Updated: 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 with your career.

Travel nursing grants you the chance to expand your skill set as well as going out of your comfort zone.

But what are the steps you have to take to become a travel nurse?

What does it mean to be a travel nurse?

When you think of a travel nurse, you may picture an exciting lifestyle filled with exotic places and grand adventures; however, that is not always the case. Travel nurses are simply nurses that work for independent nursing staffing agencies rather than one hospital. This means your workplace could be at your local hospital or a hospital across the country. You’re always able to decide where you go. This generally is for a specific period of time though. If you like where you end up you can always extend your time there. If you do not enjoy your stay, you have the opportunity to travel to find the right fit.

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 have an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in nursing are all able to become travel nurses. 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 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  the state you originally obtained your license in is not a compact license state, or the state your future assignment is not part of the NLC, 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.

Here at Skillgigs, with our licensure reimbursement program, you can travel to top hospitals across the U.S. doing what you love! We’ll work with you to get your license by endorsement in the states you want to travel to while reimbursing you for that license.

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 show 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.

Time is the Key

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 such as the ICU. Some hospitals also prefer to hire nurses with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). So be sure to check the official requirements.

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 that 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. 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.

Are You Prepared For Travel Nursing

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! Sometimes it may seem tough, but the rewards, adventures, and the lives you affect will make the lifestyle worth while.

Curious about Skillgigs? CLICK HERE!

Interested in Travel Healthcare? CLICK HERE!

Looking for more career advice or healthcare news? CLICK HERE!