Ask a Travel Nurse: How can a nursing student prepare to travel in the future?

Ask a Travel Nurse, Career Advice

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Ask a Travel Nurse expert: How can a nursing student prepare to travel in the future?

Ask a Travel Nurse Question:

I am going to college soon for nursing and I hope to become a Travel Nurse after a year of hospital experience. I have a few questions about how I can prepare:

  • Is it easy to make friends with other nurses?
  • What are some skills that will benefit me in Travel Nursing?
  • How did you choose the right agency?
  • Is it hard being in an unfamiliar city without family and friends?

Thank you very much!

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

I cannot tell you what the climate will be when you graduate from nursing school, but currently, most hospitals are now wanting a full two years of hospital based experience. You might be able to start a little sooner with a high dem and specialty like critical care, but for most specialties, two years will be the norm.

Whether or not you make friends easily is entirely dependent on you and the efforts you make in meeting new people. However, even though I tend to be pretty outgoing, I have worked assignments where I did not see a single staff member outside of work. But I’ve also worked places where I was doing something with someone from the unit at least once a week. It really depends on the unit and the staff working in that unit. I’ve worked units where many of the nurses were older with families and I’ve worked units where half the staff were other travelers around my age.

When you are ready to travel, you must have several key traits to be a travel nurse. By the time you are looking to start travel, you should be very proficient in your practice and your skills. If you are still seeking out others to help start your IV’s, that won’t fly. Neither will relying on others such as “rapid response teams” to help you assess and treat your patient as they become unstable.

You are required to be a very independent practitioner when you are on the road and must have a comfort level being the person in charge. You simply must be a patient advocate and be able to rely on good nursing skills to push for appropriate care. It is a huge responsibility and I say this not to scare you away from travel, but to make sure that you possess the skills to keep you, and your patients, safe while they are in your care. In other words, even if we do drop back to only requiring a year of experience to travel, do not hit the road until you are certain you are ready for the responsibility.

As for choosing an agency, a little premature there. Word of mouth is best and checking out the online travel forums is always a place to read up a bit. However, we are talking about years from now and there is just no way to tell what the industry will look like at that time.

Being away from family and friends will depend on your ability to cope with that situation. If you have never been out from under your parent’s roof, never done your own laundry (perhaps mostly a “guy” thing there), or have never had to deal with a situation (like your car won’t start or locking yourself out of your apartment), without calling a friend or family member for help, then taking a travel assignment in a city hundreds or even thous and s of miles away might be a little much to h and le.

Please do not feel as if I am labeling YOU this way. It’s just that I have heard from nurses who take contracts three states away from home and then can’t deal with all the things they’ve never had to do on their own before. You MUST be ready to go out into the world before taking a travel assignment.

Are you a person who keeps to yourself or seeks out your own fun? What happens if the unit you work in is comprised of people ten years older than you, all with families? What if you just have nothing in common with your peers? You need to be able to venture out on your own and discover the area and all the things it has to offer.

I am an avid photographer. That hobby pretty much lends itself to solo expeditions. But I’ve also taken up SCUBA diving, skydiving, flying, surfing, and rock climbing/repelling, while on assignments, simply by taking classes with others interested in those activities.

And, with cell phone receptions these days, you are likely never more than the press of a button in speaking with family and friends. Last week I actually Skyped with a friend 2000 miles away (via smartphone) while on a break from four-wheeling in the s and dunes just outside of Phoenix.

I hope this helps with some of your questions, but I’d also like to direct you to my book that I’ve made available online. It outlines ALL the traits you should possess in becoming a travel nurse as well as walking you through the entire process. Despite being written in 2009, almost all of the book still rings true today. I’m trying to get the second edition out here in 2014, but have too many other things going on right now. So, I made the first edition available on Amazon Kindle for less than the cost of your next meal at McDonald’s.

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download free programs or apps to read it from any computer, tablet, or smartphone. You can find it here.

I do recommend the book as I spent a year of my life putting in every aspect of travel nursing that I have learned over the past 18 years as a travel nurse.

One more piece of advice I can give is to specialize early. Meaning, once you get out of nursing school, figure out in what type of specialty you want to practice. Then work on getting into that area right away if you can (specialties like critical care may not be available to new-grads where you live). Also, get proficient on all your skills like IV starts, Foley and NG insertions, and assessment skills.

Hope this helps 🙂




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