Interested in a career in travel nursing? First things first, check out our post, “Should I Become a Travel Nurse?” and then come back here.

Unfortunately, getting your first travel nursing assignment is not as easy as calling up a hospital and asking, “Can I work here?” But there’s good news: We made this handy list of steps that will take you from graduation to your first day on the job!

Determine whether or not you have the qualifications

Not just anyone can immediately jump into travel nursing. If you’re here, you have likely finished high school and obtained a nursing degree, or are in the process of doing so.

Once you’ve finished two to four years at an accredited university, you need to pass your NCLEX exam. You cannot become a licensed registered nurse or licensed practical nurse in the United States without passing The National Council Licensure Examination, and you must be a nurse in order to become a travel nurse.

So you have all that done? Now it’s time to get some experience.

The absolute minimum is at least 1 year of clinical experience, but 2-3 years of experience will make you more attractive to potential employers. If you’ve been in the nursing field for longer than that, you’ll make an even better catch!

Now that you’re qualified with the basics, keep in mind that you’ll need to be licensed in the state you plan to travel to. We recommend considering getting your license from a Compact State, one of 24 states that agrees to recognize licensure from any of the other 24 states.

This means you can move around freely within almost half of the country, without any more qualification. If you are dying to go to a non-Compact State, however, check the state boards and find out what you’ll need to be licensed in that state.

Figure out WHY you want to this

If you’re just eager for a change, you might think you really don’t care what you do — just as long as it’s different!

Even still, take some time to consider if you’d like to do any specialty nursing, work in a hospital or a different medical care facility, what kind of hours you are hoping for, and of course, what states you’d like to live in. These are all things you recruiter will ask you, and you should have a general idea of what you’d prefer

That being said, the more flexible you are, the easier it’ll be to find a job!

Decide what compensation and benefits you'll need

Ah money, the great kill-joy of adventure!

It’s important to take a good hard look at your finances and consider what you’ll need in order to make travel nursing worth it for you. Our guide to travel nursing salaries will help. 

Perhaps a loaner car, health insurance, and free housing make up for a lower take-home paycheck in your mind. Or maybe you have someone to live with, so you’d rather more money than benefits. Take a look at the list of common benefits provided by agencies and think about which ones are the most attractive to you before getting in touch with a recruiter.

You’ll need to know what are non-negotiables and what you can budge on — especially when you get to the “negotiating a contract” part of this process.

Create a resume

Just like with any job, you’ll need a killer resume to get the best positions. If you aren’t confident about yours, check out our free Resume Guide.

Check out our “Ultimate List of Travel Nursing Agencies” Ebook

This is a detailed, 50-page ebook filled with paragraph-long entries for more than 150 US-based travel nursing agencies. Pick the ones you’re interested in and get in touch with the agencies right away. They will help you through their application process.

Gather paperwork

This is where working with an agency becomes a huge time-saver. Your recruiter should let you know what documentation a facility will need, but as a general rule, you’ll need:

  • Your resume
  • A skills checklist
  • Clinical references
  • Photocopies of your licenses and certifications
  • Lab results for Rubeola, Rubella, Varicella, Hep C, Hep B and Mumps
  • Documentation of an up-to-date flu vaccination
  • A BCLS card issued by the American Heart Association
  • A physician’s statement
  • Copy of your driver’s license
  • Proof that you don’t have a criminal background

Whew, it’s taken a long time to get here, but you knew this was coming. The interview is the scariest part of all job-searches, but with the proper preparation you have nothing to fear. Check out our Free Interview Guide here.

Negotiate and sign a contract

Once you’ve found your dream position, it’s time to negotiate and sign a contract. This is very exciting!

Remember that list of benefits/salary compensation you were hoping for? Now is the time to really go to bat for yourself. You might be a great saleswoman, but if the thought of negotiations terrifies you, here are some great tips on how to get the most out of your contract, and what to make sure is outlined within it.

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