Tips for the First Time Travel Nurse

stereotypes copyTravel nursing can be as equally daunting as it is exciting. There is a sea of information that can make it overwhelming to even know where to start. Preparation requires choosing the right company and location, gathering of documents, tying loose ends at home, packing, and sometimes long travel. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the water your first time.


Start networking as early as you begin even entertaining the idea of travel. Talk with coworkers that have traveled. There are tons of online forums for travel nurses that will give you up to date tips on the best companies, recommended recruiters, and ways to save money. The travel community is a super supportive and sharing community.

Compile a Travel Wish List

Jot down all your wishes for your travel experience. Do you want housing or the stipend? Do you have a specific city in mind? Specific hospital? Is location a huge factor? Include a list of non-negotiables, and those that you are more flexible on. Prioritize the wishes in order of importance as you may not get everything you want. Your list will guide you when the time comes for contract negotiations.

Find the right company

This can be the most challenging part. Use your network. Ask around. While each company tries to offer as much as the other, follow your instincts. If it feels right and the company fulfills the must haves on your wish list, give it a try. You may read both praise and nightmare reviews of the same company. Remember, your experience will be your own. Try not to take reviews to heart.

Find the Right Recruiter

This is critical. A good recruiter will bend over backward to help you adjust in your new surroundings and hospital. There are some truly passionate recruiters out there that love what they do and it shows in prompt responses and results. If a recruiter seems in a hurry or pushy, ask for another until you find a good fit. It’s like finding the perfect stylist. There’s a recruiter for everyone.


Each state has a different time frame for obtaining licensure. Some states are walk through states. These are the states that issue immediate temporary licensure to get you working asap. There are also states that are called compact states meaning if you are licensed in a state that belongs to a compact state union, you can work in any other states that belong to the union. Some states do not fall under compact or walk through and can take weeks, even months to process. Plan ahead. Click here for your state by state guide. It is best to check directly with the state you plan to travel to directly.


Be sure all your necessary certifications are up to date. I think this is a given, but a good reminder. You don’t want an expired BLS or ACLS to keep you from your start date.

Get it in Writing

Everything is negotiable – the pay, your reimbursements, vacation time. You need that weekend for your family reunion? A planned vacation? Get it in writing. Most hospitals are willing to work with you out of sheer desperation for your presence, but be sure to get it in writing. If floating to areas outside of your expertise is a deal breaker for you, get it in the contract that you will not float to said areas. Be sure to read your contract thoroughly before signing. Sometimes some of the verbal agreements you may have made with your recruiter do not make it to paper. It can be an honest mistake, but if it is not in writing, you have no leverage.

Know your Rights

Will you be required to float to another unit, and if so, within your specialty? What happens if you refuse? What if you have to break your contract? What happens if the hospital releases your contract? Are you liable to pay a penalty or housing fees?

Traveling with Pets?

Find a pet friendly agency. Be sure the company you choose offers housing options that are pet friendly. What is the deposit requirement? Does the company help with the cost?

Travel Reimbursement

How much does the company offer? Most companies will pay a portion of your flight or mileage if you are driving. Get it all in writing.

Research the Hospital

Is it a travel friendly hospital or are there multiple complaints of poor reception and/or treatment of travelers? Is there something particularly interesting about the hospital you are considering? Are they at the forefront of research in your specialty?

Pack Intelligently

When the time finally comes, try to pack minimally. You will thank me in the end. Do you really need every piece of clothing in your closet? If you have never worn it, leave it behind. Pack according to the environment you will call home for the duration of your contract. If you are traveling to San Diego, the weather is consistently warm. No need for those winter boots. If you are heading to San Francisco, be mindful of their cooler summers. While the climate is fairly consistent, it is a cooler climate. Have a light jacket, jeans, and warm shoes with you. Wait to buy your necessary cleaning items, and food until you arrive in your new city. Use this time to explore your new surroundings. Try living minimally. It might just change your life.

Lori is a travel nurse that has made her way to Sweden. Follow her adventures working and traveling through Europe in her blog, Neonurse or on Instagram.

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