The Definitive Travel Nurse Skills Checklist

Travel nurses are a rare breed of health professional, making them holders of a serious set of skills that make them stand out in their field. Like traditional nurses, to become a travel nurse you must hold an RN degree and experience in a specific specialty. Unlike traditional nursing, you must also have a strong love of and desire to travel as travel nurses are meant to move from hospital to hospital, health facility to health facility, town to town and city to city, working in different areas where they are most needed for different amounts of time. In fact, assignments can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year, making this lifestyle one of constant movement and new experiences. Of course, a love for nursing and travel are not all an individual needs to become a travel nurse. In addition to these traits, there are several “soft skills” needed to be a quality travel nurse. These “soft skills” allow travel nurses to interact easily and efficiently with others as well as form relationships with patients and colleagues alike for optimal success in any assignment.

Travel Nurse Skills Checklist

Adaptability & Patience

Adaptability and patience are some of the most important skills needed to be a travel nurse. Since you will be moving to new settings and environments frequently throughout your career, being able to adapt to new spaces and people while maintaining a calm and patient attitude is a must. The ability to adapt to constant change is a show of personal growth and versatility, something that is already difficult to come by when finding your way and growing as a person and a professional. If you can keep your cool, work at full efficiency, and continue to grow in your profession in the midst of constant moving, then you’ve got one of the best soft skills under your belt already.

Excellent Communication Skills

Communication skills are something everyone should have, but it’s no secret that they can be hard to come by in many professional settings. The ability to speak clearly, articulate what you need, ask questions, comprehend orders and other information, and relate to your colleagues, superiors, and patients is a valuable trait to have. As a travel nurse, you need to communicate in order to be successful in your field. Consider the following communication skills  and consider how your own skills measure up:

    > You consider who you’re talking to at all time and think about what they need to know, how best to express your message, and when is the best time speak

      > You think about how certain messages can be misconstrued or cause confusion and take steps to be as clear as possible when communicating.

      > You make a point to explain the underlying concepts of what you are communicating and take care to ensure that what you’ve said has been understood.  


In addition to adaptability, flexibility is another important skill to have as a travel nurse. As a health professional, unexpected situations arise all the time and being able to compromise and change your response at any moment is a useful skill to have. On any assignment, you may need to change how you work and do certain things at your employer’s requests and needs. Travel nurses who are flexible are incredibly popular and usually thrive in their assignments because this valuable trait makes them easy to work with no matter the setting or scenario. In addition, when you move to new assignments, your new employer may have a different way of doing certain things. If you are not able to be flexible, take new directions, think outside of the box, and change how you normally work, chances are you will have a difficult time as a travel nurse.

High Emotional Intelligence

The next skill on the travel nurse skills checklist is high emotional intelligence. When working as a travel nurse, you are going to come into contact with all sorts of patients: different ages, races, gender identifications, conditions, and more. Part of travel nursing is working and forming relationships with a diverse group of people, and as you move from place to place, you’re sure to meet hundreds, if not thousands, of different patients, co-workers, and employers throughout your work life. With this in mind, it is imperative that you have a high emotional intelligence quotient. Dealing with different people of different ages from different walks of life requires you to express empathy for a number of different people and situations, especially those you are not familiar with, those you won’t understand, and those you may not personally agree with. It all comes down to serving your patient and other individuals as a full person, understanding where they are coming from based on their situation and life experiences and being able to do understand yourself and your needs as well. There are many ways to measure emotional intelligence, like assessments and asking yourself the following questions:

   > Am I self-aware?

   > Do I have confidence in myself and my abilities?

   > Do I exhibit integrity as well as responsibility for myself and my actions?

   > Am I able to communicate my feelings and understand the feelings of others?

If you can answer these questions affirmatively, you have valuable emotional intelligence skills.

Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is an important but often overlooked skill for travel nurses. As a nurse, you need to be ready to analyze situations, problem solve, make quick but sound decisions, and maximize your time and abilities at all times. This means thinking outside of the box, engaging in different ways of looking at things and understanding them, being open to unconventional ways of thinking and operating, and more. You should never make a snap judgment or decision, but should instead consider all the consequences and outcomes your actions may have. This is especially important for nursing as you often have multiple lives depending on your ability to think logically, critically, and emotionally.

Language Skills

Finally, having a command of a language other than your native tongue is another soft skill that travel nurses should have. On some assignments, you may be sent to parts of the country where there are many patients who do not speak English as their first language. This can cause certain barriers for these patients and may even stop them from getting the medical attention and assistance they need. Being a multilingual travel nurse makes you incredibly valuable in the field as this skill elevates you to another level entirely. Being able to communicate and forge relationships with patients who don’t speak English well or at all gives you and whatever facility you’re currently working in a leg up with patients in serious need of language familiarity. You don’t have to be fluent in another language either. Simply having conversational or elementary knowledge of a language could be enough to communicate effectively with your patients. If this is a soft skill you don’t yet have but think you can master, consider taking some beginner-level classes to get the basics down and go from there. Remember, the best way to learn a language is to practice as much as possible, making work a place where you can both hone your new skill and relate to your patients in need.

This travel nurse skills checklist should help you as continue your travel nursing journey. Whether you have all of these skills and more, some of these skills, or none of these skills, the checklist is helpful for showing you what you need and why. Being a travel nurse is already a great profession as those who find themselves in it, love it. These skills can only make your job better as you continue to work and grow in your field.

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