Career Advice for Travel Nurse: Maximize Your Career

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By TNAA- Travel Nurse Across America

December 20, 2019



How to Maximize Your New Travel Career

This article provided by: TNAA

With the holidays in full swing, it can be nearly impossible to think about how to prepare to start the new year off with a bang. And make no mistake, travel nursing requires a lot of preparation. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Walk into the new year on the right foot. Let’s reflect and refocus.

Take on 2020

Maybe you’re clocking in for your staff position and thinking that you want to do more, experience more, and try something new. You’ve been thinking about travel nursing and looking at different review sites. Now it’s time to decide if the gypsy life is for you in 2020. The autonomy of travel nursing is attractive to many and provides nearly endless options. Here are our top tips to make the most of your new career as a travel nurse.

Determine Your Motivations

It’s essential to understand what you want to get out of travel nursing before signing a contract and heading out on the open road. Determining your motivations will ensure you get the best experience. Do you want to travel for the experience? Maybe your goal is to work at a prestigious hospital or perhaps in a Level-I Trauma Center. Is your primary motivator for travel nursing to pay down debt or for financial freedom? If so, your research will focus on pay rates for your specialty. Maybe you want to embark on the gypsy life so you can travel, making assignment location a top priority. Ask yourself, why do I want to do this?

Find an Agency That Complements Your Motivations

After you’ve determined what you want to get out traveling and what you need from a potential schedule, you’re prepared to find an agency that complements your motivations. Meaning, your agency should pair perfectly with your goals and add little extras that make your travel experience exceptional. Let’s break down what that would look like:

Money: Going for the Green

A lot of nurses look to travel nursing for the financial opportunities it affords. Understand that the financial benefit doesn’t necessarily come from crazy-high hourly pay. Your hourly wage is only a part of the equation, and it’s crucial to look at your pay package as a whole. Some travelers will tell you that the tax-free stipend is the best way to profit from travel nursing, while others will focus on OT rates. Accept that everyone’s situation is a little different when it comes to taxes, debt, and dependents. So what do you do?

Look for agencies that place a premium on your financial wellness.

  • Ask if your agency and recruiter understand travel taxes. A good agency will keep you tax compliant. This article breaks down an organization called NATHO and what those “tax-free stipends” mean to the IRS.
  • Ask your agency how low census call-offs or missed shifts due to illness will impact your check. What happens if you need to call in sick? Look for an agency that protects your pay.
  • Ask your recruiter about pay frequency. A lot of agencies now offer weekly pay. Looking at review sites can be helpful, but may contain outdated information. Find out for yourself.
  • Ask your agency about premium rates. From OT to holiday, be sure you understand how these work if the pay is your primary motivator. Remember that phrase about assumptions? No one wants to be surprised on a paycheck. A great agency will have experienced payroll staff that will take the time to explain how it all works if you need them to.
  • Think about your financial future. What does retirement look like? 401(k) and retirement used to mean working 30+ years as perm staff, but it’s 2020, and agencies are recognizing that their travelers deserve the same benefits as full-time employees. Ask if they have 401(k), when you qualify, and how much they’ll match.

Experience: Chasing Career Goals

Many nurses look to travel nursing to get the experience they need to move forward in their careers. Bolstering your resume is a big perk of travel nursing. Understand that each assignment will teach you something new, whether that’s a skill that will move you closer to your goal or it’s something you now know isn’t for you in the future. Look for an agency that understands how to maximize your travel career so you can reach your goal.

  • Ask your recruiter about their expertise. Your recruiter isn’t just your front-line teammate; they should also function similar to an academic advisor. The best agency will have a roster of recruiters who can look at the big picture of your career and be able to guide you to assignments that will help you reach your goals, not just fill an immediate need.
  • Ask your agency about clinical support. A good agency will ensure you have RNs in your corner who will act as a liaison for you when needed, provide you with career coaching, and ensure you can ace any skills tests a facility may require. Maybe you’re an OR nurse but have only circulated but want to scrub. Your clinical team can help you develop a path and plan to get there.
  • Ask about licensure. California, compact states, fingerprinting, and fees — licensing can be a multi-step, time-sensitive, and costly process. Your agency should simplify it for you. Do they pay for it? Do they turn in necessary paperwork on your behalf? The best assignments get booked quickly. Overlooking this aspect can mean missing out on your dream assignment.
  • Think about your nursing future. What does your career look like after you hang up your gypsy scrubs? Just like perm staff, your employer should make it easy for you to get the CEUs you need to maintain licensing, but you want to expand your career and resume. Look for an agency that offers more. Do they provide RN-to-BSN tuition reimbursement? Will they help you get certifications that lead to higher pay?

Travel: Aiming for Adventure

If experiencing new things excites you, then you’re in good company as adventure comes with every new travel nurse assignment. Going to specific locations of your choice is a perk of the gypsy nurse lifestyle. Understand that working in popular areas comes with challenges. Look for an agency that supports you in your quest for flexibility and adventure.

  • Look for top-notch recruiters who understand the industry. Your recruiter should have extensive market knowledge and be able to leverage that to get you to the destinations that are on your bucket list. Everyone wants to go to Hawaii. Winter assignments in warm locations fill up quickly. Your recruiter should guide your career to get your profile on top in hard-to-book locations and know when to submit.
  • Ask your agency how they get jobs. Does your agency have exclusive access to jobs in desirable areas? Their internal teams should be working behind-the-scenes to offer a variety of locations. Their business relationships should benefit their travel nurses.
  • Ask about benefits. From hiking to shopping, it’s essential to consider if your agency’s benefits fit your lifestyle. What happens if you break your leg on a trail and can’t work? Are you insured if you take a vacation between assignments?

If you are a new travel nurse or looking into becoming a travel nurse:

Travel Nurse Guide: Step-by-Step (now offered in a PDF Downloadable version!)

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