The United States currently has a nursing shortage, and travel nurses are doing what they can to remedy the problem when possible. Travel nurses travel to areas of the country (or internationally) to where nurses are in the highest demand, typically working for 3-4 months before moving on to the next location.
Most people in this niche industry find their jobs through agencies. If you’re a nurse interested in traveling, it helps to know what to look for when choosing an agency.
1. Consider Your Budget First
When traveling, you’ll still have bills, so it’s important to consider how much money you need and want to make per job. In addition to travel expenses (many nurses purchase a car that can make the road trips), you’ll need to budget for rent, utilities, groceries, entertainment, and anything else that is important to you. Create a budget and find a total for the entire 3- to 4-month job, and then divide it by how many weeks you’ll be paid. For example, if you need the job to pay $10,000 over four months, you’ll want your weekly check to be $625. A good agency will be efficient by agreeing to only offer you contracts that pay that amount or higher.
2. Research the Agency’s Benefits Package
According to Wandering Nurses, reputable agencies provide their nurses with benefits packages. At a minimum, seek out agencies that offer health, vision, and dental insurance, a 401k plan, and short- and long-term disability options. You may also seek out benefits packages that include life insurance plans, continuing education options, 24-hour support hotlines and housing assistance. Finally, some agencies provide referral bonuses for people who get other nurses to sign with them.
3. Think About Where You Want To Work
Some traveling nurses choose locations simply because they haven’t been there before and want to live in a new place; others base their locations on the type of environment they’ll be working in. Consider what’s important to you in terms of location and ensure an agency can provide jobs that match your needs. For example, if you want to work in some of the top children’s hospitals, you’ll need an agency that has strong ties to large cities. If you prefer to help people in smaller cities or large towns, you’ll want an agency with broader ties.
4. Pay Attention to the Recruiter’s Personality
The personality of the recruiter is just as important as the agency’s overall reputation. Your recruiter will be your main point of contact when transitioning between locations as well as if you experience any problems while at a location, which means you need someone who you get along with. When speaking to a recruiter, consider whether you feel like he or she is listening to your comments and answering your questions thoroughly or whether they’re just trying to sell you on the service.
During the first stages of communication, consider whether your potential recruiter is responding quickly or if you feel like you have to keep hunting him or her down to get a response. You might consider asking for references, but some recruiters won’t be able to provide them. Remember, most communication will be via email or on the phone.
5. Seek an Agency That Understands Your Specialty
Nursing is an all-encompassing term that covers a broad spectrum of healthcare jobs, so it is important that when learning how to pick a travel nurse agency, you learn whether they know the differences. An agency that is only in it for the money may consider nurses to be interchangeable and not pay any attention to your strengths or specialties within the field.
An agency that truly cares about its clients will take special care to learn about your field of expertise, such as pediatric nursing, surgical nursing, or trauma nursing, and place you in appropriate jobs. An agency that doesn’t pay attention to specifics not only makes you unhappy by not listening to your needs but also potentially puts patients in harm’s way by sending a nurse that isn’t qualified in a specific type of nursing.
A travel nurse often has the best of both worlds: a solid career and a life full of experiencing new places and things. If you are interested in helping people all over the country or world and spending your leisure time in unique locations, now is the time to consider signing up with a travel nursing agency.