New Grad Nurse, Eager to Travel? Design Your Game Plan Now


How new graduate nurses can quickly become travel nurses

By Megan Murdock Krischke, contributor

So you just graduated from nursing school, you are cramming for the NCLEX and you are dreaming of the day you can leverage your new degree in travel nursing jobs throughout the country. 

Good news! The day you are waiting for isn’t necessarily that far away.

Two experienced travel nurse recruiters share the inside scoop about what new grad nurses need to do before they can become “nurse travelers”--and what can give you a leg up on the competition when you are ready to apply.

“The most basic requirement for travel nurses is that they have at least one year’s experience in an acute care setting within whatever specialty they are hoping to find travel nursing jobs,” explained Teresa Healey, recruitment manager for American Mobile Healthcare. “For nurses working in labor and delivery, the minimum requirement is 18 months of experience before traveling.”

GET ANSWERS to FAQs--the most frequently asked questions about travel nursing.

What sets some new grad nurses apart

Nurses who want to pursue travel nursing should earn their ACLS and BLS certifications in the months before they apply as a new traveler; adding TNCC and PALS is also highly recommended. 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) stroke certification is not required, but looks good on a résumé, as well as any workplace recognitions and experience serving on a committee or in a supervisory role.

When it comes to work experience that will set you up well for travel nursing jobs, in general, the larger the facility in which you have experience, the more assignment opportunities will be available to you. Why? Employers know that it can be a stretch for a nurse to go from a 30-bed to a 600-bed facility, but not as difficult to move from a larger to a smaller care setting.

“As far as nursing specialties go, our top demand for travelers currently is in ICU and labor and delivery.  There is also a lot of need for travelers in ER, OR, all of the cardiac specialties and critical care,” stated Brandi Gallegos, recruitment manager at Onward Healthcare. “Even so, we still get plenty of requests for med–surg nurses.”

How to get the travel nurse jobs you want

“Take every opportunity you can to learn online charting,” recommended Gallegos. “If you can become a ‘super user,’ who has expert knowledge of the charting system to support other staff, even better. As medical facilities are changing over [or upgrading] electronic medical records, there is a huge need for knowledgeable users.”

“Floating as much as possible will give you a well-rounded experience and show that you can be flexible and work in new environments--key skills for a travel nurse,” added Healey.

Doing per diem work will also show an ability to go to a new facility and hit the ground running, but it isn’t necessary to have this experience to become a nurse traveler.

“If you know you want to travel as soon as possible, go ahead and apply when you have about nine months of experience,” Gallegos advised. “Then you can get connected with an educated recruiter who can help you decide in which states you should pursue licensure. In some states, like Minnesota, it may take only a few days to obtain a license; in others, like New Jersey, it may take several months.”

California, Texas, Washington, Arizona, Florida, and many East Coast states such as Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, have many travel nurse jobs available, she noted.

Both Healey and Gallegos emphasized the need for new travel nurses--especially those with limited nursing experience--to be as flexible as possible.

“If I have a new traveler who is willing to go anywhere and work any shift, I never have trouble finding a job for that nurse,” stated Gallegos. “And once a nurse has landed one travel position, has given their best and received a great recommendation, a lot more doors will be open.”

“If I can go to a hospital and say I have a nurse who may only have a year’s experience but has all these credentials, already has the state’s license and can start work in three weeks, that will make that applicant’s file stand out above the others,” she remarked.

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Updated 5/15/17.


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