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Why Are Travel Nurses Important?

Why Are Travel Nurses Important?

Travel nurses

Travel nurses are RNs from various clinical backgrounds who work for independent staffing agencies. They are assigned to different care areas on a temporary basis to fill in short-term employment gaps.

Travel nursing is a specialty that took root when the field of nursing faced a nationwide shortage. Hospitals, clinics, and other care areas had unfilled positions, yet had patients needing care. To try and attract nurses to the open positions, employers offered higher pay, housing, and covered the cost of relocating.

Due to these shortages, health care facilities have vacancies that need to be filled—and travel nurses are often the ones to fill open positions. Not only do travel nurses work in health care in any state in the country, but they also work outside of the United States as international travel nurses. The adventure and excitement of new opportunities, along with higher-than-average pay, are facets of travel nursing that many RNs find attractive.

Travel nurses are an important part of the health care team because they help bridge the gap between supply and demand in the field of nursing. Mandatory nurse-patient ratios have led to increased patient safety and lower patient mortality. While this is a positive finding, and more and more states are passing legislation to implement staffing ratios, there are not enough nurses to fill the openings. Travel nurses assigned those open positions help to increase patient safety and improve patient outcomes.

Additionally, nurses from different educational backgrounds, care areas, and geographic locations bring a great deal to the practice of nursing. Sharing ideas and practices not only benefits patients, but also other nurses.

How to Become a Travel Nurse

A travel nurse should have the following characteristics to excel in the role:

  • Enjoys experiencing new cities, towns, and organizations
  • Enjoys freedom. Travel nurses choose when and where they work, and choose their duration of employment
  • Enjoys flexibility. Travel nurses create their schedules, benefits packages, and income-based on which agency they choose to work
  • Thrives on challenges. Moving to different states or overseas and being “the new nurse” repeatedly is challenging. Learning new organizational systems and workflows are particularly challenging
  • Loves learning new things. Each assignment takes travel nurses to new health care facilities, some with higher levels of technology or different standards of practice. Each experience helps nurses build upon their knowledge base

Additionally, travel nurses should have supportive families and friends. It’s difficult to either pack up and move an entire family or leave your family and friends behind. The flip side to this is that new relationships are formed in each new location.

What Are the Educational Requirements for Travel Nurses?

Those interested in the specialty of travel nursing should first pursue a nursing degree through a two or four-year university. Obtaining an associate’s degree (ADN) or bachelor’s degree (BSN) in nursing is required. A BSN is not required to be a travel nurse, but some health care facilities only hire BSN-prepared nurses. The staffing agency in which the nurse is employed should match the nurse appropriately based on educational requirements.

After completion of an accredited nursing program, successful completion of the NCLEX-RN is required for licensure.

Most travel nurse agencies require a minimum of one year of hands-on experience in the chosen specialty of nursing. Additionally, some agencies will only hire BSN-prepared RNs. International travel nurses should speak the language of the country they are to practice in, as communication is an important part of effective healthcare delivery. Nurses are encouraged to research agencies when considering travel nursing.

Are Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?

No additional exams are required for travel nursing. Based on the specialty, certification(s) may be required. Examples include:

  • Medical/Surgical nursing
    • Basic Life Support (BLS)
    • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) may be required
    • Stroke care certification
    • Telemetry certification
  • Intensive Care (ICU) nursing
    • Basic Life Support (BLS)
    • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
    • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
    • Critical care nursing (adults, pediatric, neonatal)
  • Women’s Health/Labor and Delivery nursing
    • Basic Life Support (BLS)
    • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) may be required
    • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) may be required
    • Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) certification
  • Emergency Room nursing
    • Basic Life Support (BLS)
    • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
    • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
    • Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP)
    • Trauma Nurse Core Course (TNCC) certification

Additional specific requirements may be necessary for international travel nurses. These include:

  • Acquiring a passport and work visa (usually handled by the agency)
  • Additional immunizations
  • Learning a new language
  • Learning about diseases unique to the area


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