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Ask a Travel Nurse: Are Prophecy Health competency tests tough?


Travel nurse taking online competency testAsk a Travel Nurse Question:

I am a first time traveler wondering about the Prophecy Health competency tests. Tough, need to study? Want to hear other experiences. Thanks in advance.

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

I am not familiar with the test of which you spoke. However, my view is that if it is a competency test, I know I’m competent, so I never study for these things. I feel like if it’s something that I’m doing on a daily basis at work, that’s my study session. I don’t mean to sound arrogant there, it’s just that I wasn’t one of those people who took the refresher course before state boards. I felt like if I didn’t know it, maybe I shouldn’t pass the test. Those who did take the refresher course, certainly are not less of a nurse for doing so, it’s just their process.

These type of tests are common in the world of travel nursing, so if you are one who does like to review information before a test, please do not interrupt the process that works for you.

To find out more info on that specific test, try just typing the name into a search engine like Google or Yahoo or post the question on one of the travel nursing forums like or the travel nursing forum on Delphi (go to and type travel nursing into the search box). You do have to join Delphi to use the forum (believe this is still free), but that forum has over 40,000 travelers, so you might have some luck there.

Finally, talk to your recruiter. Your travel company has a vested interest in helping you pass ANY test that pertains to your assignment. See if they have any information or a study guide for you.

Sorry I could not be more helpful, but hopefully one of the above suggestions will lead you to your answer.


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.

16 Comments on "Ask a Travel Nurse: Are Prophecy Health competency tests tough?"

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  1. Clint


    Yes the competency tests can be tough. I for one don’t know why these people have to make them so damn difficult. What do they get for it, kicks? I’m a 6 year experienced travel nurse and the company I’m currently contracted to has forced us to complete 4 competency test. One of these tests is in a discipline that I’ve never worked nore ever want to- ER. Why they make all nurses take this test is absurd. The worst part is it’s the hardest and longest one of them all. I breezed by the first three, all of which have a basis to my field but failed the ER test. If this is the way of the nurse in the obama-care world then I’ll gladly let another nurse take my position while I continue my education in a field not requiring yearly competency exams.

  2. David says:

    You should not have to take a test to ascertain your knowledge in an area where you have none. I work ICU and have never been made to take an OB test.

    If you have pointed this out to your company and they still ask you to take such a test (not sure how any company can “force” you to do anything), then what did you learn about that company? A company without common sense would certainly not be allowed to control my paychecks.

    Leave the uninformed rhectoric regarding Obamacare out of the equation (the last time I read the healthcare bill it mentioned nothing about your ER test).


  3. Larry Parker


    Hello David,
    Love your website. I stumbled upon it while looking up info regarding Prophecy Health Comptency Testing and saw Clint’s posting Jan. 14th 2012@4:16am. I was impressed by your response-especially redirecting Clint’s uninformed Obamacare comment from the issue of competency testing- and intrigued by the fact that you’ve managed to be a traveler for so long. I too am a Critical Care trained Nurse since 1991. I’ve only traveled on occassion during that time but would like more flexibility during this phase of my career. How do you manage things like health insurance, housing, time off. How do you manage family being on the road so much?

  4. David says:

    Hey Larry. All of the things about travel have to be managed in the fashion that meets your needs.

    For example, if you are someone who does not use their healthcare that much, perhaps you could manage any lapses in coverage. However, if continuing healthcare coverage is important to you, perhaps private insurance is your best bet when traveling.

    I was going to say that Obamacare was supposed to make obtaining private healthcare coverage easier, but we’ll have to first see if the government can hire some IT guys that know how to design a working website.

    As for housing, even after 18 years as a travel, I still elect to have the company provide my housing. Just too much to deal with on a travel assignment to do it myself. Plus I work many assignments through a company that allocates more money toward housing, so I have always been pleased with their accommodations.

    During times off, local registries or staffing agencies can fill the voids in work. Some travel companies even own staffing agencies and make it a bit easier to transition back and forth from agency work to a travel assignment.

    Managing a family depends on who that family might be. If you are just talking about someone’s relatives, then technology has made it quite easy to stay in touch via programs like Skype.

