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By June 16, 2010 6 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: What can a first time travel nurse do to get a job?


frustrated first time travel nurseI correspond with a lot of first-time travel nurses and lately they all seem to be echoing the same sentiment: right now, it’s tough finding an assignment.

I know that in all the writing I do for this blog ( and other publications), I have thrown out this number before, but at one point last year the travel industry was down by almost 50%. While we have rebounded some, it remains hard to find your first choice of assignments, even for experienced travelers. For first-time travelers, l and ing their primary choice of locations is not the issue, l and ing an assignment at all is what has travelers worried.

I recently referred a new travel nurse to one of the travel agencies I use. They were able to find him a position, but the first job offer was only for a four week assignment. This wasn’t exactly what he wanted considering he would have to travel from Michigan to Florida to only work for four weeks. Add to this the fact that the travel company was not going to reimburse him for his travel or his Florida license and the contract became even less desirable. In the end, the travel company pushed the facility a little and was able to secure an 8-week position and get his hourly rate up some from what they quoted him. However, probably most valuable was his ability to remove the label, “first-time traveler”.

Many facilities started asking that no new traveler profiles be sent to them. Fewer jobs meant that hospitals could request that only the best travelers, with years of experience, be sent to work at their facility. This has left many new travelers questioning their ability to travel. If this is the position in which you find yourself, there are a few options to consider.

First, if you are not currently in a specialty in which you wish to travel, you might consider taking this time to gain that experience. Maybe you have a few years experience on a med-surg floor, but want to open yourself up for more assignments. Consider transferring to a tele floor or even an intensive care unit. With intensive care training, it is often assumed that an ICU nurse can take care of tele or med-surg patients. When I first started traveling, I was offered a tele position despite being trained in critical care. If I ever wanted a location bad enough, with my critical care training I could probably apply for any med-surg or tele position with a good chance of being accepted.

You can also look into obtaining any extra credentials that might help make you more appealing to a facility. For example, if you are a tele nurse, consider taking ACLS.

If you have the needed experience and want to travel now, you might need to be more aggressive in applying for positions. Joining a few travel companies used to be a way to open yourself to multiple assignments. Now, my advice to anyone wanting an assignment would be to maintain a file with up to a half dozen different agencies. Also, keep in contact with your recruiters, maybe even on a daily basis. You are not their only traveler and they are working to find each nurse they work with an assignment.

It is harder now to get an assignment than it probably has been in the last decade. However, they ARE still out there and despite a decline in contracts, travel nursing is here to stay and will only continue to grow once again.

About the Author:

Hello everyone. I’m a travel nurse originally from Ohio who graduated in 1993 from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus. I completed a critical care fellowship at Riverside Methodist Hospital in 1994 and started traveling in that specialty a year later. My first travel assignment was in Maui and since that time I have completed close to 40 different contracts in various states with multiple travel companies. I am the author of Travel Nurse’s Bible (A Guide to Everything on Travel Nursing), in addition to my writings here and in the pages of Travel Nursing publications such as Healthcare Traveler Magazine and American Nurse Today. I am presently on assignment in Phoenix, AZ and travel anywhere from six to eleven months of the year.

6 Comments on "Ask a Travel Nurse: What can a first time travel nurse do to get a job?"

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  1. This is a good article. So, from reading your article, it’s really important to get rid of the first timer label for traveling nurses? Why is it that the agencies tend to stay away from first timers?

  2. cna program says:

    Great article! The ability to travel around and even just to be able to get jobs in different areas of the country is a cool part of being a nurse. I suggest to anybody who wants to check out nursing to become a cna first to get a feel for what some of it is about.

  3. nurseJess


    is it better to ask for a smaller rural hospital for a first assignment?

  4. David says:

    Agencies can be picky this year due to last years economy. It has been getting better, but right now it’s a hospital’s market as far as available travelers.

    It makes no difference in the hospital size as no one will look at the size of the facilities in which you have worked, only that you have travel experience.

  5. Hire Health says:

    Plenty of travel nursing positions listed on

  6. evie says:

    If you want to find jobs in the nursing industry, please update your job searching skills! Are you still searching the large, general job sites? It’s time to browse the smaller, more specialized job sites!

    Here are the 10 best nursing job sites: – As a leading nursing jobs recruitment portal, Nursing Jobs77’s mission is to equip job seekers and employers with the best tools and resources available for employment in the nursing job industry. Experienced and new workers alike will instantly find Nursing Jobs77 user-friendly and find themselves in control of their careers, while employers will discover how easy and economical it is to hire suitable candidates. With less time spent on looking for the right job and seeking the right candidate, Nursing Jobs77 enables both job seekers and employers to be time-efficient to do what they do best — their jobs. – Nursing is the Web’s #1 Site for Nursing Jobs – If you are looking for a permanent, per diem, or travel nursing job; in-patient, out-patient or hospice you have come to the right place. We have partnered with the leading hospitals, travel nurse companies and recruitment agencies to help you find your dream nursing job! – Nurserve is a nurses job and information website for nurses seeking employment and general nursing assistance. Our website covers a wide range of topics, including nursing jobs & vacancies, nurse news, forum, websites and upcoming events. – At, we provide information, resources, and services to help nurses find nursing jobs and travel nursing jobs. The first step is filling out our Rapid Apply Form which will allow you to instantly submit your profile to healthcare employers who match your needs. Your next job is just a click away. – was developed as a free resource for nursing students who are struggling with the nursing job hunting process. Everyone should feel free to link to this resource and please get as much out of it as possible. It is updated when possible. Please let us know if you know of ways we can improve. The goal is to educate students about nursing job access and the necessary requirements for finding the right job. Hopefully, you will find some quality job resource materials. If so, please let your nursing program know about this site. Good luck on finding your dream job. – Jobs4Medical specialise in finding medical jobs for medical professionals and allied health care professionals. View the latest jobs in nursing, nurse jobs, pharmacist jobs, pharmacy technician jobs, dental jobs and social worker jobs. – is the Australian nursing jobs website designed specifically for nurses looking for nursing work in Australia or overseas. If you are a backpacker looking for a nursing job while travelling in Australia; a student nurse looking for casual work as a personal carer; a new graduate nurse looking for that important new graduate program or an experienced clinical nurse looking for a new nursing job to move your nursing career forward then is the website for YOU! – Find nursing jobs in every specialty, state, and setting at With thousands of jobs nationwide, search any location in the country through our extensive listing of nurse jobs. And, get the best in career advice and job-hunting tips. – Nursing Job World is dedicated to the men and women in the nursing profession who provide an essential, and sadly sometimes undervalued, service. Our objective at Nursing Job World is to give nurses, training nurses, nursing assistants, future nurses, and their employers a place to meet, find and exchange information, post nursing career jobs, find nursing career positions, post resumes for prospective employers, and enjoy forums, blogs and a free interchange of ideas.

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