What Is a Travel Nurse, and How Can You Become One?

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A travel nurse is a registered nurse who takes on contracts to fill staff or specialty nurse shortages at hospitals around the world. A travel nurse can choose the location they want to work in, although they must first have one to two years of experience as a working nurse.

Madonna ABSN student standing in hallway

If you love traveling and helping people, a career as a travel nurse might be a great fit for you. So, what is a travel nurse? Travel nurses are registered nurses who work temporary assignments at hospitals nationwide. A travel nurse can accept contracts based on location they wish to visit, and they can also focus on finding hospitals seeking their specific specialization.

Madonna University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program is an ideal start for aspiring travel nurses, allowing them to earn a BSN in as few as 16 months and begin their career sooner.

What Does a Travel Nurse Do?

As a travel nurse, you can expect to carry out the typical duties of an RN, caring for patients and administering treatments. In addition, travel nurses can also:

  • Increase their networking opportunities at several high-caliber healthcare institutions.
  • Make a customized schedule and accept the contracts at a convenient time and location.
  • Hone their abilities by learning how various hospitals operate.
  • Earn a respectable compensation with perks that, depending on the contract, may include travel reimbursement, stipends, or other incentives.

The largest opportunity in a life as a travel nurse is the chance to work as a registered nurse and impact people's lives at hospitals that need the knowledge, skills and talent you’ll gain from the Madonna ABSN program. You'll be helping hospitals that need you and helping patients by providing them with life-saving treatment.

How to Become a Travel Nurse

A career as a travel nurse can be a lucrative way to see the world while doing a job you love. If you’re thinking about becoming a travel nurse, be sure to review the steps below.

1. Earn a BSN

The first step toward becoming a travel nurse is earning your BSN. Rather than spending two to four years earning a BSN in a traditional nursing program, the Madonna University ABSN program can prepare eligible students to step out into the world prepared to pursue a career in nursing in as few as 16 months.

The Madonna ABSN program combines online learning, hands-on labs and clinical placements to make sure you graduate ready to sit confidently for the nurse licensure exam, known as the NCLEX.

Madonna ABSN student working with sim manikin

Interested in learning more about the Madonna ABSN program? ABSN students explain what nursing school is like.

2. Complete 1–2 Years as an RN

Before most healthcare organizations will consider you a qualifying travel nurse candidate, you’ll need to spend at least one to two years as a working nurse. It’s during this time that you will be able to learn how a hospital runs smoothly, how to adapt to best practices, and how to define your role successfully.

3. Find the Right Travel Nursing Job

Once you’ve completed your BSN and gained experience working as a registered nurse for a couple of years, you’ll be ready to start applying to travel nurse positions.

It’s not uncommon for travel nurses to change jobs much more often than a typical nurse as they accept new contracts. Some travel nurses even start searching for jobs eight weeks after they’ve begun their current job, while others renew their contract to stay in their positions for a longer period of time.

Of course, if you take the first route, making time to apply for jobs, interview, and complete all the paperwork once you’ve landed the job can feel like a lot to manage.

nurse riding on a subway

Fortunately, there are resources available to help travel nurses navigate all of the above as well as negotiating contracts and pay. As a travel nurse, you’ll find that recruiters can help by doing most of the legwork required to help you find and apply for appropriate positions.

Travel Nurse Specializations

As a travel nurse, it’s important to come prepared and ready to think on your feet. You should already have a great understanding of how a hospital runs, and you’ll need to be ready to fit in seamlessly. After all, hospitals hiring travel nurses will expect you to contribute after just a brief orientation to the unit.

If you want to be a travel nurse, it’s important to be prepared with the knowledge that some specialties are in higher demand than others. After earning your generalist nursing degree, you can choose to specialize and receive additional certifications.

Specialties with the highest demand include:

  • Intensive care / critical care
  • Step down / progressive care
  • Telemetry
  • Medical surgical
  • Operating room
  • Emergency room
  • Labor & delivery
  • Neonatal intensive care
  • Pediatric intensive care
  • Post-anesthesia care

Of course, it’s still possible to be a travel nurse if your specialty is not in high demand. However, it will require greater flexibility with location, shift, and pay on your part.

That’s exactly why it’s so important to choose an ABSN program that has immersive clinical placements. At Madonna University, our clinical rotations empower you to “try on” a variety of specialties, like those listed above, to see which may be the perfect fit for you.

Is Travel Nursing Right for You?

It may be a good fit if you are:

  • A self-starter
  • Determined
  • Comfortable with frequent relocation
  • Flexible

Get Started on Your Accelerated BSN Education Today!

Madonna ABSN student using laptop computer to study

If pursuing a career as a travel nurse is something that sounds right for you, Madonna University’s accelerated nursing program is here to help you leverage your existing college credits and achieve your goals.

Get started today by connecting with one of our admission representatives. In addition to answering any questions you may have about the program, they will help determine your eligibility and identify any prerequisite courses you need to complete.