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What is a Travel Nursing?

Travel nursing and the Travel Nursing Industry developed in response to the nursing shortage in which nurses travel to work temporary short-term nursing positions. The current severe shortage of nurses in the United States has increased the need for this type of position. To recruit qualified Registered Nurses,  LPNs, LVNs and Allied Health professionals hospitals and travel nurse recruitment/staffing agencies are offering incentives including higher wages, relocation assistance, furnished housing, and bonuses.

There are many reasons healthcare professionals choose to travel including higher pay, professional growth and development, and personal adventure. Travelers typically select from one to several recruitment agencies to act as an intermediary between the traveler and hospitals or other potential employers.

Applying with one of these agencies usually involves a substantial paperwork burden. This includes completing an employment application, work history, verification of licenses and certifications, skill assessments for your nursing specialty, verification of immunizations or titers for common communicable diseases, current TB skin test or chest x-ray, a physician's statement certifying you are fit for work, and numerous other documents required by the agency. However this paperwork need only be completed once per agency. Some agencies will accept much of the paperwork completed for competing agencies. The information provided is then condensed by the agency into a summary/abstract of the traveler's credentials, skills and experience. This summary is usually referred to as a profile.

After completing the agency application process, each agency will search through temporary job postings to identify those that match your profile. The agency, after obtaining your consent, submits your profile by fax or email to the hospital. A human resources employee or department manager will review all profiles submitted for the specific job posting. No single agency has access to all temporary job postings. This is why many travelers choose to apply with several agencies.

The amount of money a hospital pays to the agency is referred to as the Bill Rate. The agency will calculate and subtract their costs, overhead and profit margin from the bill rate and then, with the difference, make a detailed offer to the traveler. Offers should include the specific dates and location of the contract, details of pay, housing or stipend amounts, insurance or other benefits as the agency may choose to include in their offer package. Agencies' costs and profit margins vary widely. This will directly affect the amount of money available to package into an offer for the traveler.

Further, different agencies will package the same amount of money quite differently. One agency may offer luxury housing, high end health insurance, license reimbursement, a rental car and many other perks. Another may not offer health insurance, may provide low quality housing or even no housing at all. It is important to understand that there is no such thing as free housing or other free benefits. All of these things have a cost. Since all costs and compensation must come out of the bill rate, a traveler working for an agency offering a high level of "extras" will probably be paid lower wages than one working for an agency that offers few or no non-wage perks.

If the traveler, tentatively accepts the terms and conditions of the offer, the agency will arrange for a telephone interview between the manager and the traveler in most cases. Assuming a successful interview, a formal contract will be prepared by the agency and sent to the traveler for their signature. Every aspect of compensation, including wages, stipends, reimbursements, housing, insurance, and any other perks is subject to negotiation between both parties and should be adjusted and spelled out in the written contract which ultimately is, with both parties signature, legal acceptance of the terms and conditions of the assignment contract.


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Clinical Requirements

The usual requirements for becoming a travel nurse are a minimum of one year of clinical experience in one's specialty and licensure in the state of employment, usually granted through reciprocity with the home state's board of nursing. Some travel agencies will reimburse travelers for the cost of the license or other required certifications. While only a minimum of one year of experience is required, it is highly advisable to have two or more years of experience prior to becoming a travel nurse. A travel nurse may receive a minimal orientation to the assignment hospital, most often only one or two days. Some travelers may receive no orientation at all. This is a subject that should be clarified in the interview. Travel nurses are expected to be very experienced and knowledgeable in their specialty by their assignment hospital.

Travel Nursing Assignment

Travelers typically work under a short-term contract (usually ranging from 4 to 13 weeks). Contracts outside of the U.S. can last 1-2 years. Frequently an extension or a permanent position is offered by the hospital at the end of the contract.  As per is
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