Accountable Healthcare - 5 Things to Know Before You Become a Travel Nurse
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February 14, 2020

5 Things to Know Before You Become a Travel Nurse

So you want to be a travel nurse? Galavanting from state to state, making good money, and having great flexibility right? Well although it is a GREAT job, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. 

But if you are flexible and adventurous it truly is one of the coolest professions ever! Here are 5 things you should know before you become a travel nurse. 

1. Research, research, research!

There is a ton of information to try to absorb before taking the plunge to do travel nursing! What company do you want to go with? Where do you want to go? How do you find housing? Can your pets come and how hard is it to take them with you? How do you make money? 

Luckily these days there are a ton of resources, most notably groups on facebook. You have to be added to these groups but they are worth their weight in gold. Some of the admin of these groups have even be so kind and helpful to actually have compiled files for such topics as housing, hospital reputation, taxes, travel companies, etc.  Some of the few I have found helpful are:

Traveling the Country, One Hospital at a Time (around 15 k members currently) This one has those files I was telling you about!! This group also has a subset of groups that are area specific, like Traveling New England One Hospital at a Time and Traveling Florida, One Hospital at a Time which makes it nice as well if you are looking for one specific area or to meet up with others in the region!

2. You have to adapt quickly as a travel nurse

Most travel nurses get around 2-3 days of orientation on average.  Some a little longer depending on the hospital and if they want you to do their own specific hospital orientation (I try to avoid these like the plague haha, when you change jobs every 3 months orientation gets monotonous and boring REALLY quickly).

But regardless once you are on the floor/your particular setting, you are  expected to be ready to go in 3-4 days. That means absorbing the new computer system and charting, learning your way around the unit, and your new coworkers are all done in a hurry! So you obviously need to have experience in your field before doing travel nursing. I travelled for the first time with 1.5 years experience, but most places prefer at least 2 years.  They are not there to teach you how to do the nursing job, they are just teaching you the unit and their way of doing things. So as we used to say in the ER, get your roller-skates on! 

3. Be Prepared

Travel nursing can be a flighty kind of job! Not trying to discourage this profession at all, but all I am saying is be prepared! When I say be prepared, that means be prepared for things to go wrong, hospitals to back out of contracts, you to not get your dream job (i.e. location, money, etc) among other things.

In my nearly 3 years of travel nursing at this time, I have luckily not had any major issues but I hear of this enough to where it warrants mentioning.  Hospitals back out last minute, positions close, you are holding out for that one job with the perfect money situation, your recruiting company drags their feet or makes a mistake and next thing you know you are out of a job for 6 weeks! I have known a couple of travel nurses to have spent time living in their cars! (This is more the exception than the norm, but still, yikes!)

Top tips to be prepared:

  1. Always have a savings fund for 3-6 months of expenses in you are in between jobs
  2. Be prepared to take a job that is not your dream job/location.
  3. Know your company’s policy regarding cancellation. 
  4. Research the hospital/facility experience in the facebook groups I mentioned.

4. Your travel nurse job may not be like your permanent job

Now this is meant to be a broad brush covering many ways your  job may not be the same. Yes, you have a general specialty that you will work in, say emergency department.  But the way they do things may be different, the hospital may likely be going through a huge management/hospital administration turnover, sometimes you may even be floated to different areas (always ask the nurse manager you are interviewing with about the float possibility), among other things.

Just be flexible and willing to go with the flow and you will be fine!

5. It can be a little lonely as a travel nurse

It may seem that this post is a little dismal, but in all honesty just trying to point out a few things that a lot of travel nurses have difficulty with.  In my personal opinion, the pros heavily outweigh the cons (more on that later) but just so you are prepared.

I assume if you want to be a travel nurse you have to be pretty darn adventurous and independent! But being on the road a lot can get lonely sometimes if you don’t happen to be traveling with a significant other. You are in a town/city where you don’t know anyone, starting a new job, and your friends and family are hundreds if not thousands of miles away. 

So whereas normally you can lean on your family, friends, and coworkers that are nearby for support after those tough days at work or whatever may be going on, it may not be the case during your assignment. On the bright side, it forces you out of your comfort zone to get out there and make new friends or go explore your surroundings by yourself! In my opinion, if you take the plunge to be a travel nurse, you are awesome! So remember that and wear it as a badge! Not everyone has the cajones (nor the opportunity because of obligations) to take off into the unknown and kick butt! 

With that being said, here are some tips to stave off a little of the loneliness.

  1. Go explore your town/surroundings.
  2. Plan a trip home.
  3. Plan a road trip to another close destination.
  4. Pack things from home

Accountable has over 10,000 Travel positions and we update them on our site weekly. To start your adventure visit 

By: Katie Fitts (