Look Before You Leap
Understanding what you'll be getting into as a travel nurse and what all goes into just being a nurse as a whole is something you'll want to do early on. It wouldn't make much sense to begin down this path only to discover that being a nurse might not be something you're cut out for. There are some that would not necessarily be built for long stints away from friends and family regardless of how exciting the job and location is. Making sure you understand who you are as a person, employee and how the pros and cons of being a nurse measure up is key to the decision making process.
The education requirements of being a travel nurse are the same as they are for any nurse. Before becoming a travel nurse you would first need to earn either an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited nursing program. But keep in mind that as of late, more hospitals are requiring their nurses to hold a Bachelor's of Science degree in Nursing. Currently, hospitals that require Bachelor's of Science degrees are a small minority, but it wouldn't hurt to be ahead of the curve in the event that this changes.
The NCLEX-RN exam stands for the National Council Licensure Examination. It is the standardized test used by every state's regulatory board and must be passed in order to be licensed as a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse in the United States. The NCLEX-RN differs from the exams you took while in nursing school in that your nursing school exams were more knowledge based. The NCLEX-RN will test your application and analysis of the knowledge you gained in school. It will also examine how your critical thinking is leveraged to make proper judgments while in the nursing space.
You'll need to apply for your nursing license once you have completed your formal nursing education. This can be done with the Board of Nursing for the particular state that you plan on being a nurse in or, if you have your eyes set on becoming a travel nurse, the Nursing Licensure Compact should give you more flexibility since it is an agreement between states that allows RNs to hold a single nursing license in valid numerous state. Be sure to check The National Council of State Boards of Nursing to see which states have the NLC implemented.
The Only Source of Knowledge is Experience
A plethora of varied experience is an important part of being a nurse, and an especially important part of being a successful travel nurse at that. Two years of experience in your specialty is a must. It's this experience and your clinical background that will be used to determine which open spots and hospital locations you'll qualify for. Once you graduate from nursing school, take some time to work in an actual hospital environment. This will get you accustomed to the hospital setting and also provide some needed hands-on experience that will go a long way with recruiters. This will also prepare you for a travel nursing role and equip you with the intangibles that it takes to be a nurse.
Shop for an Agency
So you've dotted all your i's and crossed all your t's. You've earned the degrees, received your license and all the experience you can handle. Now you're just chomping at the bit. What's next? Now it's time to find a nursing agency! Each staffing agency can supply a varied amount of options. Their connections to specific hospitals and healthcare networks are equally diverse. Fill out an application and once you are paired with a recruiter, share with him or her your experience level and preferred cities to travel to. Travel nurses are in demand and you can leverage this need to get into a situation that is right for you. You are in the driver's seat and can afford to be picky. Make sure you choose the staffing agency that has a lucrative benefits package and any other offerings you may see as deal makers.
Interview & Sign the Dotted Line
Finally, at long last you are ready to interview for your first travel nursing assignment and sign a contract. Prepare for a phone or Skype interview. This is your opportunity to show the interviewer how good of a fit you are for their team, so don't be afraid to share what you're passionate about and what drives you! Once that's completed and an offer is on the table the discussion surrounding compensation and terms can begin! Don't be shy because all terms are solid once the dotted line is signed.
I hope that these 7 steps have helped familiarize you with what to expect when you begin your travel nursing career. Your dream job awaits and remember, to quote the Chinese philosopher Laozi, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".
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