Before COVID-19 hit, travel nursing was a fast-growing profession. And unlike most other travel, the virus made travel nursing an essential part of the country’s recovery from it. Due to staff shortages, many facilities found themselves in desperate need of travel nurses to fill the necessary roles.
Now that vaccinations are on the rise and cases of COVID are on the decline, are travel nurses still in demand? The answer is yes. Hospitals and other medical facilities depend on travel nurses as capable substitutes and supplements for their local staff, providing excellent care no matter the situation.
You can still get started on this exciting and fulfilling career if you meet the travel nurse requirements.
Top Travel Nurse Requirements
Licensing Travel Nurse Requirements
The main travel nursing requirement is becoming a Registered Nurses (RN). LVNs (Licensed Vocational Nurses) are sometimes hired, but most often hospitals require an RN license. To become an RN, you must pass the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Exam for RNs) exam. Many facilities these days also require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree for their traveling nurse staff. If you have an ADN (Associates Degree in Nursing), there may be programs available to help you obtain your BSN.
You will need to be licensed in the state where you’ll be working. Many states participate in what’s known as the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), where your license in one state is good in the other cooperating states. Not all states participate in this, however; do your homework to discover what’s required in various states.
One of the travel nurse requirements from staffing agencies is a certification in BLS (Basic Life Support) and ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support). Also, consider any certifications or licenses in different travel nurse specialties. Most travel nurse staffing agencies will not pay for those certifications, so find out ahead of time what will be required.
Experience Travel Nurse Requirements
One travel nursing requirement is having at least one year of experience, but more and more hospitals are now requiring at least two years of active nursing experience. Additionally, if you are interested in specialized fields such as OB/GYN or Pediatrics, agencies and hospitals may require more extensive experience in those fields.
Tax Travel Nurse Requirements
Travel nursing taxes can be challenging. You may work in different states throughout the tax year, and be required to pay state and federal taxes on that income. Primarily, however, as a travel nurse, you will need to establish what’s called a “tax home.” According to the IRS, this is the residence where you primarily live and work. Without establishing this tax home, you could be required to file your taxes as an itinerant worker, which could lead to a higher income tax percentage for you.
Another area to research ahead of time is how your income will be taxed. For example, your hourly pay is taxable, but other elements of your pay package may not be (i.e. housing costs, per diems, etc.). Research ahead of time what travel nurse pay packages look like, and how the taxation will work.
One point to consider: having a lower hourly rate may save you money on your taxes but may lower your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), which can affect you when you apply for loans or a mortgage.
Top Requirements for Becoming a Travel Nurse in 2022:
- 2 years of RN experience
- At least 12 months of experience within the past 24 months in the specialty in which you want to travel
- At least 2 years total experience in your preferred travel nurse specialty
Find a Travel Nurse Agency
It may seem like an extra step to becoming a travel nurse, but a travel nurse staffing agency is essential in your bid to do what you love. A travel nurse agency acts as the middleman between nurses and medical facilities, handling details and logistics that are cumbersome and tricky. They can help you figure out what licensing and certifications you need for which job, and can help you procure any additional certifications you may need.
Staffing agencies maintain relationships with medical facilities in various locations, many of which you probably haven’t even thought of yet. They have experience with pay packages and travel nurse contracts and will work to match you with a good fit. Interview several staffing agencies, and consider working with more than one on an ongoing basis.
But even more important than the staffing agency is your travel nurse staffing recruiter. This person becomes your link to your goals: They will handle your intake paperwork, help you navigate the onboarding process, link you to prospective employers, and act as your liaison while you’re on the road. Your recruiter is your primary link for negotiating contracts that meet your needs, in terms of finances, location, and other details. Spend time interviewing recruiters, even more than one at the same agency. It’s critical that you develop and maintain a good working relationship with this crucial person.
Deciding to become a travel nurse and figuring out the travel nurse requirements can be an exciting–and somewhat daunting–decision. Taking time to do your research on travel nurse jobs be sure you’re properly trained and prepared can set you on your path to a successful career.