How to Become an International Travel Nurse · The Gypsy Nurse

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February 10, 2023



How to Become an International Travel Nurse

Onestaff Medical provided this article.

Have you been dreaming of traveling the world as a nurse? You’ve probably heard of Doctors Without Borders, but did you know that being an international nurse is also an option? International travel nursing gives nurses the opportunity to travel the globe while working and providing care to patients in need.

If you have ever considered traveling internationally as a nurse, keep reading to learn how to get started.

Keep in mind that OneStaff Medical does not offer international travel nursing contracts. We do, however, believe that our nurses should be informed of all of their options.

Can Travel Nurses Work Internationally?

Travel nurses can, in fact, work internationally. While some nurses elect to travel within the United States, others may want to see more of the world. There are numerous opportunities for nurses to travel internationally, but they aren’t always easy to find.

Just like the U.S., other countries also face widespread nursing shortages. In countries that have recently experienced a natural disaster or disease outbreak, nursing shortages are common. When nurses travel to these locations, they can learn valuable new skills, medical techniques, and even other languages.

International travel nursing might be the perfect next step in your career, but how do you get started in this unique profession?

How To Become an International Travel Nurse

Becoming an international travel nurse is very similar to doing so in the United States. You will need to have a valid license in the U.S., and you are likely going to need additional certifications or licenses to work in other countries. Since each country has different requirements, it is important to do your research to see what you will need to acquire prior to accepting an international travel nursing position.

Most countries will require visiting nurses to have the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree in nursing or a diploma from an LNP training program
  • Completion of clinical hours
  • A current nursing license with proof of licensing
  • Documentation of a passed National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) or equivalent LPN exam
  • Specific vaccinations prior to traveling

Working with a travel nursing agency that deals with international placements will be a major advantage for you. Your recruiter should be able to help you determine the qualifications you need for international travel nursing based on the locations you are considering. They can also help you find the placements that you are looking for.

Nurses that have certain specialties may be in higher demand overseas for many reasons. Specific diseases or illnesses are best cared for by nurses with particular specialties, making these nurses incredibly valuable. Before taking on international nursing jobs, you may want to consider certification or an advanced degree in one of the following:

  • Cardiology
  • Pediatrics
  • Anesthesia for ICU
  • Neonatal
  • Labor and Delivery
  • ER

If you have experience in one of these specialties, including it on your resume can help you land international nursing jobs in the countries of your choice. Gaining experience in one of these specialties prior to applying for international travel nursing contracts can help you land the gig you really want over other candidates.

If you have never traveled as a nurse before, we would recommend doing so domestically before you branch out to overseas assignments. Travel nursing isn’t for everyone, so it is best to test the waters before making a big commitment to a foreign assignment. International travel nursing can also come with a unique set of stressors, including:

  • New techniques
  • Foreign languages
  • Different culture
  • Different climate
  • Unfamiliar facilities

It is best to see how you handle the weight of a travel nursing assignment in the U.S. prior to adding these additional stressors with an international position.

What Places in the World Are Travel Nurses Most Needed?

International travel nurse jobs can be found all over the world, but there are certain parts of the world that have a higher need than others. Some of the countries with the most need include:

  • Australia
  • China
  • New Zealand
  • Middle Eastern countries

Although these countries have the most need, it is vital that nurses can communicate with other healthcare facility staff and their patients, so you will probably need to know the language well enough to communicate. For this reason, many nurses choose to travel to English-speaking countries. Those nurses who are fluent in another language are more valuable because they can be sent to non-English-speaking countries.

If you have dreams of working in a certain area of the world, it might be a good idea to start taking classes in the language(s) they speak in those areas. You might even need medicine-specific language training to effectively work in hospitals in these countries.

6 Tips for Being Successful as an International Travel Nurse

Now that you know how to become an international travel nurse, here are a few tips to help you find success on this new, exciting journey.

1.      Make Sure Your Nursing License Can Transfer

Licensure is critical in the nursing field, and that doesn’t change in other countries. Before you decide to accept a travel nursing position abroad, make sure that you have the required licensure. If not, do the work to get the license you need in place prior to accepting a position.

2.      Know What’s Required for Getting Hired Abroad

In addition to getting your licensing in order, make sure that you meet the other requirements for any position abroad that you are interested in. For example, a specialty may be required for some international travel nursing jobs. Understanding these requirements prior to searching for a position allows you time to learn and gain certifications in these areas.

