as receiving little or no orientation, you will be expected to have demonstrable practical knowledge of your specialty.
You will need to be licensed in the intended state of employment but this is easily arranged through a reciprocal agreement with the home state of your license. The costs of obtaining licenses outside your home state may be met by future employers.
To facilitate the ease of movement across borders, the Nurse Licensure Compact was formed and now has 24 signature members. If your home state is a member of the NCLA you can work in the other member states with your existing license.
The current states that are a party to the Nurse Compact License Agreement can be found in the chart below.
Assignments as a travel nurse are through agencies so you’ll need to research and choose one or two who you feel will best suit your needs. Registering with an agency is a somewhat lengthy process but all the information is relevant not only to ensure your qualifications, experience and personal circumstances but it also enables the agency to match you to suitable assignments. There is an onus on you to have quite a bit of paperwork for registration but once you’ve gathered it once and registered with your first agency, subsequent registrations will be easier and faster.
You will be required to provide the following for registration:
The agency will then use this information to create your profile, and once it’s completed, they will then begin the search for jobs. With your consent the agency will contact hiring hospitals or clinics and submit your profile. The standard recruitment process then begins – a review of the candidates, a short-listing of applicants, and finally a narrowing down of those applicants. You will be probably be competing with others from all across the US because vacancies may not be exclusive to one agency. If you’re in the final group, you’ll likely be asked to have a telephone interview, and if chosen, all of the terms of employment will be worked out.
Assignments are usually for a minimum duration of four weeks and can last up to several months.
Payment for your assignment works as with any other temporary employment agency. The employer pays the agency and the agency pays you. The premium charged on your rate is the agency’s profit and this is important to remember when considering or negotiating your pay.
Each agency will have different costs, overheads and margins as will the benefits they offer to traveling nurses. For example, with working away from home, housing is a major factor and it’s vital to know where you will be living, who pays for it and what is covered. The whole package will vary greatly between agencies; it can range from one agency that will provide luxury accommodations, car rental, good health insurance and license reimbursement to another that only provides the basic needs of housing or even none at all. Generally, you might expect that the higher the quality of benefits the lower your actual rate of pay and you’ll need to understand how the trade-off affects you to decide if its suitable to you or not. After all conditions have been agreed on, all that’s left is for you to do is pack your bags and go.
Travel nursing jobs can be in any healthcare facility from state hospitals to prestigious private clinics and can be in facilities that offer general medicine or specialties such as plastic surgery. You may find yourself in after-care facilities, prisons, homes for the elderly or institutions for vulnerable members of society. Wherever there is a need for nurses there may be a call a traveling nurse.
Travel nursing can provide a great life with plenty of opportunities for new experiences both in and out of work. But to be successful and get as much out of your new lifestyle as possible, it will require a bit of effort. You’ll need to be flexible and sometimes you may be asked to take on assignments beneath your level of experience and qualifications. You need to have a good understanding of your personal finances and be able to plan for periods when you may not be employed. Remember to consider pension and insurance. You’ll need to have good negotiation skills and you’ll certainly need to know how to choose the best agency for you.
As a travel nurse the roles will be completely variable from one assignment to the next and largely depend on what type of healthcare facility you’re working at. But most of the tasks that you’ll undertake will be no different to those that you would do if you were working in a permanent position as an Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse.
Being a travel nurse is a great way of seeing the world, earning a good salary and creating an impressive professional portfolio.