By Sarah Wengert
Our expert team of travel healthcare recruiters gets a lot of great questions from aspiring travelers, including the common query: Can I be a travel nurse without experience?
The short answer is: Usually not. But don’t let that discourage you — there’s a lot more nuance to the topic than that!
There’s no formal, industry-wide time requirement, however the current industry standard is that travelers should have at least one to two years of recent hospital or facility experience to be hired as a travel nurse or travel allied health professional. Various facilities and units may require more experience, but that’s usually specified on a job posting or is info your recruiter will share with you before you apply for a travel healthcare job.
Why Do You Need Experience to Work as a Travel Nurse?
If you already worked your tail off in nursing school, did clinical rotations, passed the NCLEX with flying colors, and are able to land a perm nursing job, why wouldn’t you be able to hit the road as a traveler? It’s a totally fair question, but there are actually several good reasons why and the bottom line is that it’s ultimately about protecting you, facilities, and patients.
Travel nurses are expected to hit the ground running when they arrive at a new assignment. Orientations are often short and there’s a lot to learn when you start at a new hospital — like meeting your colleagues and understanding the hierarchy, learning hospital protocol, navigating a new charting system, and simply finding your way around in a new space. In order to be able to provide great patient care from day one, while also finding your way in a new place, your clinical skills must be road-tested and rock solid.
For you, experience requirements help protect your license, pad your resume, and facilitate a successful travel nursing experience. You don’t want to have a negative first experience, overstress yourself, or let your patient care suffer because you rushed into a travel healthcare career. For hospitals, experience requirements help reassure them that their travelers will reliably provide great care from day one of an assignment — which they really need to depend on, it’s why they’ve hired additional staff after all! And most importantly, travel nursing experience requirements ensure better patient health outcomes and better overall patient care.
Where Should You Start if You Want to Be a Travel Nurse?
We’ve outlined the basic steps to becoming a travel nurse or travel allied health professional in this previous blog. If you’re already an RN and looking to travel, you’ll just need to get one to two years of recent in-hospital experience under your belt before you can get hired as a traveler!
So, as you can see, it’s really not beneficial to you or anyone else to start your career as a travel nurse without experience. But, whether you’re currently in nursing school or already working your first perm job to gain the necessary experience to travel, it’s never too early to search jobs just to get a feel for what kind of assignments are currently available or to contact our team to get connected with your own personal recruiter who can start to understand what type of assignments and locations you’d like to pursue. That way, once you have the experience, you’ll be ready to pounce on the perfect first travel nurse assignment!