By Sarah Wengert
So, you want to be a travel nurse. Maybe you just attained your NCLEX and 1-2 years hospital experience or maybe you’ve been perm for decades and want a fun transition before retirement. Whatever your situation, these 7 to-dos for aspiring travel nurses will help you build the proper foundation for the career of your dreams!
Start by learning as much as you possibly can about the travel nursing industry. Subscribe to blogs and updates from industry thought leaders like Travel Nursing Blogs, Travel Nursing Central, Highway Hypodermics, and Blue Pipes. Search Facebook and other social media platforms for groups and forums you can join to learn from other travelers’ mistakes and successes. At this time it also behooves you to explore travel nursing agencies so you can find one that offer the benefits you desire and a culture that jives with your values.
This is the perfect time to get all of your paperwork in order so it’s easily accessible when you need it. Once you start applying for travel nursing jobs things can move pretty quickly, so now is the time to complete and organize your resume, licenses, certifications, skills checklists, and any other paperwork you’ll need once you take the leap and start getting submitted for jobs.
Before you even speak with a recruiter you should start to consider your vision for housing while on assignment. First, will you need to do anything with your current place and/or will you have items you’d like to put in storage or sell? Make sure to run down any actions items for leaving your current housing behind. Next, consider whether you’d like to take company-provided housing or take the housing stipend and find your own housing. As you know, because you’ve been researching (see #1!), company-paid housing vs. housing stipend is the standard decision for travelers. There are definitely benefits to both options, so you’ll need to consider your housing and financial priorities and make the best decision for you.
Many travel nursing companies offer a job search tool that allows you to see what’s out there in terms of job inventory. Perusing jobs and tinkering with such tools is a great way to think about what positions and locations might work best for you. Seeing what’s available is also just straight-up inspiring when you’re daydreaming of the travel nurse life. Searching jobs is empowering! One disclaimer: While this is a great way to brainstorm where you might like to travel, don’t get your heart too set on any one job post, as jobs can be filled so quickly they are here today and gone tomorrow in some cases. (But don’t fret! See #6 for more on this.)
OK, you’ve armed yourself with all kinds of knowledge, you’ve prepared, and you’ve searched your soul regarding how you’d like to begin your career. Now it’s time to apply and start talking to a recruiter. Establishing a solid relationship with a recruiter you can trust is one of the very most important things you can do for your travel nursing career — I cannot overstate how important this is! Your recruiter is your key collaborator in building the career you want, they are your advocate, and, in many cases, they can even become a good friend. Just like any other important relationship in life, it’s crucial to your success and happiness that you find a recruiter that you truly connect with and trust.
OK, here’s the real deal: You might not always get the exact job or location you want. But that doesn’t mean you won’t love the job you do get! I’ve interviewed a lot of travel nurses, and many of them report that their favorite location ended up being one they never even considered but that a recruiter suggested to them because there was a great opportunity there. One traveler told me she thought her recruiter was crazy to pitch her an assignment in Idaho when, at the time, she’d wanted a job in California. But she trusted her recruiter and took the job in Idaho, which offered great pay. Guess what? She fell head over heels for Boise and even two assignments later, including one in California, she told me Boise, Idaho was her all-time favorite location. While it’s important to know what you want, keep in mind the merits of being flexible — it’s part of the travel nurse lifestyle, after all — and remember that you never know what incredible, unexpected stone you might turn by being open to new adventures.
Ultimately, you’re just going to have to take the leap. As long as you’ve prepared and a great recruiter has your back, you are golden. So, get out there, apply, and find your next dream job!
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