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Ask a Travel Nurse: How To Prepare for Travel Nursing?


Airplane LadyAsk a Travel Nurse Question:

I’ve been an ER nurse for 3 years and I’m thinking about taking my first travel nursing position. What specific things would you recommend when looking for an ageny/recruiter? Anything specific I should do as I prepare to travel?

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

In regard to what to do to prepare for travel, my advice would be to first underst and what you’re getting into. Many nurses pursuing a career in travel have thoroughly researched the profession, but I always like to be sure.

Going from facility to facility can be a bit of culture shock to some and you really do have to have a good helping of “extrovertedness” ( and yes, that is my own word) in order to travel. You have to be open to new living arrangements, new work environment, and probably new ways of doing things. Nursing is nursing is nursing and you can always fall back on your experience as far as knowing safe practice. However, every hospital will do things a bit differently and you do need to be able to adapt and assimilate.

Additionally, anything you can do in your specialty to make yourself more marketable will help. For ER, this might be things like getting your ACLS and PALS cards (if you have not already done so) or any other designations or experiences that will perhaps put you ahead of others (like trauma or chest pain unit experience).

As for getting started with the travel companies, I ALWAYS advise travelers to be on file with at least a h and ful of companies (after a decade and a half, I am still on file with six or seven). Many nurses find a favorite and do most of their traveling with that company, but when you really want to get to a location and your preferred company does not have any assignments in that area, you can always call two or three others and usually find what you want.

It’s also important for new travelers to be on file with multiple companies because some hospitals will even specify, “no first-time travelers”. So obviously, the more companies you are on file with, the more assignment opportunities you will have (not all companies have the same assignment selection).

Don’t be afraid to have several companies looking for you at once, but be courteous to your recruiters and let them know you are working with multiple agencies and let them know if you do take an assignment with anyone else.

When you start looking into companies, always check them out on the travel nursing forums (I’ll list a few in this email)  and see what other travelers may have to say about them.

The amount of time they have been in business is a consideration (not all “young” companies are bad, just as all companies that have been in the business awhile will be good). Longevity just says that they have been doing this awhile and should have most of their ducks in a row ( and it also means you should be able to find out more about them on the forums).

Also look and see if they have a Better Business Bureau rating. Not all companies are accredited by the BBB (most might not be) but even if a company is not accredited by the BBB, they will usually have a rating and you can see if anyone has ever filed a complaint against them.

Finally, I recommend simply typing the company name into a search browser with the word “complaint” or “review”. This sometimes yields some pretty interesting results.

If you know of any other travelers at your hospital, feel free to ask them about their travel company and their recruiter. I also offer to refer nurses to the people I use and trust for my travels, so if you’d like for me to put you in contact with these people, just contact me personally at

Also, since you are new to travel, I always mention some good website resources. Some good travel forums can be found at and the Delphi forum for traveling professionals (go to, look for the box on the right that says “Explore existing forums”, type in “travel nursing” and the top result is a group called Travel Nurses and Therapists with over half a million members).

Pan Travelers is also another good site with a forum. They have a free section and also a portion where there is a charge to access that information.

You can subscribe to Healthcare Traveler Magazine for free on their website as well as read back issues. You can also join Healthcare Travelbook, which is a sort of Facebook style place for travelers, which also has a forum. And of course this website, Travel Nursing Blogs, is also a great resource, so spend some time reading the other posts on the site.

Hope this helps 🙂




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.

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