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Travel Nursing Frequently Asked Questions


In honor of National Nurses Week Today I’m chatting all about travel nursing!

I started travel nursing 6 years ago (wow time flies). It was definitely one of the most challenging things I have ever done, but I learned a lot from the experience because it helped get me out of my comfort zone.

In early 2014, my long time boyfriend moved across the country for his job so I decided I would follow him out to Southern California as a travel nurse. It took me a few months to get out to the west coast because I had to wait for my California nursing license. Once I had my nursing license I could interview for nursing assignments in Southern CA. I also applied to some permanent staff jobs, but I decided that I wanted to feel out a few of the hospitals before signing on as staff. I decided to work with American Mobile Healthcare (AMN) because one of the nurses I worked in the ICU back home highly recommended her recruiter with AMN. Within a few days of getting my CA nursing license I interviewed at Providence Little Company of Mary in Torrance and received an offer for a day shift RN position. A few weeks later, I moved across the country and started my new job. I worked as a travel nurse for a year and a half in California before signing on as staff at Little Company of Mary.

Southern CA hospitals I’ve had assignments with:

Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance- June 2014, March 2015
Keck USC- October 2014
Kasier Downey- January 2019 (cancelled)
Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance- May 2020

What Questions Should You Ask When Searching for a Travel Company?

A huge part of being a travel nurse is finding the right company and the right recruiter that is going to support you, be easily available and responsive, and get you the most money.

When I first became a travel nurse I didn’t know what questions to ask but after taking 5 assignments I’ve learned over time what to ask for.

Questions to ask about the contract, hospital, pay, medical benefits, etc :

-What kind to medical insurance do you offer and does it start day 1 of my contract?

-Do you pay weekly or bi-weekly?

-Do you offer sick pay?

-Will you pay for my nursing license and certifications?

-How much travel stipend money do you offer?

-Will you cover my PPD, immunization, and drug testing?

-If I have to call out a day, what would happen?

-If I ever felt unsafe practices at a hospital and wanted to leave that assignment, what would happen?

-Do you help find housing?

-If I want to take time off in between contracts, will you still cover my health insurance?

-What is the nurse/patient ratio per shift?

-What are the facility’s orientation procedures?

-What type of charting system is used?

-Do travelers float first and, if so, to what areas?

-Is there an option for overtime?

-Will I be allowed to make up a missed shift?

How to choose a travel nursing assignment:
As I mentioned above, I was recommended a recruiter to contact to get started with at American Mobile. I had to apply shortly after contacting her and also let her know where I wanted to travel to. Most places require you to apply to their agency before looking at specific travel jobs. Once you apply, then the agency will set you up with a recruiter, then you will discuss your assignment expectations and your desired destination. You will then be presented with available assignments. Next, you will interview with the facilities. All interviews are done over the phone. After your interview, you and your recruiter will decide which offer is the best and which assignment to take.

How long are travel assignments?
Typically, assignments are 13 weeks. However, sometimes they offer shorter or longer assignments based on the specific needs of the hospital. I’ve done 13 week assignments, a 5 month assignment (way too long), and a crisis 4 week assignment. Most of the time you will have the option to extend an assignment if you want. 

What are the state licensing requirements?
All states are different! Talk with your recruiter. California used to take up to 6 months- I was lucky and it only took two! Right now the licensure process might be different due to COVID- 19. Some licenses cost up to $200, but the agency should reimburse for your license in a new state!

What kind of housing does travel agencies provide? Most agencies provide housing with move in ready conditions- complete with furniture, utilities, and amenities. Travelers also have the option to choose their own housing using the housing subsidy. I’ve always taken the subsidy- that way you can look for an apartment on your own that’s cheaper than the subsidy and make more money in the end by having the housing money included in your paycheck.

Housing subsidy is also tax free! But to qualify for tax free housing- you must provide an address that’s further than 50 miles of the facility you will be working at.

Will the agency pay for travel expenses?
Travelers usually receive travel reimbursement money, which is also tax free!

A few other things you should know:
Most travelers do not get to make their own work schedule. When I moved to California I worked every weekend from July- September. This is because you’re filling in the gaps in their schedule with their permanent staff. Travelers do make more money than staff so I guess it’s worth it to work the weekends.

Most of the time you can request time off in your contract (if you have a trip planned or need to go home for something) as long as it doesn’t fall on a holiday. It needs to be approved by the facility and written in the contract.

Travelers are also the first on the unit to float. Sometimes travelers will float up to 3 times in a 12 hour shift too. There are larger hospitals who are notorious for floating travelers that many times per shift (Kasier). 

If you’re looking into becoming a travel nurse, I highly recommend you work over a year in your specialty before traveling. You have very little orientation to your unit as a travel nurse (maybe 1-2 shifts) before you’re on your own.

Also, when you interview with a facility on the phone, ask all the questions! That way there are no surprises when you show up for orientation.

If you have any more questions- feel free to message me on Instagram!