Navigating Travel Nursing: Navigating the Start of Your Career

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By Navigation Healthcare

December 29, 2022



Navigating the Start of Your Travel Nursing Career

Navigation Healthcare provided this article.

Whether you are searching for personal career growth, itching to explore new places, or looking to experience different organizational cultures and practices, travel nursing is full of possibilities. If you’re wondering how to begin, here’s a guide on navigating the start of your travel nursing career.

The Basics

To be considered for a travel assignment, you must fulfill the basic requirements of being a nurse and gaining clinical experience in the area you want to work as a travel nurse.

  • You must have a valid license in the state you want to travel to. Most nurses first obtain a single-state license. From there, you can upgrade your single-state license to a multistate license, allowing you to practice in all states within the nursing compact. This route will enable you to expand your potential job opportunities, but not every state is part of the compact, so be sure to double-check. If you’re applying for a license in a new state, check local state websites for processing times and costs. It’s essential to be proactive, as some can take up to three months for approval.
  • For most travel nursing jobs, you’ll need a minimum of one year of experience within a specialty. The preferred amount is two years or more. Experience will help smooth transitions as Travel Nurses are expected to hit the ground running with minimal orientation.  For example, some assignments provide only a three-day orientation before expecting you to take on a full load.


Once you have fulfilled the basic requirements of travel nursing, you can start planning and preparing for the fun stuff. Here are a few considerations while dreaming up your perfect assignment.

  • Make sure your certifications are up-to-date. Certifications like ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) strengthen your position to compete for jobs in specialty areas.
  • Prepare and organize your personal documents. Have an updated resume, a list of two to three references, and proof of licensure and certifications.
  • Have a sense of your basic financial situation. Knowing how much income you will need to cover home and travel expenses will help you focus on finding those contracts that will meet your needs.
  • Explore the possibilities. A good way to know what’s out there is to leverage healthcare job marketplaces like LiquidCompass, where you can search for jobs by city, state, specialty, etc. Click on any posted job and read the different job descriptions and skills requirements. This can help you plan, be aware of certifications you may need, and get familiar with the travel job landscape. You may even see an opening in a place you never considered but are drawn to.

Casting Your Net

Once you have an idea of where you want to go and what type of job you’re looking for, there is a wealth of resources to help you find a job.

  • You can search through the many jobs website; you’ll save a lot of time by using healthcare-specific sites, which include permanent jobs as well as travel jobs or travel-specific sites. Some will even alert you when a new travel job is posted that fits your interests.
  • Get a professional to help you. Nurse Navigators, Nurse Advocates, and Recruiters are all examples of specialists that help travel nurses find the jobs that best fit them. In many cases, that will work closely with you every step of the way. You can build relationships with them over time, and they can be invaluable in helping you in your ongoing travel career. 
  • There are many social media sites where you can read about tips, experiences, and recommendations from other travel nurses.
  • Have your numbers ready. Travel nursing contracts typically include an hourly rate and a daily “per diem” rate. Here’s a quick breakdown of what these terms mean.
    • The hourly rate is the dollar rate per hour you work. This rate is taxable. For example, the base hourly rate could be $39 per hour.
    • The daily “per diem” rate is a stipend allowed by the federal government for a specific region to help cover the cost of living in different locations. For example, in Santa Monica, California, the maximum per diem rate for 2022 is $239 per day for lodging and $79 per day for meals and incidentals. Weekly, this stipend comes out to approximately $2236. This amount is non-taxable. You can check out current rates here.
    • Sometimes a contract will offer a “blended rate”. This term simply means they have combined the value of the taxable hourly rate with the value of the daily per diem rate. You can ask your recruiter to clarify the exact values of each.
  • Expect to be vetted. Like any other job, you will have an interview. The STAR method is one resource to help you formulate a concise response for those clinical-based questions. 
  • Negotiate before you sign the contract. Ensure the numbers look correct and that you understand the terms. Contracts may have specific terms for cancellations in the fine print. Some agencies will provide a stipend for airfare or miles traveled.

Know Your Resources

Navigating the beginning of your travel nursing journey doesn’t have to be painful or confusing. It can seem overwhelming to learn the ropes with any new endeavor, but knowing your resources is key to feeling confident. If you have questions or concerns, contact other seasoned nurses, your recruiter, and your agency for support. Most of all, be excited for the opportunity to see new places and challenge yourself as a nurse!

We hope you found this article on navigating travel nursing and navigating the start of your career helpful. Do you have any tips or advice to share? Comment them below.

Nurse (Author) Bio:

navigating travel nursing

Midge Lee

Midge Lee is a registered nurse with six years of experience in the burn, trauma, emergency medicine, and intensive care. She has also dabbled in travel nursing and home health. Midge enjoys writing about a range of topics—from self-care and wellness to hospital haikus.


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Since just recently joining the gypsy nurse, I have had so many questions answered about the world of travel nursing. This has been an excellent resource!
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