Nursing on the Go: Tips for Aspiring Travel Nurses

Nurses are rarely short on options when it comes to building a career. Not only can they select their preferred healthcare focus from a long list of nursing specialties, they are in such high demand that there are more nursing job openings than there are nurses. One career option nurses have been enjoying for the past three decades, while also providing a convenient solution to hospital staffing shortages, is travel nursing.

Travel nurses typically provide the same professional healthcare services as other nurses within their specialty, but travel nurses are employed on a temporary, contracted basis by an independent staffing agency. They accept travel assignments to practically anywhere in the country that can last between eight to 52 weeks long, though 13-week commitments are most common. Staffing agencies vary, but most provide attractive accommodations and benefits for travel nurses, including free housing, competitive pay, insurance coverage, retirement plans, and continuing education.

Not too shabby, huh? If you’re considering travel nursing for your next career move, below are some important facts you’ll need to know about entering the profession, along with tips that will help ensure your journey is smooth and fulfilling.

About Recruiters

Upon joining a staffing agency, a travel nurse works with a recruiter to set up an account, which keeps on record copies of current legal documents, qualifications, contact info, travel and work preferences, etc. This account serves as a basis for all negotiated contracts. Sometimes nurses work with several recruiters to manage various aspects of their account, but they often maintain correspondence with one designated recruiter to help simplify the process. The quality of a nurse’s relationship with his or her recruiter can make or break a nurse’s travel experience.

TIPS:  During your first meeting at the agency, pay close attention to your rapport with the recruiter and ask yourself if this person is someone you can fully trust to manage your account to your satisfaction. This individual will be negotiating the conditions of your livelihood numerous times throughout your career. Ask the recruiter several questions so you can get a sense for his or her competence and willingness to respond to your needs.

About Contracts

A travel nurse’s contract is his or her lifeline, and the truth is that any contracted employment period is typically only as satisfying as the terms stated in the fine print of a contract. A nurse should never make any assumptions about what will transpire during an assignment before signing a contract – there is no such thing as leeway in a contract. Experienced travel nurses advise healthcare professionals who are new to a travel career to read every portion of a contract carefully so adjustments can be made and surprises avoided. With experience, nurses begin to discover a variety of perks worth adding into a contract, and their influence over the final terms is more prevalent.

TIPS: If you have a specific need, such as time off, expect having such a request granted only when it is spelled out in your contract. Verbal agreements and handshakes are worthless. Also, double check the conditions of your on-call pay rate – it usually changes with each assignment. And be aware of any reimbursement penalties for early termination of your contract.

About Housing

A travel nurse relies on having a comfortable abode to catch up on rest and enjoy life away from work, regardless of the contracted time commitment. Without satisfactory accommodations, a he or she may come to resent an assignment. Most recruiters understand this basic need for comfort and security, and will work hard to ensure such needs are satisfied. But nurses need to stay involved with the housing details within the contract, as they can often negotiate the terms based on their personal preferences. Most staffing agencies provide several housing options to nurses, including various amenities, convenient locations close to the assigned work facility, accommodations for pets and family, or a stipend nurses can apply toward the housing arrangement of their choosing.

TIPS:  It’s important you research the area in which you would be living well enough in advance of accepting an assignment. In the event you find the housing offered unacceptable, negotiate a better arrangement into your contract. If you’re left dissatisfied with your housing negotiations, accept the housing stipend and research your options independently until you locate fitting accommodations.

Final Advice

There are numerous staffing agencies out there, so you can afford to be selective. Many travel nurses create accounts with multiple agencies as a way of having more appealing assignment options from which they can choose. Nurses who employ this strategy can also compare the quality of service among various recruiters, which will always remain a vital factor when seeking this line of work. Bottom line: do your research and stay active with contract negotiations. As long as you articulate your needs and desires for a travel assignment, you can look forward to every bit of professional growth and personal reward that comes from a travel-nursing career.

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