Andrew Wettengel / Tuesday, November 30, 2021 / Categories: Work World


Travel nursing is a popular career path that many nursing students hope to pursue someday. From traveling across the country to learning new skills to taking advantage of other benefits the career offers, travel nursing is a great opportunity.

Many aspiring travelers have the same question: can you become a traveling nurse straight out of college? The short answer: no. Though it can happen, travel nursing agencies will rarely hire you without at least some prior work experience.

OneStaff Medical looks to place nurses with some experience. If you’re a new nursing graduate, here are some things to know about the travel nursing industry and how you can pursue this career path in the future.

How Much Experience Do Travel Nurses Need?

New graduates are rarely placed right out of nursing school; instead, travel nursing agencies look for nurses with at least one to two years of registered nursing experience. While this is not an industry-wide requirement, it is a standard that hospitals and other healthcare facilities follow closely.

Specialized facilities or units may require more than two years of experience. If you’re looking to work in a different medical unit, such as the ICU or Labor and Delivery, travel nursing agencies will generally require even more than one or two years of experience before placing you in a travel assignment. These requirements are typically listed in the job posting, so you know  before applying for the position.

Fortunately, once you’re a Registered Nurse (RN) and have your foot in the door, you will be constantly met with new challenges and opportunities for gaining experience. Working in a healthcare facility day-to-day gives you exposure to different medical units and real-life scenarios that will be helpful once you start traveling.

What New Grads Need to Know About Travel Nursing

If travel nursing is your dream career, you may be wondering what you can do to get there. As a traveling nurse, you will be employed by an independent nursing staffing agency rather than a particular hospital or facility. You can also choose when and where you work, allowing you to pick what assignments work best for you.

Here are some other helpful things to know about travel nursing.

Why You Need Experience

There are many good reasons why travel nursing requires experience. Even if you were a great nursing student, completed all required clinical rotations, and passed your exams, it’s not recommended that you immediately start traveling. This is to protect you, your patients, and the healthcare facilities.

With travel nursing assignments usually only being around 13 weeks, orientations for the position are often very short. Any introduction or orientation that occurs may only last a day or two. At the beginning of a new assignment, you have a lot to learn—especially if it’s a hospital you’ve never worked at before.

Besides meeting new coworkers, you also must learn the hospital’s protocols and methods of care. Chances are, their charting systems and clinical procedures will be slightly different than what you’ve worked with before. You will also have to navigate the new space and find your way around the facility.

As a traveling nurse, you’re expected to adapt very quickly when you start a new assignment. You must provide excellent care to patients even on day one, so your nursing skills need to be advanced and solid. With experience already under your belt, it’s easier to jump in and adjust as needed.

Many hospitals hire traveling nurses to fill in if there’s a staffing shortage at the facility. If a medical unit is understaffed, core staff may not be available to assist you. That’s why it’s important for traveling nurses to remain calm under pressure, stay organized, make quick and informed decisions, and recognize when they need to step up and help.

Additionally, hospitals are more willing to trust you with patients when you have experience on your resume. If you rush into traveling, your first assignment may turn into a nightmare; you might overstress about everything, and your patient care outcomes may suffer because of it. With more experience, you are seen as a reliable nurse who knows what they’re doing from day one.

Travel Nursing Requirements

Besides experience, there are other requirements for travel nursing. After graduating from an accredited nursing program, you must pass the NCLEX exam to be considered a Registered Nurse. You also must apply for your nursing license through the state in which you live.

If you eventually become a traveling nurse, you will have to obtain licensing in each state you work in. Many nursing staffing agencies provide resources and may even offer to pay for your additional licensing.

With all required nursing certifications and two-plus years of experience, you are a great candidate for a travel nursing position.

Tips for Building Your Resume

Because you aren’t able to become a travel nurse with no experience, it’s important to use your first two years of registered nursing to build your resume. By earning various certifications, you can broaden your clinical skills and qualify for more jobs. Positions with more extensive requirements also typically provide a higher compensation.

In the meantime, consider these tips for building your resume before you start traveling:

  • Mix It Up: Try working in different environments. The dynamic at a busy, urban medical center will be different than that of a smaller, rural community hospital. You are likely to encounter both types of positions once you start traveling as a nurse.
  • Work in an Acute-Care Center: Hospitals tend to hire travelers when they need to fill staffing gaps. Nurses in these positions must work with minimal supervision and adapt to the environment quickly. Working in an acute-care center helps you gain experience in a certain specialty while learning the necessary nursing skills.
  • Try a Nursing Specialty: Traveling nurses can work in many different specialties. Before traveling, consider getting certified in specialties you’re interested in, such as Surgery, Labor and Delivery, Neonatal Intensive Care, Pediatrics, Post-Anesthesia Care, Intensive Care, Emergency, and many others. These certifications will show potential employers that you want to provide the best patient care possible and remain proactive in your position.
  • Be Flexible: Show flexibility in when you work, including your choice of shifts and days off. Be willing to float around when needed and help where you can. This will guarantee that you will learn a range of skills and have experience working in specialties that may not be your first choice.

Using a Travel Nursing Agency

Once you’ve filled all requirements and you’ve gained experience as an RN, talk to a recruiter at a nursing staffing agency to find the assignment that’s right for you.

Some nurses know they want to travel the moment they graduate school. Others work in a permanent position for many years and then decide that they want to travel in their mid- to late-career. A travel nursing agency can work with you to discuss your career goals and find the right position for you.

At OneStaff Medical, we want all of our nurses to find a travel assignment that fits their life and experiences and fulfills their career goals. To get started or to find out more information, contact us today at 877-783-1483.

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