A Look at 11 Travel Nursing Requirements

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Are you curious about how to become a travel nurse? There are a few travel nursing requirements you'll need to meet. First, earn your nursing degree and pass the NCLEX-RN to obtain a nursing license. Then, gain some clinical experience and apply to a travel nurse agency.

nurse in car looking out window

Becoming a registered nurse (RN) will open a world of possibilities. You can choose from a variety of workplace settings and nursing specialties — from pediatrics to oncology and beyond. You can even change workplaces every few months if you wish. How?

By becoming a travel nurse, you can indulge a passion for travel and adventure while caring for those needing a healing touch. You can work toward a career as a travel nurse or any other type of nurse at Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU). Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with our Accelerated 2nd Degree ABSN program in as few as 15 months!

Let’s take a closer look at how to become a travel nurse and the typical travel nursing requirements.

What Is Travel Nursing?

Before you can work toward meeting the travel nursing qualifications, you need a working understanding of what travel nursing entails. A travel nurse is a licensed nurse who works on a contractual, temporary basis for different health care facilities. Hospitals and other health care organizations often have temporary staffing shortages, and they bridge the gap with the travel nursing workforce.

Travel nurses work for a travel nurse agency (there are many of them). The agency provides benefits packages and reimbursements and connects nurses to different jobs across the country. Travel nurses can choose which jobs they apply for. Then, if the health care facility hires them, travel nurses temporarily relocate to work for a set time (usually a few weeks to a few months).

Travel nursing can be an exciting career for an RN who enjoys seeing new places, meeting new people, and tackling new challenges. It’s also highly flexible, as RNs can take as much time off between assignments as they wish.

nurse on roadside wearing mask

How to Become a Travel Nurse

We’ll take a closer look at how to become a travel nurse below, but here’s the gist of what you need to know. To become a travel nurse, you must first earn a nursing degree, such as by completing the ABSN program at NDMU. Then, you need to obtain licensure by passing the NCLEX-RN. After gaining some clinical experience, you can apply to a travel nurse agency.

Note that while travel nurses can choose from a range of specialties, travel alone isn’t a specialty. Travel nurses may specialize in critical care nursing, pediatrics, adult-gerontology, or other nursing specialties.

nurse looking at sonogram with expecting mom

Curious about how to choose a nursing specialty? Check out this blog!

Travel Nursing Requirements: Your Step-by-Step Process

Are you ready to get started meeting the travel nurse qualifications? It starts with choosing the right nursing school for your needs. For example, if you have completed a non-nursing baccalaureate degree, you don’t need to return to school for another four years. Instead, you may be eligible to apply to NDMU’s ABSN program, which confers a BSN in as few as 15 months.

1. Earn Your Nursing Degree

If you attend an ABSN program, you’ll work through nursing coursework and experiential learning components on an accelerated schedule. However, an ABSN program provides the same quality of instruction as a four-year nursing program (minus the general education curriculum). If you enroll in NDMU’s ABSN program, you can expect to do the following:

  • Choose from online or on-campus nursing coursework
  • Complete in-person nursing skills and simulation labs to develop nursing skills
  • Practice delivering patient care at Baltimore-area health care facilities during clinical rotations (“clinicals”)

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN

Once you’ve completed your nursing degree, you’ll be eligible to sit for the NCLEX. This licensure exam is quite rigorous, so it’s best to begin studying for it shortly after you enroll in nursing school. You need a firm foundation of nursing knowledge, but passing the NCLEX doesn’t rely upon rote memorization.

Instead, the NCLEX measures a nurse candidate’s ability to assess clinical situations, review possible courses of action, and develop appropriate clinical responses to patient scenarios. In other words, it tests your critical thinking and clinical decision-making abilities. Passing the NCLEX is a necessity for obtaining your nursing license. But not to worry — if you don’t pass the first time, you can retake it.

2 nursing students reviewing coursework

3. Obtain Nursing Licensure

The next step in how to become a travel nurse is obtaining state licensure. RNs need a state-issued license to practice in their state. Does this mean that travel nurses need a license for every state they work in?

Not necessarily. Most U.S. states are members of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). By obtaining a multistate license under the NLC, you’re automatically licensed to practice in every member state.

For now, you could obtain only a state-issued license, not a multistate one. You’ll need clinical experience before you can work as a travel nurse.

4. Gain Clinical Experience

Clinical experience is indeed a key part of meeting the travel nursing requirements. Once you’ve obtained a state license, you can apply for nursing jobs in your area. You need a few years of bedside experience before becoming a travel nurse.

This is your opportunity to learn and grow as a new nurse. During your first few years as an RN, don’t hesitate to ask questions and request feedback from the charge nurse and other more experienced colleagues.

emergency personnel helping someone onto a helicopter

There are plenty of non-traditional nursing jobs to consider. Explore these 10 non-bedside nursing jobs!

5. Obtain Additional Certifications

Clinical experience can also help you determine which nursing specialty you want to pursue. Although your specialty may not require it, you can bolster your career credentials by obtaining one or more nursing certifications.

There are many certifications to consider. For example, you can pursue certification in ostomy care, palliative pediatrics, dialysis, and beyond. Each has its own eligibility requirements.

6. Choose a Travel Nurse Agency

When you’re ready, you can start researching travel nurse agencies. Compare the options, ensuring you understand the differences in benefits and reimbursements, policies, and support resources. If you encounter a travel nurse at your own health care facility, this is an excellent opportunity to ask questions about which agency they work for and whether they recommend it (and why or why not).

7. Apply to the Agency

Once you’ve chosen a travel nurse agency and met its travel nursing requirements, you can put your application package together. Expect to be asked for documentation proving your credentials. You’ll also likely have a remote interview.

NDMU student wearing stethoscope and smiling

8. Select Your First Assignment

After being accepted to the travel nurse agency, you can begin combing through its database of available assignments. You can typically search the job listings by geographic location and nursing specialty. When perusing the listings, keep in mind that the cost of living is different from one place to another. Consider researching the cost of living in a particular location when evaluating whether its salary offer is reasonable.

9. Ace Your Interview

Once you select a job and apply for it, your travel nurse agency recruiter (your main point of contact at the agency) will typically make the initial contact with the health care facility and perhaps even set up the appointment. Interviews will usually occur by phone or videoconferencing software. It’s essential to prepare for your interview just like any other job interview; be ready to start on time, dress professionally, and prepare a list of questions.

10. Sign a Job Contract

If you meet the travel nursing qualifications and the facility hires you, you’ll receive a contract to review. Don’t hesitate to ask your recruiter for clarification if anything in the contract is unclear. Be sure to read the entire document before you sign it.

11. Get Ready to Relocate!

Now comes the exciting part — getting ready to travel! You may decide to stay in agency housing, or you can receive a housing reimbursement if you prefer to find housing on your own. Spend time researching your new location, such as its major points of interest and transportation options.

Are Travel Nurses in Demand?

All types of RNs are in demand across the U.S. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates job growth for RNs to be 6% from 2022 through 2032, faster than average. This indicates that health care employers expect to hire about 177,400 new nurses through this period.

Begin Your Nursing Career Today!

NDMU ABSN student sitting at desk studying

No matter where your career takes you, you can build a firm foundation for the future at Notre Dame. Our friendly and knowledgeable admissions counselors are here to guide you through each step of the ABSN admissions process — from eligibility review to application submission.

Are you ready to work toward meeting travel nursing requirements and graduate with your nursing degree in as few as 15 months? Contact our admissions team today!