There’s no job out there that’s quite like being a travel nurse. As a traveler, you get to experience new places, learn a wide variety of new skills, and enjoy a lot of flexibility, all while helping patients around the country. That’s why it’s no surprise that there are so many new travel nurses who decide to take the plunge at the start of each year!
However, with COVID-19, many would-be travel nurses have some new questions and concerns about getting started. Therefore, it’s important to know what it takes to get started as a travel nurse in the midst of COVID-19. While many things have remained the same, some have changed that are good to be aware of. By doing so, you’ll help ensure that you get your new career started on the right foot.
Going from being a nurse to a travel nurse isn’t all that complex, but there are a few important prerequisites that you should make sure you meet ahead of time. First, most facilities look for nurses who already have at least one or two years of experience. Certain specialized units, like ICU, may require more experience. You’ll also want to make sure that you have the appropriate credentials.
Aside from having an active RN license, along with Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support certifications, you’ll also need to make sure you have the right state licensure. Now, if your home state is a Nurse Licensure Compact state, then you’ll have what’s known as a compact license. This means your license will be good in any other compact state. If your home state isn’t a part of that program, or the state you want to travel to isn’t, then you’ll need to make sure you get the right licenses. This leads to the next important step…
Finding an Agency
It’s key that you work with a travel nurse agency that will have your back and support you not just as you start traveling but for as long as you plan to do so. A good agency with friendly, knowledgeable recruiters and a dedicated clinical team made up of nurses can help you solve issues that might come up on an assignment and help avoid any in the first place!
For instance, they can help you make sure you have the correct licensure, that it’s all up to date, and that any related expenses are covered. A good agency can also provide other benefits, like travel reimbursement, day one paid sick leave, pay guarantees, and opportunities to continue your education. They can even help you find and pay for housing and navigate tax codes. Working with an agency that cares about you can really make all the difference when you begin to travel!
Prepare to Travel
Once you’ve found your agency, it’s time to plan out your first assignment. During this time, don’t be afraid to ask your recruiter a lot of questions. Your recruiter will be an important part of your traveling career, so it’s important to find one that you feel comfortable talking to and trusting with your career goals. After you’ve done that, start thinking about where you want to go and where you’d like to work and tell your recruiter. That way, they can help you begin to search for an assignment that fits what you’re looking for.
Once you find a posting that fits and apply to it, the next step will usually be a short interview with someone at the hospital, mainly to cover hospital procedures and to make sure everything sounds good to you. Should it all go well and they offer you a contract, then congrats! You’re now on your way to your first of many assignments.
As you can see, getting started as a travel nurse really isn’t all that complex, especially when you’re working with the right agency. Still, COVID-19 has created a few changes in the travel nurse process and experience that are good to be aware of. Some things to consider are:
Some states are currently either relaxing or waiving certain laws they may have about licensing to make it easier for nurses to travel to them, in particular non-compact states. There are also temporary licenses, allowing a nurse to take on an assignment as they wait for their permanent license. Working with an agency that is up-to-date about these changing licensure requirements will help you figure out what assignments are open to you and avoid any conflicts.
With COVID-19, auto-offers from hospitals have become increasingly common. While this can speed up the process, many nurses don’t have a chance to talk directly with someone from the hospital. In these cases, it’s good to ask any questions you may have had for the hospital to your recruiter, so they can help find answers for you.
It may also be a bit trickier to find housing because of COVID-19. Some places may have more limited options available due to either decreased demand or COVID-19 restrictions. An agency’s housing team can make it easier to find places available in the area you’re traveling to, along with helping you cover some of the initial costs to make everything smoother.
PPE and the Hospital Environment
Hospitals all across the country are using much stricter PPE standards to keep patients and nurses alike safe from COVID-19. Therefore, when you find an assignment that you’re interested in, it’s good to ask your recruiter or the hospital’s representative during your interview about their PPE practices. You’d also want to ask about any other sort of similar practices like distancing measures or cleaning procedures and to be kept in the loop about any changes made before you start. That way, you’re prepared ahead of time and can keep those policies in mind when you start your assignment.
It can be tough sometimes to adjust to how a hospital handles things, especially if it’s different from what you’re accustomed to. Add that COVID-19 has required doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers to be constantly moving and working during their shifts, and the risk of feeling overwhelmed and burnt out is much higher than usual. This means it’s important to take care of yourself when on assignment. Don’t be afraid to reach out to co-workers, your recruiter, or your agency’s clinical team for help. The latter two, in particular, can help give you advice on how to best deal with your situation and direct you to some good resources for getting these feelings off your chest. Remember too that you can take some time off in-between assignments should you feel you need it!
Are you planning to become a travel nurse during COVID-19? What pushed you toward this decision? We would love to hear from you. Comment below.