Thinking about travel nursing?

Have you thought about travel nursing as a career? Or maybe just a short term way to make some money while seeing some new places. Travel nursing can mean different things to different people. Personally, the main two reasons I tried travel nursing are....1. I wanted to challenge my abilities and see if I would falter or if I'd grow....and 2. going to Japan for missions has been a growing interest of mine for awhile and travel nursing became a possible means for making that dream come true. In theory, it would allow to me to leave for extended periods of time between contracts and hopefully provide enough income where I could support myself while overseas.

I seem to be hearing a lot from coworkers and friends recently how they'd wished they'd tried travel nursing. If only they were a couple years younger, or didn't have kids, or weren't tied down with a house... The list of excuses can extend a long way. Everyone has their story and how they want to live it out. As a Christian, my story must connect to the bigger story of Jesus Christ and if travel nursing can be a means He uses to tie my skills into a way to support myself I'd be very glad. But if situations change and I buy a house or have kids, there will always be a path where I can glorify His name, here in Japan or anywhere else.

That said, I quit my permanent job last year exactly on Christmas day. So the coming weeks provide a sense of reminiscing even though it has only been a year. And since so many have asked about travel nursing as a possible career, I thought it would be good to make up a little tip list of things I've been learning in the past year related to travel nursing. And to my fellow travelers, please add your tips below as well. This is in no means trying to recruit or deter. If you've thought about this decision and would like some more info, here are some of my thoughts.

  • know your skills
    • you will be asked to fill out skills checklist with every agency your work with so know these ahead can make this process smoother
    • it also helps by showing your possible employers what you can and can't do
    • be confident in what you know, because questions such as "where are willing to float?" will flood in and if you haven't prepared you might agree to less than safe options
  • set a goal and set what you're willing to compromise
    • what states do you want to work in? do you want a certain kind of hospital: teaching, children's, etc. depending on your specialty you may have a lot or very limited options. do your research at sites like allnurses.com and Highway Hypodermics to find out how much you'll need to limit
    • for example: I'm a pediatric nurse and my main nursing license is not in a compact state. so no matter where I want to go I'll need another state license. Being specialized in pediatrics and having no ICU or adult experience really limits where I can go as a traveler. But I love working with kids and I want to get better and better at what I do instead of compromising and having a lot of options and not enjoying the contract. So the things I need to look at are where are the consistent needs, what states do I want to go to, and what am I willing to compromise to get a contract.
    • recruiters will try to figure out what your priorities are when looking for a good job for you. so it really helps start a good relationship if you've thought through this beforehand. Is location or money more important? What about guaranteed hours or floating policies? It all makes a difference but you need to know what is most important to you. And if you say everything, I don't think you'd be happy with anything. Every contract has pros and cons. 
    • know what's important to you!
  • personal experience specific tips
    • is a license required before being submitted in certain states? do your research so if you want to go to Alaska, for example, and a job comes available they won't turn you down just because you don't have a license. you'll be prepared and you're application will rise to the top of the stack.
    • floating-when perusing your contract or in the interview with the manager make sure to ask 1. is floating required, 2. where are the possible floors i'd be floating too, 3. how is it handled if i'm not competent in my experience for a floating need?, 4. if a lack of experience influences my floating abilities and a low census continues how many times can i be called off during the contract or each pay period?
    • scheduling-will i be rotating weekends with the rest of the staff? if working nights, are friday nights or sunday nights considered as weekends at that facility? how far ahead are the schedules made? 
I'm sure there's much more but the most important characteristic of a travel nurse is to be both competent and flexible at the same time. Add your opinions below and share the wealth of knowledge. Several of you travelers out there have been traveling 10+ years. What have you learned?