If you’re writing out your New Year’s resolutions and travel nursing makes the list, there’s no time like the present to embark on a travel nursing journey. In the coming year, there will be some major changes that will affect travel nurses. The Nurse Licensure Compact is getting revamped and the need for travel nurses is sure to continue to increase. Check out our complete guide to travel nursing in 2018 to learn the ins and outs of being a traveling nurse!
Why do you want to do travel nursing?
First, you’ll need to decide why you’re traveling. Is it to gain experience? Think about signing on with top hospitals in your specialty. You’ll be exposed to new procedures, treatments, and technologies and get to learn from the best. That experience is invaluable to your nursing career. Been bitten by the travel bug? Pick the best travel destinations. You might not earn as much – after all, the best travel destinations know they’re the best – but it’s a way to visit faraway lands while still making money. If you are in it for the money, go after the assignments that pay top dollar to fill critical needs. The conditions might not be the greatest and you could be landlocked, but the money you’ll make can be tucked away for vacations in the future. It’s certainly possible to find travel assignments that check more than one of those boxes, but it’s vital you know which box is most important to you.
Find the agency that is best for you
You will have to pick a travel nurse agency to find assignments for you, help with the paperwork, and work with you and potential units to hammer out the details of your contracts. Your recruiter will also help make sure your living and working situations are up to par once you begin your assignment. If you have any issues while on assignment, they will come to your rescue and help make it right.
The next step is to make a list of your priorities. Housing, staffing, locations, and other requirements – everything needs to go on the list. Once you’ve created your list, use a prioritization system to determine where you’ll compromise and where you must stand firm. Having your requirements written down on a piece of paper will help when you enter into contract negotiations.
Once you’ve picked a travel nursing agency and your recruiter sends your resume out to desired facilities, you will need to prepare for the phone interview with the hiring manager. Unfortunately, these could happen at any time, so you’ll need to be prepared with any questions you have about the unit. Excellent topics to cover with the hiring manager include mandatory overtime requirements, on-call shift requirements, resources available in the unit, staffing ratios, float policies, and the length and type of orientation. Save a list of your questions in your phone so it is readily available to you when the call comes.
Rock your interview and it’s time to get started
After rocking your phone interview and receiving an offer from the hiring manager, you and your recruiter will decide on the necessary points to include in your contract. This will include necessary time off, any special agreements made between you and the hiring unit, and legal issues such as missed work penalty, cancellation policy, and more. Once the contract is agreed upon and signed by you and the hiring manager, you will need to be credentialed in that state.
If you received your nursing license in one of the 25 states that are part of the original Nurse Licensure Compact and your travel nurse assignment is another one of those states, you are essentially licensed in both states. If your original nursing license is in Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, West Virginia, or Wyoming, after January 19, 2018, you can apply for a multi-state license as these states are entering the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC). This will allow you to practice in more than half of the states in the country that are also in the eNLC. If you are licensed in Wisconsin, New Mexico, Colorado, or Rhode Island, after the middle of January 2018, your multistate license will become a single state license (unless they decide to join eNLC before then).
Nurses without multi-state licenses or nurses with multi-state licenses who are taking assignments in states outside of the eNLC will need to submit an application for licensure by endorsement in the desired state. Your recruiter will help you with this process. Unfortunately, it can be lengthy, so do not procrastinate!
Time to secure your housing
A significant perk of travel nursing is housing. You can either live for free in agency-provided housing or take a housing stipend. Agency-provided housing may be an apartment, extended stay facility, or a hotel. Depending upon your agreement, it may or may not be furnished. There are several other options available to travel nurses in terms of living situations. If you choose a travel assignment in a facility near your home (or that of a friend or relative with a spare bedroom), you can pocket the housing stipend.
The housing stipend is agreed upon in your contract and is tax-free, as long as you have a permanent residence back home. Other options include hotels, extended stay hotels, and renting an apartment. If you’re traveling with a friend with whom you don’t mind sharing an apartment, one of you could take the housing stipend and one could take the agency provided housing. Then, you could split the stipend and have a roommate!
Unfortunately, rent tends to be more expensive for short-term leases, which is what you would need since travel nursing assignments are usually around 3-4 months long. Resources abound for finding short-term housing. Airbnb, Zillow, Craigslist, and Sublet are all websites that can help you find a place to stay during your assignment. Craigslist and Facebook can also help you furnish an unfurnished apartment. You can also rent furniture, but it’s likely more expensive.
Be sure to do your research into neighborhoods and communities near your assignment prior to picking a place. Because you will likely get to town only a couple of days before your assignment, the majority of the house hunting must be done remotely. It may be beneficial to take agency-provided housing for your first assignment to cut down on any anxiety you may have.
Explore your new city ahead of time
At this point, you have signed a contract for your first travel nursing assignment, found a place to live, and squared away the legal requirements. Now, it’s time to do as much research as you can on your destination! Pinterest, Yelp, Tripadvisor, and Google will help you fill your days off with all the excursions you can handle. Additionally, there are a myriad of Facebook groups full of travel nurses willing to share their secrets and help newbie travelers get the most out of their travel experience.
Once you arrive at your destination, you will want to get settled quickly. Unpacking your suitcases and boxes will help you feel more grounded and ready to tackle your new adventure. Obviously, you will want to scope out your way to work and the closest Starbucks. Grocery stores, department stores, laundromats, and restaurants (takeout and otherwise) should be on your scavenger hunt, as well.
You’re all set for travel nursing in 2018
Congratulations! You are ready to begin your first travel nursing assignment in 2018. All your hard work has brought you to a new hospital in a new town. Learn as much as you can from your new colleagues – this experience will expand your knowledge and make you a better nurse. Be sure to keep track of what worked for you during your first assignment, as well as what should be changed in future endeavors. While you’re settling into a new routine, don’t forget to explore all your temporary home has to offer!