    If you are speaking of a nurse’s own family (i.e. spouse, children, etc) then it does become more difficult, but not impossible. Again, it depends on each individual’s needs and specific situation, but just about any obstacle can be overcome with a little forethought.

    Hope this helped, but if you have any other questions, please feel free to email me at


  5. Susan T


    I very much disagree about company provided housing. One of the primary benefits of traveling is getting the ‘stipend’ which you don’t have to pay taxes on and don’t have to keep itemized receipts for. Last year I didn’t have to pay taxes on 2/3 of my take home pay because I got my own housing. Sure you have to find it and pay for it but it’s completely worth it.

  6. Susan T


    As to the original subject of Prophecy testing. Once you’ve taken a test and passed it keep the password on file. A good agency can retrieve that test result if you give them the password then you don’t have to take it again. If you don’t pass it pull up the ‘details’ part. It will contain the questions and your incorrect answer. This will let you know what not to answer next time. Also the recruiter can ‘reset’ your test so you can take it again. All in all they are decent tests except the telemetry strip test which is terrible. They expect you to do 35 strips in 30 minutes which is too fast if you analyze them completely and the interface to view the strips in terrible.

  7. David says:

    Susan. While I appreciate your response on stipends, I must also caution other travelers that it can be VERY misleading on several points.

    First, housing stipends are NOT tax free for everyone. I know many travel nurses that do not own a home and do not have a “regular” area of doing business (which is by definition, a “tax home”). These travelers MUST pay taxes on housing stipends and could face LARGE penalties for not doing so.

    You are also very incorrect in that you do not need to keep receipts for your expenses when taking a stipend. Your travel company may not require receipts for your housing, but have you ever heard of the IRS not wanting to see receipts should you incur an audit?

    If you fly low under the radar and do not deduct too much in the way of expenses, then you may not incur an audit. However, if you “juke the stats” too much, then the IRS could look at your returns for up to six years.

    From the IRS website: “Generally, the IRS can include returns filed within the last three years in an audit. Additional years can be added if a substantial error is identified. Generally, if a substantial error is identified, the IRS will not go back more than the last six years.”

    If you feel this is incorrect, please visit Joseph Smith’s website, and feel free to email him on this matter. He is a tax guru when it comes to traveling healthcare professionals and taxes.

    Again, while I appreciate input, I do not want to mislead any other travel nurses out there. The fact of the matter is that YOUR tax situation may be vastly different from that of another traveler’s. So I have to caution anyone out there reading this not to rely on Susan’s (or even my own) assessment of taxes when it comes to travel nursing and your own situation.

    I encourage every traveler to read the following page:

    Please understand YOUR tax situation prior to travel and if it is at all uncertain, do not rely on forum posts to find your answers; contact a tax professional that will keep you out of the IRS hotseat.


  8. Susan


    These tests are ridiculously difficult and not a reflection of a nurses
    Capabilities. Regularly employed nurses would never be required to take these tests on a frequent basis.

  9. Natalie


    Hi David, I’m a level 4 NICU nurse for 23 years now. I started travel 2 years ago. Hospitals are now going with this prophecy company and making us ta these tests. They have study/review for some departments but not mine. The test is timed and you only get 3 chances. I got something from my recruiter letting me know what it’s going to cover from each system and all diagnoses. at least half of what you’ll be tested on is basically what you learn in med school according to a neonatologist I spoke too This is really upsetting. They should have you take these tests before offered a contract. So far I’ve been offered evry job I’ve interviewed for and I’ve been hearing about this prophecy exam and now I have to take it. I know 3 very experience Nicu nurses that lost their offer bc you can’t stop and look up something so basically ran out of time. So if there’s anything you can find out and if there’s any study guide or someone with knowledge and advice about this exam, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you, Natalie

  10. David says:

    Hey Natalie. While I have never taken the Prophecy exam, I have taken the PBDS tests several times. I’m opposed to this sort of testing; I do not agree that it is the best measure of an RN. If we had qualified nurses in the roles of unit managers, it would seldom take an exam to know if a nurse was qualified enough to work on any given unit.

    I have had many interviews vying for a travel assignment. I’ve even been on a conference call with a unit manager, and two other nurses from the unit, being asked clinical questions in a sort of nursing tribunal in order to secure a position. At no time, in any interview, have I ever been asked a multiple choice question about what I would do while working on the floor.

