Dream of travel nursing internationally? Have you worked as a traveler within the U.S. and now want to take the leap abroad? While it is a slightly more complicated process, it is well worth the time and effort.
Starting a new job is never easy. The first day is full of anxious anticipation and perhaps a little fear of the unknown. Travel nurses become quickly acclimated when one considers the average length of a contract in the U.S. is thirteen weeks. Now imagine taking a leap into the unknown and working in another country. I did it six years ago and the following are just a few of my suggestions for anyone considering travel nursing abroad.
What country are you contemplating? Australia and England are obvious first choices as there is little language barrier to confront. Are you eligible for licensure? England, for example, has recently lifted the BSN requirement for American nurses which makes it possible for ADN nurses to travel as well.
It sounds obvious, right? Plan a long trip to the country you are contemplating working in. It is one thing to vacation for two weeks in a country and another thing entirely to live in said country. Plan to root yourself for a good three to four weeks. Notice how you acclimate. Embrace the local food. Explore the city, its culture. Go where the locals go. Become a local.
Learn as much as you can about the country you are considering calling home. It is good to know a little bit about a culture’s etiquette. What is considered perfectly normal behavior back home, might be considered offensive in another country. It is important to know some basics. Once you have decided, buy a book within your specialty to prepare yourself for the job. Even in native English speaking countries, on the job language is different than back home so it is good to prepare ahead of time.
Reach out to your country of choice’s board of nursing. Most have a lengthy, but step by step process of applying for licensure, challenging the boards, and/or other requirements. There is usually a frequently asked questions page.
One can drown in the amount of documents needed to challenge licensure. Take one requirement at a time. Most countries require at a bare minimum your college transcripts. Some even require high school transcripts.
Certifications such as BLS, ACLS, or PALS are usually required within the country you travel to. My American BLS or NRP certifications were not needed in Sweden for example because they have their own requirements. Most European countries follow European Resuscitation Council guidelines. On a side note, I highly recommend staying on top of your American licensure and certifications.
Another obvious is the passport. American passports are valid for 10 years. Be sure yours is not close to expiration. It is a huge pain if you are a month out from traveling and your passport is the reason you are delayed.
If you want to take it up a challenge notch, you have likely chosen a country that requires a certain level of language proficiency in a language other than your native. You will have to prove some level of fluency in the form of an exam before working. Do your research and find the best language programs. Many universities have intensive language programs for foreign students. I recommend saving your money and combining taking that long trip ahead of time with a language course. This is the best way to immerse yourself in the language and culture prior to actually taking the plunge.
Traveling with pets is difficult, but not impossible. Europe is a rabies free continent. Bringing your pet into any European country requires, among other things, titers that prove your pet is rabies free. This process requires blood sampling over several months. Your pet will also require a microchip. Some countries, like Australia, require a 10-day pet quarantine. Do your homework thoroughly on this one. Traveling such long distances can be traumatic on a pet. Consider the age and health of your pet seriously before deciding to take them with you.
Housing depends entirely on the company. Some companies offer housing in the form of a private room in a large house with other travelers. Research ahead of time and reach out early with any special needs.
The process generally takes longer abroad than back home. The foreign board of nursing is challenged with interpreting a foreign education and being sure that it somehow fulfills their requirements. As soon as you start entertaining the idea of international travel, reach out. The process in England, for example, takes about six months from the time you apply. If you know this from the beginning, it makes the wait easier.
I hope this somehow inspires those of you dreaming of traveling abroad that it is possible. Living overseas has taught me so much about myself, my own culture and beliefs, and the amazing world we live in. Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from following your dreams.