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What to expect when working as a travel nurse

Travel nursing is a unique job opportunity for healthcare professionals who are looking for a more flexible work experience and want to live in different areas throughout the year. This type of role is ideal for those who don’t want to settle permanently in one place or wish to live temporarily in a new area while still maintaining a nursing career. 

If you’re already working in nursing or exploring becoming a travel nurse, the path offers you the chance to see different locations, meet new people, and continue your career in healthcare. To become a travel nurse, you will need an education from a highly ranked and respected program such as the online nursing master’s programs offered by Spring Arbor University. Here is a look at everything you need to know about this fascinating role and how you can start working as a traveling nurse.

The job of a travel nurse

A travel nurse is someone who completes temporary contracts in different locations, returning to their home base at the end of each assignment. Every assignment has challenges, but a traveling nurse can expect to see various settings and patients. 

Different assignment types exist, including regular, contract, and relief. The most common are regular assignments, which are typically 39 hours a week. Contract assignments last for a specific period, such as six weeks, while relief assignments are usually short-term and last between five and 14 days.

For nurses seeking flexibility and diverse experiences, short-term travel nursing jobs can be an excellent option. These assignments provide the opportunity to work in various healthcare settings for a limited duration, allowing nurses to gain valuable skills and explore different locations, all while maintaining a flexible schedule that suits their preferences and lifestyles.

Skills and requirements

The best way to start exploring the world of travel nursing is by understanding the different requirements and skills needed. Every employer has a unique job description, but a few skills and experience levels are common across the industry. 

For example, you should know that a travel nurse needs to meet the same level of care and competency as a regular nurse. Moreover, travel nurses must communicate well with patients, their families, and other healthcare team members. You will also need previous experience working as a nurse. However, the exact expertise level required varies between employers. Depending on where you plan to work, you may also need a specific license or certification.

Finding the right location

When you start out in travel nursing, finding the right location to begin your new career is essential. Finding a good fit for you can help you succeed, and enjoying your experience as a traveling nurse from the outset is critical. 

Explore different areas by considering factors such as the cost of living. You will also need to take factors such as salary and travel costs to get to each assignment into account. There’s no single “best” location for travel nursing; opportunities exist in many different places.

The culture shock

Travel nursing is an excellent way to see many parts of the country and the world while continuing your nursing career, but it isn’t always easy to transition from one location to the next. For one, a challenging aspect of travel nursing is living in a new place every few months. That can create culture shock. You may have to learn a language, adapt to new ways of doing things, and make new friends. Although you can prepare for this, you should expect to encounter some challenges and have to deal with occasional homesickness. These feelings are normal, and you can find ways to overcome them.

Is working as a traveling nurse right for you?

Travel nursing is an excellent option for many healthcare professionals, but you need to take some time to consider whether it’s right for you. Travel nursing has many advantages, but as with anything, some challenges exist. If you decide to do it, you can ease the transition by mentally preparing yourself and ensuring you have all the information needed for success. 

Tips for success as a traveling nurse

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a travel nurse, we have a few tips to help you succeed. First, you should ensure that travel nursing is the right career path for you. You should assess the long-term viability of this type of career and how it may affect your family. 

When you’re ready to start looking for assignments, be sure to do your research. Many companies hire traveling nurses, and each has its own requirements and timeline for accepting applications. Finally, you must ensure you have all of the necessary certifications and licenses before applying.

Honing key skills for travel nursing

Traveling nurses are essentially generalists. Since they don’t work in one specific facility, they must have many skills. As a result, a solid foundation in general nursing skills can help you succeed as a traveling nurse. You should be able to recognize and respond to a wide range of health issues and know how to administer medications appropriately. 

It should come as no surprise that you will need the skills to deal with everything from minor emergencies to serious and life-threatening situations. However, here is a look at some of the skills outside of medicine that you will need to develop for a travel nursing career.

Clear communication skills

Traveling nurses need to communicate clearly with patients, colleagues and supervisors as you may not always have the luxury of spending extra time to clarify a point during an intense situation. 

Learning to communicate effectively helps you build more productive relationships with all the people you interact with daily. Some critical communication skills you need to develop for travel nursing include:

  • Active listening: This is a skill anyone can develop, but few people use it effectively. Active listening is not just about hearing what someone says; it also requires understanding their meaning. It is one of the most critical communication skills. 
  • Effective speaking: Good communication includes both listening and speaking skills. You need to be able to speak in a way that others can understand what you say. When talking to patients, you should avoid jargon or medical terms unless the person you speak with knows their meaning. You must also speak in a way that promotes understanding. You may have to speak quickly in a stressful situation, so you should practice clear and effective speaking.

Expect the unexpected

The nature of travel nursing means that you’ll work in different facilities across the country. This type of work comes with its own challenges. For example, it could mean that you may not know what you’ll do from one day to the next. Therefore, it’s essential to prepare for the unexpected. Work on maintaining a positive attitude even in difficult situations, as keeping your cool goes a long way toward helping you handle the unexpected. 

Keep your eyes open because travel nursing is full of opportunities, but you should also prepare to experience some less pleasant situations. You’ll deal with all types of people and situations and may see things that might be new to you or that you might not like. Keep your eyes open and be ready to handle almost anything.

Openness to learning about other cultures

One of the great things about travel nursing is exploring different parts of the country – or even the world. For example, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about other cultures, people, and lifestyles. Be open to these new experiences and remain as objective as possible. Remember, it never hurts to ask questions if you don’t know something. 

This experience is one that will inevitably open your eyes to new cultures, so you should consider it a fantastic adventure as you learn about other ways of life and explore the country. If you’re open to learning about other cultures, your work will be much more meaningful.

An extremely rewarding experience as a traveling nurse

If you’re considering becoming a travel nurse, you know that one of the pluses is getting to see new places and experience different types of people while having the chance to work at various healthcare facilities across the country. If you’re researching nursing as a career or are already a nurse, there is a good chance that you love helping others and enjoy being challenged. If you want to do something different and challenging, this could be the perfect job for you. A lot of hard work and preparation goes into becoming a traveling nurse, but it can be a very enriching experience.