I correspond with a lot of first-time travel nurses and lately they all seem to be echoing the same sentiment: right now, it’s tough finding an assignment.
I know that in all the writing I do for this blog ( and other publications), I have thrown out this number before, but at one point last year the travel industry was down by almost 50%. While we have rebounded some, it remains hard to find your first choice of assignments, even for experienced travelers. For first-time travelers, l and ing their primary choice of locations is not the issue, l and ing an assignment at all is what has travelers worried.
I recently referred a new travel nurse to one of the travel agencies I use. They were able to find him a position, but the first job offer was only for a four week assignment. This wasn’t exactly what he wanted considering he would have to travel from Michigan to Florida to only work for four weeks. Add to this the fact that the travel company was not going to reimburse him for his travel or his Florida license and the contract became even less desirable. In the end, the travel company pushed the facility a little and was able to secure an 8-week position and get his hourly rate up some from what they quoted him. However, probably most valuable was his ability to remove the label, “first-time traveler”.
Many facilities started asking that no new traveler profiles be sent to them. Fewer jobs meant that hospitals could request that only the best travelers, with years of experience, be sent to work at their facility. This has left many new travelers questioning their ability to travel. If this is the position in which you find yourself, there are a few options to consider.
First, if you are not currently in a specialty in which you wish to travel, you might consider taking this time to gain that experience. Maybe you have a few years experience on a med-surg floor, but want to open yourself up for more assignments. Consider transferring to a tele floor or even an intensive care unit. With intensive care training, it is often assumed that an ICU nurse can take care of tele or med-surg patients. When I first started traveling, I was offered a tele position despite being trained in critical care. If I ever wanted a location bad enough, with my critical care training I could probably apply for any med-surg or tele position with a good chance of being accepted.
You can also look into obtaining any extra credentials that might help make you more appealing to a facility. For example, if you are a tele nurse, consider taking ACLS.
If you have the needed experience and want to travel now, you might need to be more aggressive in applying for positions. Joining a few travel companies used to be a way to open yourself to multiple assignments. Now, my advice to anyone wanting an assignment would be to maintain a file with up to a half dozen different agencies. Also, keep in contact with your recruiters, maybe even on a daily basis. You are not their only traveler and they are working to find each nurse they work with an assignment.
It is harder now to get an assignment than it probably has been in the last decade. However, they ARE still out there and despite a decline in contracts, travel nursing is here to stay and will only continue to grow once again.