Andrew Wettengel / Tuesday, February 21, 2023 / Categories: Work World


One of the keys to moving forward in your travel nursing career is making sure you are making plenty of professional connections along the way. While your experiences and skills will take you far, you also want to have travel nursing references in your back pocket—especially as you look to apply to future assignments and positions.

So, how exactly do you obtain travel nursing references? Today, we’ll give you a few key tips and tricks to ensure your resume stays in tip-top shape with the references you need.

Why Is It Important to Have References as a Travel Nurse?

Like any other career field, it’s important to have references that can speak to your previous work, both in the tasks you complete and how you interact with others in the workplace. A travel nurse reference is a vital aspect of the hiring process for many healthcare facilities. It provides an opportunity for previous employers to endorse your skills and work ethic, making it an essential tool for a nurse’s career growth.

Different healthcare facilities will have different requirements regarding references. While some may be more flexible and not need any, most of the time, these facilities will ask for contacts to speak on your behalf.

Though it may be possible to land a travel nursing assignment without references, healthcare facilities are more likely to hire you when they can talk to someone who’s previously worked with you. For some facilities, having solid references may be the yes or no factor when determining if you are right for the position.

Additionally, if you ever decide to leave the travel nursing world and transition back to a more permanent, solitary position, you’ll want to have references that will back you up and vouch for who you are as an employee.

What Makes a Good Travel Nursing Reference?

While there may be a myriad of people who could act as references for you as a travel nurse, you’ll want to pick and choose carefully. Your travel nursing references should be able to speak to your competency, dependability, and proficiency while also offering an honest review of your work.

First and foremost, the best reference you can obtain will be from a previous supervisor. In fact, healthcare facilities would rather see references from someone in a supervisory position than your regular coworkers, friends, or acquaintances. A supervisor can effectively showcase who you are as a nurse and likely won’t sugarcoat anything, since they’ve seen your performance and skills in action.

Other characteristics that make a great travel nursing reference include the following:

  • Timeliness: It is crucial to have references that are recent and up-to-date. A reference from a previous employer you worked with a year or two ago may not be as valuable as a reference from a more recent supervisor, such as from the assignment you just left. Skills and experience change over time, so you want someone who knows about your work ethic now rather than what they saw years ago.
  • Specificity: A reference should be able to provide specific examples of your strengths and abilities. Someone that simply states that you are "great" without providing any specifics is not as valuable as one that highlights specific examples of your skills in action. A detailed reference is far more valuable than one that is vague and stereotypical.
  • Professionalism: Each reference you receive needs to be written in a professional manner, free from any typos or grammatical errors. It should also be clear and concise to ensure your strengths and accomplishments are fully highlighted.
  • Honesty: Any reference that is overly positive and lacks credibility can actually hurt you more than help you. Instead, you’ll want a reference that is honest and straightforward and who can showcase your strengths and areas for improvement.

6 Tips for Getting Travel Nurse References

Now that you know what makes a great travel nursing reference, here are some tips to follow to find the best references for you.

  1. Plan Ahead

Don’t wait until the last minute to start thinking about your references. Begin building relationships with your coworkers, supervisors, and managers early in your nursing career. Stay in touch with them, even after you’ve moved on to new assignments. This way, when you need a reference someday, they’ll be more likely to remember you and be willing to write a positive one.

  1. Show Dependability During Your Assignment

The best way to ensure that you’ll receive a positive reference in the future is by showing your dependability and work ethic during your assignment. You’ll want to always perform to the highest of your ability and show that you are dependable in all settings. This means showing up to work on time, helping other staff out when needed, and even taking on extra shifts if the facility is short-staffed.

Other ways to build trust during a travel nursing assignment may include:

  • Working collectively as a team with fellow travelers, permanent nurses, and other hospital and medical personnel.
  • Sharing accurate and credible knowledge with others.
  • Asking questions about different hospital policies and procedures.
  • Fostering genuine friendships.
  • Attending workplace or team-building events.
  1. Keep a Positive Attitude

Nobody wants to work with someone who has a negative attitude, as it can quickly make the work environment hostile and toxic, leading to unnecessary drama. Instead, focus on keeping a positive attitude day-to-day—even if you are burnt out or experiencing compassion fatigue.

If you’re struggling at work, your coworkers are likely feeling the same way. Keeping a positive attitude will make a huge impact on others around you, especially your supervisors. Your managers and supervisors will recognize your positivity and remember you not only for your dependability but also for your positive personality.

  1. Communicate Openly with Your Supervisor

Even after your assignment is complete, you’ll want to keep communication open with your supervisor. Inform your supervisor ahead of time if a travel nursing staffing agency or another healthcare facility will be calling and counting on them for a reference. If they are expecting the call, they are more likely to answer and provide a solid reference for you.

  1. Provide the Right Information

You’ll need to provide the right information about the position you’re applying for to the right people. Give your references a copy of your resume, job description, and any other relevant information about the assignment you’re going for. This will help them tailor their reference to the specific skills and experiences the employer may want.

  1. Leave Your Assignment on a Good Note

Always leave each travel nursing assignment on a good note, as not doing so can quickly derail your travel nursing career. This means giving advanced notice when you’re planning on leaving, being polite and respectful to your supervisor and peers, and keeping in touch if necessary.

You’ll also want to follow up if you receive a reference from a previous employer. Take the time to say thank you with a note, call, or email. This will show your appreciation and help maintain your relationship with that individual.

Getting great travel nurse references is crucial for securing new assignments and advancing your career. By planning ahead and choosing the right people, you can increase your chances of getting strong and positive references that will help you go far in the future.

OneStaff Medical is a travel nursing agency that can help you find the perfect assignment. Our recruiters will work one-on-one with you as you search for your next travel position. To get started, contact us today

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