To work legally in another country, you will also need a passport, a visa, a work permit, and potentially a sponsorship. Some countries will also require a birth certificate.

Professional references and college transcripts may also be requested. In some countries, facilities will want to verify your education and diploma against their own country’s standards.

Some countries also require certain vaccines before you are permitted to work there. If this is the case in the country you are pursuing work in, you will need to provide immunization records. You should look into all the requirements a country has before agreeing to a nursing position to ensure that you can meet its conditions.

All in all, it could take a year and a lot of money to be ready to leave for an international travel nursing job.

3.      Understand the Logistics of Each Assignment

In the U.S., most assignments are 13 weeks. There is a bit more variety in contract lengths abroad, but many last between one and two years. Shorter volunteer assignments are also common, although some shorter assignments will be paid, as well. Since these contracts look different than domestic ones, you need to make sure that your assignments aren’t overlapping or longer or shorter than you’re expecting.

During your stay, you will also need housing and food. You should determine what, if anything, is covered in your contract. These extra benefits could allow you to bring home more money at your assignment, but they aren’t going to be offered by every facility in every country.

Finally, salary expectations may also be different depending on the country, and you might have to research exchange rates and taxes to truly understand what your take-home pay will be. Your agency should be able to help you understand the pay and any additional benefits offered to you.

4.      Plan Out Necessary Expenses

Traveling abroad can be quite expensive, and you aren’t going to want to bring nearly as much as you would for a normal travel nursing assignment. Most travel nurses are accustomed to bringing only the essentials, but you will want to narrow down your packing list even more when you are flying across the world.

Depending on your destination, housing, utilities, food, and other basics may also be more costly. For example, American staples tend to be much more expensive when imported, especially on islands.

Once you understand what your take-home pay will be based on the local currency and its exchange rate with the U.S. dollar, you can start to create a budget based on average prices in the area you will be living in.

Since these assignments are often much longer than domestic stints, it is essential that you know what costs you are responsible for covering and what your compensation will allow you to afford in that country during your assignment.

5.      Weigh Benefits vs. Risks

There are always risks associated with taking a position in a foreign country. For most of us, leaving the United States means leaving our comfort zone where friends and family are nearby to help should times get rough. Other risks may include missing out on great jobs closer to home or being exposed to illnesses that you won’t find in the United States.

However, there are many benefits to leaving your comfort zone and gaining new experiences. In fact, many nurses talk extensively about all the benefits they have experienced, such as the joys of experiencing new cultures, foods, and places that they may otherwise have difficulty visiting. Much like domestic travel nursing, there is downtime for nurses to explore the region and immerse themselves in the local culture.

Since family may be far away, scheduling visits can be fun for both parties. Find a time when your family or friends can come visit and experience everything you enjoy in your temporary new home. You can also find time to visit home for a few days, as well.

6.      Understand What Opportunities Are Out There

Every country offers unique travel nursing experiences. It is important that any nurse interested in international traveling is aware of the numerous opportunities available to them. With so many different countries to choose from and multiple regions and types of facilities in each, there is so much to consider when looking into international travel nursing.

Before hopping on the first opportunity that arises, work with your agent to find the best assignment in a location that you can’t wait to visit.

How Much Do International Travel Nurses Get Paid?

Much like domestic travelers, international travel nurses are typically paid an hourly wage. For international travelers, there are several factors that determine pay, including:

  • Type of assignment
  • Location of assignment
  • Traveler’s qualifications and certifications

It is important to note that some overseas wages may be lower than what nurses are used to in the United States. Keep in mind that this could be due to a lower cost of living in that country or additional benefits that travelers will receive, such as:

Some countries also have tax-free assignments, where the travel nurses in that country aren’t expected to pay income tax on their wages, which can leave a lot more money in those nurses’ pockets.

If you are looking for an international assignment that pays well, here are the locations of the highest-paying international jobs:

  • Denmark
  • Luxembourg
  • Ireland
  • Norway
  • The Netherlands
  • Canada
  • The Middle East
  • The Virgin Islands

If you are interested in domestic travel as a nurse, contact OneStaff Medical today to start your journey with one of our knowledgeable recruiters. View our current job openings and talk to a recruiter about your next assignment.

Our job board is a great place to search for your next travel nurse assignment. We have you covered with our housing page if housing is an issue. You can search for what you are looking for.

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