    Common sense nursing, in my opinion, is far better than a nurse who “tests well”. I’ve worked with MANY book-smart nurses to whom I would NEVER entrust the care of my loved one.

    With all this said, nothing is going to change unless the travel nursing companies either refuse to work with these facilities or start putting monetary contingencies in their contracts for when nurses do fail the exam.

    So what can you do in the meantime? Find out exactly what exam you will be required to take. If you are in a specialty for which they have a test, it’s a no brainer. If you are in an area for which they do not have a specific test, then you either need to have your travel company reach out or call the hospital’s nurse recruiter or someone in HR.

    Once you know the specific exam you will take, if you really want to be prepared, Prophecy does have a website that will allow you to buy a practice exam that will show you the types of questions that will appear on the full-length exam.

    I can hear the groans of everyone reading that last sentence. It’s total BS that this system was put in place by this entity that also steals more money from the nurse’s pocket in order to help pass their crappy exam. I am vehemently opposed to ever giving this company a cent of my own money, but if you want to alleviate some of the stress it causes, then for $10, you can buy one of the exams here:

    One other way you can stand against these tests is by asking in the pre-interview with the hospital, what type of onboard testing they will require. Then, if you secure an assignment, but find that you will be required to take a Prophecy exam, turn down the assignment and ask your recruiter (or contact the hospital directly yourself) to inform them the specific reason why you will not accept a position with their hospital.

    Other than that, you could try searching the travel nursing forums for anyone who has posted any test questions from the exam.

    I hope this offers some help in passing the exam. Please feel free to come back and update this page after you’ve taken the exam to let others know what they might expect.


  11. Dee


    I am presently experiencing the dilemma of taking a core competency test w/o a study guide. The test is 58 minutes long with GOD know what in the contents. My travel agency tells me there is no study guide but yet I have done this with other travel companies and a guide was included for download. Prophecy I believe has an updated version of there guidelines annually, yet they can’t even tell me that much. How does an agency expect you to pass the contents w/o a guide? I have had other travel assignments with them and this is the very first time they have required me to do this. I have already interviewed and signed my contract. Am I to assume that if I don’t pass this core comp that my contract will be cancelled? So frustrating.

  12. David says:

    Hey Dee. As you are aware, many companies these days do have a study guide that will at least give you an idea of what to expect. However, if you have taken the exam before, you should at least have somewhat of an idea as to the format. But as I understand it, the questions may be taken from a pool of questions, so they may not be the same ones you have seen before.

    As to what happens should you not pass the exam, this is something that may be addressed in your contract, so I would check there first. But if your contract does not specify, you should contact your recruiter to find out what could happen if you do not pass.

    Most of the companies with which I work will either give you a few attempts or have you take the exam prior to the assignment start (so that you aren’t taking a chance by traveling all that way and having to come back home if unsuccessful).

    Sometimes the consequences of an unsuccessful exam will be dictated by the facility. So if you do not find a clear indication of what may happen spelled out in your travel contract, contact your recruiter immediately to see if taking the exam prior to leaving for your assignment is an option.


  13. Karen


    I recently did my first travel assignment in endoscopy which I have done for 18 years. I had to take a critical care trst that ICU nurses take. It did not pertain to my assignment at all. I spoke to the manager and director after I was placed that it was very difficult and not something the regular stagf takes (nor could pass). The next 4 travelers they offered a spot to did not pass this test. It is a very inaccurate way to validate an endoscopy nurse or any nurse out of their scope of practice.

  14. Maria says:

    Hi David, I totally agree with prophecy testing being a huge pain. I work in the OR and just recently couldn’t pass this stupid math exam which I never use in surgery. Three- four answers all in one question to figure out, fill in and decimal placements?? WTH? Totally disgusted. I tried to study but there’s no way to find correct answers. I think I have to face it again for this next facility too!😓 Yeah, prophecy testing needs to go!

  15. Kacy Casady


    I’m currently taking these prophecy exams. I just wanted to know how do you know if you passed the exam? All I’m getting is a green check mark ✅ and date completed.

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