Many nurses consider travel nursing for the salary and opportunity to explore the country. Finding the best agency and knowing what to ask travel nursing recruiters before you start can make or break your first travel nurse job. If you understand the process and have a polished resume ready to go, travelling for short-term work can be an exciting chapter of your nursing career. Here, we're covering a few essential things to consider, including travel expenses, pay and the nitty gritty of your first contract.
What is a travel nurse?
Travel nurses fill gaps for hospitals when they don't have enough nursing staff. The shortages might be due to inadequate nurse staffing levels, maternity leave or catastrophic events that cause a higher-than-average influx of patients. Many nurses find travel nursing jobs rewarding because of the freedom and increased pay that the agencies often offer.
Most travel nurse contracts range from 13 to 26 weeks. Once the contract is over, the travel nurse will likely move onto another state and another position. Sometimes agencies will offer extensions, but most travel nurses should expect to move on after a few months.
How to become a travel nurse
If you're interested in this career path, spend time preparing for travel nursing positions, as they can be stressful and challenging. For even more travel nurse tips, check out this article on how to become a travel nurse.
To land your first travel nurse job, you'll need a well-written cover letter and professional resume to show a recruiter you're a great fit for the job. Our Cover Letter Templates and Resume Templates can help you organize your skills, experience and certifications in a way that makes you stand out.
What to ask travel nursing recruiters before you start
Travel nurse contracts are the most critical documents you will sign as a new travel nurse. This document contains details about the terms and length of your travel nursing job. The information in the travel nurse contract should include pay, location, travel and living arrangements. Here's are some essential questions to ask when preparing for a travel nursing job:
1. What's my pay rate?
The most crucial function of your travel nurse contract is to negotiate your salary. The travel agency has an agreement with the facility that sets the rate of pay for each travel nurse they place. The contract between the facility and agency dictates the pay rate offered to you and other travel nurses.
Your travel nurse recruiter will provide you with the details of your pay and other reimbursements. A few specifics to look for before you agree to your first travel nurse job include:
- Hourly rate
- Housing and meal reimbursement
- Travel reimbursement
- Expected hours per week
Once you receive all this information, break down your hourly travel nurse wage. If you aren't satisfied with the number, ask your travel nurse recruiter how they determined your contracted rate. Remind them of your specialty nursing certifications, licenses and experience to make a case for an increase.
2. Will you cover travel expenses?
Travel nursing agencies will typically pay for your travel. However, each agency will have a maximum reimbursement amount (often around $500). Before you sign your travel nurse contract, do the math. If you are traveling from New York to Colorado by car, it may cost you more than $500. In this scenario, ask the travel nurse recruiter for higher travel reimbursement. If they aren't willing to negotiate your travel expenses, this might not be the best travel nurse contract for you.
3. Do you offer license reimbursement?
Most travel nurse jobs will take you outside of your home state. You will need to obtain a nursing license in the state of your contract. One exception to this rule is if your home state and the state you're traveling to are both in the nurse licensure compact. Some states will take only a few days to process a license, while others can take several months.
Not every agency will offer a separate nursing license reimbursement. Ask your travel nurse recruiter about what expenses are reimbursed and then read through your travel nurse contract before you sign. You may need to provide a copy of the license or receipt to get the full reimbursement. There may also be a timeframe in which you need to provide this proof of purchase.
Prepare your resume and cover letter
If you are ready to explore the world of travel nursing, you'll need an up-to-date resume and custom cover letter. Include all of your nursing experience, licenses and certifications. If you have experience in any high-demand nursing areas, highlight it in your cover letter. Use our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder to create application materials that gets you noticed.
Once you have a well-written cover letter and resume, find an agency that offers you the type of travel nurse contract you want. Look for a recruiter who will work for your best interests, too. Don't be afraid to say no until you find an opportunity that fits the needs and goals of your first travel nurse job. Then, get ready to embark on an exciting travel nursing career and learn lots about the profession, the country and yourself.