7 Simple Steps to Get Started as a Travel Nurse


By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor

Starting a new chapter in your career can be an exciting, nerve-racking and hopeful time--especially when it comes to transitioning from a permanent RN staff position to travel nursing jobs that can take you across the country. But the hardest part may be knowing how to get started.

Not to worry--we’ve broken the process down into seven easy steps to get you started on this journey that provides career growth, personal freedom and countless adventures along the way.

1.    Check out travel nursing companies
Start your journey by investigating reputable travel nursing companies, like’s own nurse staffing partners. There are a lot of options out there, so besides turning to the Internet, ask nurse travelers and other nursing colleagues for recommendations. It is a good idea to look for an established company that has been accredited by The Joint Commission, which means they are in compliance with a national set of quality standards and demonstrate a commitment to excellence in nurse staffing. Also, make sure the company you are looking at has relationships with top healthcare facilities and offers plenty of travel nursing jobs across the country, so you have plenty of options, and that they offer a comprehensive benefits package.

2.    Submit an application

Most companies offer online applications, and you can pick up the phone and talk with a recruitment specialist to get specific questions answered. (Please note that nurses need anywhere from several months up to two years of experience as a minimum before they can travel; requirements vary depending on specialties and employers.) An application does not commit you to working with that company, but it is required before a recruiter can start matching you with travel nursing jobs. You will likely need to verify your licensure and fill out a skills checklist, as well.

One of the quickest ways to get started is to apply online with; this single application makes your information available to four of the country’s top travel nursing companies.

3.    Start working with a recruiter
After you’ve applied with or an agency of your choice, you should be contacted by a recruiter. Experienced travel nurses will tell you how important the traveler–recruiter relationship is, and that recruiters will become one of the most important facets of your travel nursing career. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions: your recruiter is there to be your career advisor, as well as your sounding board and advocate, so make sure you find someone you can trust with your personal and professional goals.

4.    Clarify your needs and wants
Once you’ve settled on your recruiter and your agency, it’s time to figure out where you are going! First piece of advice: keep an open mind. Start by making a list of the cities and states you would love to travel to (maybe 5-10 places), this will give your recruiter a starting point to find you the ideal travel assignment. Would you like to gain experience at a teaching facility, Magnet hospital or other specialized healthcare facility? Let your recruiter know.

Also, tell your recruiter about any special situations, such as whether you will be traveling with pets, spouses, or other companions, or if you want to work locally within your region. This will help to streamline your housing and travel logistics.

5.    Secure the travel RN job you want
As you work with your recruiter, you’ll have the chance to decide which travel nurse jobs interest you, and your recruiter will submit application packets on your behalf. The next step will likely be a phone interview between you and the hiring manager at the facility; download our free Travel Nurse’s Guide to Interviewing for comprehensive advice about this critical step. Assuming everything goes well, the next step will be a contract offer--sometimes on the same day! Just be sure to review the details with your recruiter before accepting any offers.

6.    Get packing!
Now the fun really begins. Your recruitment team will help you get ready for your new assignment, including licensing and other paperwork, and prepping for your move. Deciding what to bring on your assignment will depend on the location, the time of year, the length of assignment, whether you are flying or driving, etc. Most agencies offer free, fully-furnished housing, so you won’t have to fill a moving truck. Just verify with you recruiter what is provided and what isn’t; he or she may even have a packing list that can help you get started.

7.    Go "all in"
Once you get to your assignment destination, immerse yourself in your new surroundings. Get out and about with neighbors and co-workers, plan some side trips, try the local cuisine, and invite friends to come visit. Learn as much as you can at work, and try new activities that are popular in your new locale during your time off. Few professions allow the opportunity to do the job you love while exploring the country, so embrace each opportunity and get started on your travel nursing career today!

Additional resources:
Six Tips for Day One of Your Travel Nursing Job
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