By Sarah Wengert
Our expert team of travel healthcare recruiters gets a lot of great questions from aspiring travelers, including the very common: How much experience is necessary to be a travel nurse?
The experience requirement for travel nurses is typically 1-2 years. However, the answer to this question ultimately depends on each unique facility, specialty, and other such factors. But overall, if you want to know how to get started travel nursing, there’s more to it than that. So, let’s take deep dive into travel nurse experience requirements and a couple of closely related topics that will help you become a travel nurse!
How Much Experience Is Necessary to Work as a Travel Nurse?
There’s no formal, industry-wide time requirement. However, the current industry standard is that travel nurses should have at least 1-2 years of recent, in-hospital or in-facility experience to be hired as a travel nurse. Various facilities and/or units may require more experience than that, but such enhanced experience requirements are usually specified on a job posting. It’s also the kind of info your recruiter would 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 facility, your clinical skills must be road-tested and rock solid.
For you, travel nurse 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 already hired additional healthcare professionals after all! And most importantly, travel nursing experience requirements ensure better patient health outcomes and better overall patient care.
So, while it can seem like a pain to have to wait to become a travel nurse when you feel like you’re ready to start traveling ASAP, it’s all for good reasons and it only benefits you in the end. Be patient and practice your skills, the time will come soon enough. Now is the time to study the travel nursing industry and prepare! Research travel nurse companies, explore travel nursing benefits, and join online travel nurse groups so you can learn all the ins and outs in the meantime.
How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Travel Nurse?
Including nursing school, it takes approximately 3-6 years to become a travel RN. But, if you’re already a practicing nurse with the commonly required 1-2 years of in-hospital experience under your belt, then good news: You can start looking for your first job and become a travel nurse ASAP!
Let’s break this all down further into the different phases of preparation and how many years it takes to become a travel nurse.
First, there’s the education you’ll need to become a travel nurse:
- An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) takes about 2-3 years to earn.
- A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) takes about 4 years to earn.
Typically, ADN and BSN are the two main degrees held by most travel RNs, however other degrees travel nurses might have are CNA and LPN.
- Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) programs take about 4-12 weeks to complete.
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) programs take about 1 year to complete.
Of course, aside from travel nurses there are many travel allied health professionals who start their journey with a variety of education requirements depending on their roles. Nonetheless, experience requirements for travel allied health professionals also tend to be 1-2 years in-facility experience. While Medical Solutions offers many allied health jobs to choose from, in this article we’re focusing on travel nurse experience requirements, so we’ll mostly leave that discussion for another day.
After you earn your nursing degree, pass your NCLEX, and secure the necessary licenses and certifications, there’s the gaining experience part of answering the question: How many years does it take to become a travel nurse? As mentioned before, the common requirement to become a travel nurse is 1-2 years of in-hospital experience. But this standard can vary depending on your specialty and each facility’s own requirements.
Add the education and experience requirement totals together and you’re looking at:
- About 3-6 years to become a travel nurse if you’re an RN,
- About 1-3 years to become a travel nurse if you’re an LPN,
- And about 1.5-2.5 years to become a travel nurse if you’re a CNA.
How Do I Become a Travel Nurse?
If you’re completely at square one of your nursing/travel nursing journey you may still be thinking, “Great, now I understand how much travel nurse experience I’ll need after nursing school, but where do I start in the first place?!” Because it can be helpful to consider the big picture when you’re just starting out, we’ve outlined the basic steps to becoming a travel nurse or travel allied health professional in this previous blog.
Or, if you’re already a nurse and looking to travel, you’ll just need to have one to two years of recent in-hospital experience under your belt before you can apply and get hired as a traveler!
Final Thoughts on Travel Nurse Experience Requirements
As you can see, it’s really not beneficial to you or anyone else to start your travel nurse career without the required 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. You can also 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.
Whether you were wondering about how much experience is necessary to be a travel nurse, how many years it takes to become a travel nurse, or how to get started travel nursing at all, we hope this article was a helpful resource for you. Good luck in your career journey — remember, we’re always here to help you or answer any more questions!