14 Ways Travel Nursing Can Advance Your Career


By Megan Murdock Krischke, contributor

One of the significant draws to travel nursing is the opportunity to see and experience new places. Beyond the glamour of travel, however, new work experiences can also broaden and add depth to your résumé, allowing you to take your nursing career to the next level.

Here, outlines 14 ways that travel nursing can help advance your career--starting with your first assignment:

1. Learn new nursing skills. Cherith Douglass, RN, BSN, a travel nurse with American Mobile Healthcare, went on her first assignment almost two years ago.

“I definitely think traveling has advanced my career. It has broadened my skill set in so many ways. Some hospitals are trauma hospitals and some aren’t, some have IV teams and some don’t--so I have experienced and learned to work in all those settings,” she said.

2. Gain cultural competency. Douglass has worked on a Native American reservation, in the Virgin Islands, and in various regions around the country, including Southern California, New England and North Carolina. Each location has had a new culture to learn, requiring adaptability. In an increasingly diverse work environment, cross-cultural skills look great on a résumé.

3. Work in a teaching hospital. Teaching hospitals are a unique working environment that many travel nurses can experience.

“Nurses have the opportunity to participate in experimental treatments, to receive teaching from physicians, and to learn to work with medical residents who are still in the process of learning,” noted Teresa Healey, recruitment manager for American Mobile. “Getting your foot in the door at one of these facilities will open doors for other teaching hospital positions.”

4. Expand your network. Travel nursing allows you to expand your professional network. If you ever decide it is time to settle into a permanent position, you can have inside connections, as well as a good reputation, at a number of facilities.

“At every single hospital I have been to--I’ve done five or six assignments--I could go back to any of those and get a permanent assignment,” commented Douglass.

5. Improve your “people skills.” Working as a traveler proves that you can work effectively with a variety of personalities and that you are willing to be a team player.

“As a traveler, initially you have to prove that you are a team player--you want your new co-workers to know that you are willing to help,” Douglass said. “You have to put in the extra effort to prove yourself because you are coming in new.”

6. Discover a variety of career paths. “I have met a larger network of practitioners than I would have in a permanent position,” Douglass reflected. “I relish the opportunity to talk with nurses working in a variety of positions such as nurse practitioners, nurse managers and clinical nurse specialists. I ask them how they like their jobs and consider whether it might be a good fit for me in the future.”

7. Benefit from working in a Magnet hospital. Magnet hospitals have hit certain benchmarks for providing exceptional patient care and for instituting best practices in policies and procedures.

“Nurses who are placed in Magnet hospitals have the opportunity to experience first-hand some of the best nursing practices in the nation and can take that knowledge to future jobs,” explained Healey. “Magnet hospitals often have excellent work environments and promote the professional development of their nurses.”

8. Broaden training in your specialty. “Some facilities will provide training, not necessarily on different specialties, but on missions within your specialty,” Healey pointed out.

9. Secure employment at top hospitals. “I’ve had travelers who have taken permanent positions at really good hospitals,” Healey added. “Nurses can often work their way up into larger hospitals and through hospital extensions and into a hospital they really love.”

RELATED: 7 Easy Steps to Get Started as a Travel Nurse

10. Manage varying patient loads. “Working in a larger hospital setting affords nurses the opportunity of adapting to a more hectic setting, a larger unit, and managing more patients at one time,” Healey stated.  Smaller hospitals, on the other hand, might offer experience with more types of patients within a single shift.

“I normally work in the ER, but on my last assignment, I was working on an observation unit.  I had to really focus on my time management skills because I had more patients who required more thorough assessments,” remarked Douglass.

11. Treat a broad range of patients and conditions. “Because of traveling, I’ve worked with a broader range of patients. My first assignment was on the Crow reservation in Montana. In the Native community, diabetes and alcoholism are very prevalent. When I worked in New England, I didn’t see as much of those conditions, but I worked with more cardiac patients.”

12. Prove your adaptability. Travel nursing requires flexibility and adaptability on many fronts--from new living environments to new co-workers and new clinical approaches.

“As a traveler you learn that there isn’t one right way to do things, but there are multiple right ways. And even that maybe your way isn’t the best way. A traveler has to be willing to learn new techniques and to evaluate what suits your particular situation at the time. You have to consider the materials they give you, the time you have and the people you work with,” encouraged Douglass.

13. Become proficient on varied computer systems. There are a variety of electronic medical record (EMR) systems in healthcare, and as you work in different hospitals, you will gain proficiency on the more common systems. Working knowledge of a hospital’s EMR program will give you an advantage when it comes to hiring.

14. Challenge yourself and gain confidence. One of the greatest skills you can bring into any job is the confidence of knowing you can face and overcome challenges.

“I meet a lot of nurses who say they wish they could do what I do, but they are scared to get started,” remarked Douglass. “What I have found is that the people I meet on my assignments are friendly, they want me there and are willing to help and to answer my questions. I’ve had a great experience every time. Travel nursing is what you make out of it.”

“If you are friendly and you try and you are a hard worker, you shouldn’t have any problems,” she continued. “Becoming a travel nurse is the best decision I ever made!”

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