What Does a Travel Nurse Do? How Travel Nursing Works

A travel nurse has similar responsibilities to any given nurse, but they are set apart by their employment model. As a travel nurse, an individual can enter a variety of healthcare facilities to fill in as need arises on a short-term basis.

Nursing student pushing woman in wheelchair in hospital setting

If you’ve kept up to date on trends within the nursing field in the last several years, you’ve more than likely heard of travel nursing. As more healthcare organizations than ever face staffing shortages in the wake of the national nursing shortfall, many are increasingly turning to travel nursing to fill the need in facilities including hospitals and clinics. Nurses have been drawn to travel nursing due to attractive rates of pay, but those researching a nursing career might still have questions. What is a travel nurse, what does a travel nurse do, and how can you become a travel nurse?

In this blog we’ll explore the facts around travel nursing. Then we’ll share how a degree through Utica University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program can serve as the perfect foundation for a huge array of career options including travel nursing.

What Is a Travel Nurse?

At its most basic level, travel nursing is a position wherein skilled nursing professionals temporarily fill nursing positions in facilities dealing with high staffing needs. These facilities can be hospitals and clinics, but others are possible as well. Travel nursing connects nurses with temporary positions, and as the name suggests, practitioners need to be prepared to travel in order to access opportunities.

Travel nursing has become so popular in recent years due to the reported high rates of pay associated with this career path, but before nurses can enter this field, it’s important to accumulate experience beforehand. Typically, at least two years of nursing experience is needed to sign on with many agencies.

Four Utica ABSN students

How Does Travel Nursing Work?

The most significant ways that travel nursing differs from traditional nursing stem from the differences in employment structure. “Traditional” nursing positions are filled through nurses being employed by healthcare providers. Under this structure, nurses are responsible for evaluating potential employers, interviewing for each position, and potentially relocating for their new position.

Within a travel nursing structure, rather than being employed by a facility or provider, nurses apply to and use independent staffing agencies to secure positions in different areas of need. Travel nursing positions are typically short-term and temporary, meaning travel nurses need to be prepared to only live in certain locations for a few months at a time. Typically, however, travel nursing agencies will assist with this transient lifestyle by either providing housing or paying a housing stipend in addition to the pay for each position.

Can You Become a Travel Nurse as a New Nurse?

If you’ve just graduated from nursing school and become a nurse, working as a travel nurse immediately might not be the best idea. Firstly, many staffing agencies have minimum requirements of time spent within a specialty to become a travel nurse. Often the period before becoming accepted can be two years or even more depending on the specialty.

Beyond simply accessing higher pay, prospective travel nurses should wait to ensure that they’re an experienced nurse and will be able to fit in across a variety of facilities and care environments. In situations of severe need, it’s possible for less experienced nurses to enter the travel nursing field, but it can often be to the detriment of the quality of care that patients receive.

How to Become a Travel Nurse

If you want to work toward a career in travel nursing and practice across a range of locations and care environments, the path is similar to entering a nursing career. Though it will take longer than becoming a nurse alone, by the time you’re ready to become a travel nurse you will have plenty of experience and expertise within the nursing field.

Stethoscope on textbook with text nursing career planning guide

See a step-by-step guide to becoming a nurse.

1. Earn a Degree in Nursing

Before you can become a nurse, let alone a travel nurse, you will need to earn a nursing degree. While an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) can help you become a nurse, employers are increasingly requiring Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees. For this reason, earning a BSN degree is likely the wisest choice to ensure a wide range of employment opportunities. While a traditional 4-year degree path may be too long for some, Utica University’s ABSN program is able to leverage your previous non-nursing bachelor’s degree to earn a BSN in as few as 16 months.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

After you earn your degree, you will still need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) before being certified as a registered nurse. This examination evaluates how well you can analyze and apply your nursing knowledge across different care scenarios. Though only 16 months in length, the end of Utica’s ABSN program specifically prepares students prior to taking the NCLEX-RN exam.

3. Gain Experience and Additional Certifications

As you emerge into the industry ready to take on a nursing career, now is the time to continue gaining experience and working toward any additional certifications you’ll need for your chosen specialty. As you continue to gain experience, always be ready to listen and learn from senior professionals. The more experience you gain now, the more comfortable you will be as a travel nurse entering a variety of facilities.

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4. Apply to a Travel Nursing Agency

Once you’re ready to become a travel nurse and you meet all requirements, you can apply to a travel nursing agency. Once they take you on as a client, they will be able to connect you with a range of opportunities in this lucrative, exciting and growing career field within nursing.

Begin Your Nursing Journey with Utica ABSN

With the knowledge of what a travel nurse does and how a BSN degree is the foundation of any number of nursing career opportunities, now is the time to begin your nursing journey with Utica’s ABSN program. In as few as 16 months, you could be on the path to touching countless lives through an exciting, rewarding career in nursing. Contact us to learn more.

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