You can see it now: your brand new adventure as a travel nurse. Packing your suitcase and heading to new locales, all while caring for patients as a nurse. You’re ready to go! Before you dive in, there are a few things you should be aware of about starting your travel nurse application process. As with any job, it’s important to have the facts and figures in front of you before you make a career decision.
Research travel nurse staffing agencies and recruiters
One of the best and easiest ways to dive into travel nursing is by signing on with a travel nurse agency. They can help with the travel nurse application. There are many reasons to go this route, not the least of which are the relationships agencies have with hospitals and other medical facilities. But just as all nurses are not the same, staffing agencies vary widely. Do research ahead of time into the agencies you’re considering: check their job posting sites for listings in regions where you want to work; dig into their website for any statistics, reviews, or other information.
Finally, don’t be afraid to interview the agency before sending out your travel nurse application. As much as the agency would be interviewing you, you can also ask questions and gain information to decide if a particular agency is right for you. Interview recruiters too; these are the people with whom you’ll be working quite closely, so it’s important for you to have a significant comfort level with your recruiter (or as we call them at Nurse First, advocates).
Get to know your taxes
As travel nurses often work in different states, and those states have different tax requirements, it’s crucial that you do your research before beginning your travel nurse job. For example, if you work primarily in one state you may be liable for that state’s income tax–regardless of whether or not that is your home state.
To that end, learn all you can about a “tax home” and how to establish yours. A “tax home” is what the Internal Revenue Service considers your primary place of residence and receiving income. Consider consulting with a tax professional for advice about this. Taking care of these details before you start traveling–and before you have to file your taxes–will save you huge headaches later on.
Learn how pay packages work
As you’ve learned about travel nursing, you may have been attracted to the pay travel nurses can earn. Although it’s true that travel nurses can earn a very good income, it’s important to understand how the pay is structured. Often the “total pay” includes an hourly rate, plus stipends, per diems, and other benefits. Before you get too excited about your overall pay, be sure you understand that things like insurance premiums and housing costs could come out of your pay package, depending on the agency you work with.
As you interview staffing agencies to determine the right fit for you, ask direct and detailed questions about how their pay packages might be structured. This will help you determine if that agency–and this career–are right for you.
Decide where you’d like to work
Although there are no guarantees that you’ll get your first pick of travel nursing locations right off the bat, you can have some say on where you end up.
One way to go about researching locations is to look for where travel nurses are in high demand. This will increase your chances of being placed where you want. Additionally, if you have specialized certifications such as NICU or telemetry, this could also increase your chances of finding the right position in the right place.
Remember that although location is meaningful, many less attractive locales may offer higher pay and better benefits for travel nurses. Don’t discount the less popular destinations, simply because they’re not Hawaii or southern California. You never know when a seemingly unattractive assignment may have hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. Travel nursing is an adventure after all; why not embrace it?
Understand how travel nursing will affect your life
Most travel nurse assignments are around 13 weeks per assignment, which means that if you decide to become a travel nurse it’s possible that you’ll be away from the place you call home for a couple of months. This takes preparation.
Do you have a spouse or a partner? What about children? How will your travel nursing impact those closest to you? If you are partnered, consider an honest conversation with your partner about the effect your absence will have. And if you have children, consider their ages and whether or not there are others in your life that could help to care for them. Talk to your travel staffing agency to see if they can help you find housing that will accommodate family needs. And if you’re single, don’t discount your relationships! Friends, parents, siblings, and other connections will be affected by your absence. Take stock of what your travel will mean!
Also consider pets, plants, and the upkeep and maintenance of your permanent place of residence. Is there someone who could take care of things for you? Perhaps a high school or college student that could pet and/or plant sit, as well as collect mail and help take care of other details?
Travel nursing can be a rewarding and lucrative career choice, especially if entered into with extensive information and intention. Doing your due diligence with research and forethought will help ensure that your time traveling will be the best it can possibly be.