Pre-Requisites to Becoming a Travel Nurse

The travel nursing career offers many appeals, such as the opportunity to visit a wide variety of places, competitive pay, and flexibility in your career. Furthermore, travel nursing grants you the chance to expand your skill set as well as go out of your comfort zone. But what are the steps you have to take to become a travel nurse? Continue reading about the prerequisites to determine if this profession is suitable for you.

What does it mean to be a travel nurse?

When the term travel nurse is mentioned, you may picture an exciting life filled with exotic places, but that’s not always the case. Travel nurses are simply nurses who have worked for independent nursing staffing agencies rather than one hospital. This means your workplace could be at your local hospital or a hospital out of the country. You’re always able to decide where you’d rather go, but travel nursing does not necessarily mean travel to distant locations.

Licensure for Travel Nursing

The most important requirement travel nurses must meet is having an active RN license. Any nurse who’s completed a diploma program, are Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), or has an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in nursing is able to become a travel nurse. Typically, travel nurses are RNs rather than LPNs, but this can change based on the location and staffing needs of each assignment. If you plan on staying within the United States, it may be necessary to obtain the licensure in the state you will be working in. However, if you got your original license within a Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) state like Florida, Texas, or Arizona, and your assignment is within another NLC state, your license is valid in all NLC states. If this does not apply to you, and the state you originally obtained your license in is not a compact license state, or the state your future assignment is in is not, you will need to get another license available for use in that state. The staffing agency you are working with can help you to obtain it.

Experience Needed to Become a Travel Nurse

In addition to a nursing license valid for your location, you will need to have the basic certifications of Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) to join a travel nursing agency. If you would like to specialize in a specific unit, you may want to gain the credentials for that area. For example, critical care may require a CCRN certification, and labor and delivery and postpartum care may require an NRP. The majority of travel nursing agencies require nurses to get and keep track of all their certifications on their own, so it may benefit you to prepare to enter your specialty field choice with all of the requirements.

Taxable Income for Travel Nurses

Although most recruiters for travel nurses tend to focus on the financial perks, it is just as important to explore the downsides. Specifically, there are a few implications on the topic of taxes that are crucial to your success. To become a travel nurse, you need to prove to the IRS that you have a full-time residence during the times that you aren’t working actively. You can still work as a travel nurse without a permanent home, but this will require you to register as an itinerant worker, meaning that you must pay taxes on all of your income. If you do have a permanent home, only your base wage pay is taxable, while stipends, meals, housing, and travel reimbursement is non-taxable.

Of course, there are both benefits and drawbacks to having a higher taxable income. On the one hand, you will have to pay more taxes, but your adjusted income will also be higher for loan purposes or Social Security. Depending on the specific situation of your career, it may be more advantageous for your taxable income to be higher.

Experience Required

Although all agencies vary in numerous ways, most of them will require nurses to have at least one to two years of hands-on experience before recruitment. However, the number of years of experience required will increase if you plan on working in a specialized ward as a travel nurse.

Your Nursing License

As a travel nurse, it is important to be up to date on the license requirements for different states. Depending on your license and the states you work in, your method of maintenance may remain precisely the same or drastically change.

If you are a nurse with a compact license, all you need to do is keep track of the home state where you received your original license. When you renew your home state license as required, your licenses for new locations will also be automatically updated.

However, if you had to apply for an additional state license, you must renew your home state license as well as your license in new locations. Furthermore, specific states may also have special requirements. For example, Washington and Florida require all nurses to get the Continued Education Units for specific areas of expertise.

Overall, it is always a good idea to be as prepared as possible for the challenges that you may face as a travel nurse. Be sure that you have a couple of years of experience under your belt, an active license, and an open mind before taking on the occupation!

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