Travel Nursing: Things To Think About When Starting · The Gypsy Nurse

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By Theresa Cofield

May 26, 2021



Travel Nursing: Things To Think About Before You Start

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is why you can’t start a career without having a plan, including being a travel nurse. To ensure you don’t find yourself wanting to quit less than halfway through your first travel nurse job, here are some things to consider before starting.

Staffing Agency

If you’ve ever tried online dating, you know that it is vital to make a decisive choice amongst various options. When starting as a travel nurse, you will have several staffing agencies to choose from, making it a tough choice. But you have to choose a staffing company, and it has to be one that can help you succeed in your career.

This is why picking a staffing agency is the foremost thing to do before starting as a travel nurse. When selecting a staffing company, assess it in terms of:

  • Experience in the travel staffing industry
  • Whether they are Joint Commission-certified
  • Rooster of available assignments
  • Exclusive agreements with facilities
  • Pay rates and benefits

As a travel nurse, you have to identify what matters to you and what you want to get out of traveling. Next, use whatever answer you get to pick an agency that meets your needs. Don’t be in a hurry to choose a staffing company; ensure their value matches with yours, and they tick off most things on your priority list.


According to Melissa Hagstrom, a Travel Nursing contributor, seasoned travel nurse vets advise starters to work with a recruiter. The recruiter would serve as a guardian angel, watching your back and rendering advice when needed. The person would also understand your needs and find you placements that meet them.

Having someone who understands you makes life easier as a travel nurse. However, with so many recruiters, you have to sift through to find someone you can work with. If you and a recruiter are never on the same page, it would adversely affect your career. Once you find a match, it is crucial to keep communication lines open and resolve conflicts amicably.

Experience and Readiness

It might sound like a cliche, but “Experience” is sometimes and indeed the best teacher. Before you begin a travel nurse career, ask yourself if you have the required experience and readiness level. Although it varies, most facilities require a travel nurse to have at least 18-months of experience in their specialty.

Know that specialties like intensive care or emergency departments are quite competitive. Thus, to stand a chance, you have to have the needed experience and be ready for the challenges that come with the role. Nurse Journal advises that you obtain a specialty nurse certificate if you lack one. It would set you apart when applying to famous centers.

Contractual Terms

Most travel nurses start a job and realize they don’t like their contract terms. But, it’s too late to change it unless they want to face a lawsuit. This is avoidable if you carefully go through the conditions before signing. If you can work for only 16 hours, ensure you don’t agree for 18.

Ask questions as many times as needed, and ensure you’re clear on everything. Note that travel nurse contracts are different from that of a regular staff member. It offers tax-free benefits that a permanent staff is not entitled to. Show it to your recruiter before singing, and have them explain any part you don’t understand.

Licensing and Paperwork

If you’re planning to work outside the state you reside, you need to get licensed to work in the new state. Find out about the requirements and learn all you can about them ahead of time. If the state you reside in is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), it will make the licensing process much easier.


You don’t want to start a job as a travel nurse without securing a place to stay. Thus, once you’ve landed a job, look into the available housing options. Some travel nurse companies offer free and private housing, but you can make personal arrangements if you desire.


The key is to travel smart and only take the things you need. Depending on how long you’re staying away, you should take only the necessaries. Also, have someone check your home periodically. Pay bills electronically, and inform the post office on how long you’ll be away.

The Takeaway

Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well, so you need to dot every “I” and cross all “Ts” before starting a travel nurse career. Create a checklist and carefully tick off everything before starting. The more prepared you are, the fewer chances you have of making mistakes. So, carefully go through this list, and use it as a guide.

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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