How to Become a Travel Nurse: a Step-By-Step Guide

Updated 26 April 2023

Working in the health care industry can be restrictive, especially if you feel tied to one location and have prohibitive work hours. This can be difficult for those wanting to travel, and it can make some people less interested in nursing as a career. However, this doesn't have to be the case if you become a travel nurse. In this article, we look at how to become a travel nurse and what this career could mean for you.

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How to become a travel nurse

When you've decided to learn how to become a travel nurse, it's important to know that it can take time and effort to get into the role. Follow the steps below and learn how to become a travel nurse:

1. Earn a nursing degree

The most reliable way into any medical field is through a related degree. Although there are some courses that may take you into the medical profession without you needing to get a separate degree, getting a bachelor's degree in nursing is the most reliable way to show employers that you have all the knowledge required to work in the field. Having a bachelor's degree in nursing also supports your application, as it demonstrates your dedication to getting a role in the nursing sector.

A nursing degree can take longer than the duration of a standard degree, so to complete one from start to finish is indicative of somebody who intends to dedicate themselves to their job. This dedication is something that employers respect, as it shows that you're likely to stay in the role long term. You may also be able to get into nursing through related degrees such as social work and psychology, but these are likely to limit you in your nursing work and are less likely to secure you a role as a travel nurse.

Related: How To Become a Nurse

2. Take part in an apprenticeship

Something that is highly valued in the nursing field is experience. A hospital is not an environment in which an employer can take afford to take risks. Members of staff need good experience and decision-making capabilities, which is why most nursing placements and degrees require you to complete so many hours of practical work.

Doing an apprenticeship allows you to learn from experienced professionals. This is a great experience that can teach you the basics of the job. These schemes allow you to build up a wealth of experience in a guided and supported way, dealing with real-life medical scenarios whilst having the safety net of a supervisor in place. Employers value any experience you have of being in a medical environment, making it a key addition to your CV.

Relevant: How To Write a Nurse CV (Plus Template and Example)

3. Complete extra courses

Even if you have a degree or apprenticeship, try to set yourself apart from your competition. You can do so by taking part in additional courses that improve your care giving abilities. Many places offer specific short courses that deal with giving specific care to patients. This can include personal development around providing dialysis to patients, dealing with patients as they come out of anaesthesia and offering care to disabled patients who need more specialist attention.

Being able to present skills like these to a prospective employer is often key to getting recruited. After all, the idea behind a travel nurse is for them to be as flexible as possible to help fill staffing gaps. By adding as many relevant skills as possible to your CV, you can make yourself attractive to recruiters, as you can fill more gaps than those you're competing against.

Related: How to Develop Your Skill Set for Career Success

What is a travel nurse?

A travel nurse is a registered nurse who completes a wide range of roles and duties, all whilst working on short-term contracts that see them move from location to location. Thanks to the shorter nature of these contracts, travel nurses can go to areas that need support quickly, filling staffing gaps and offering high-quality care. There are always vacancies in nursing, especially in developing countries that have fewer trained staff members. There are also some key benefits to taking the role.

Many nursing roles restrict people to living in the same area and working at the same hospital for a long period of time, which isn't ideal for people who have a more adventurous nature. The concept of a travel nurse means that you can take in the sights and sounds of a new city every few months. The hospital gets its vacancies covered by competent and capable members of staff, and you get to travel the country. Travel nurses are often people without any family commitments, although nurses with grown children may also be interested in travel nursing opportunities.

What responsibilities and tasks do travel nurses have?

When you're working as a nurse, you can expect to have a wide range of tasks to complete on a daily basis. You typically deal with patients who have all manner of illnesses. Some of the typical tasks that you can expect to complete include:

  • Providing basic first aid, which includes dressing and undressing wounds, administering drugs and injections and setting up drips for patients.

  • Using medical equipment within your facility to a competent standard, in line with any training you receive when getting your qualifications.

  • Assessing and analysing the condition of your patients to establish the best course of action for their ongoing treatment.

  • Working empathetically and compassionately with your patients to convey information to them and keep them as comfortable as possible when in your care.

  • Taking down patient information to a basic level, including key vital signs such as their heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and internal temperature.

  • Advising patients and their relatives on the best way forward with their care.

Of course, there are other responsibilities when working in this role, but these may arise depending on the patient you're treating or the department in which you're working. In any case, you can benefit from being able to adapt to different tasks and be ready to handle a range of patients and problems.

What is the average salary of a travel nurse?

Unlike many other jobs, there are no geographical differences in pay that a travel nurse can expect to make over the course of a year. This is due to the fact that a travel nurse could be working in London one week and Birmingham, Manchester or Glasgow the next. The average salary for a travel nurse is £28,822 per year. This can vary due to a range of factors, including the agency that employs you, where your assignments are and your seniority as a nurse.

What skills does a travel nurse need?

The role of a travel nurse often varies and can be complex. Some of the skills you can demonstrate to work effectively in the role are:

  • Adaptability: It's important for travel nurses to not only adjust to the different tasks on a day-to-day basis, but also whilst adapting to living in a new location.

  • Customer service: You may not strictly be dealing with 'customers', but many patients are in a position where their view of their ailment differs from the medical reality, and you may be required to change their views on treatment.

  • Teamwork: Working closely in tandem with other nurses and medical professionals is at the core of ensuring top-quality care for patients, so you may be required to work well with others.

  • Compassion: In nursing, your role revolves around your desire to help others. You may often find yourself in uncomfortable situations, but ensuring your patient gets the care they need is the priority, requiring you to put your own concerns and views aside.

  • Working under pressure: Nursing can be very time-sensitive and involve high-pressure situations, so it's essential to be able to think quickly, coming up with answers to developing problems promptly and effectively. This also means being able to respond calmly to stressful situations in which a patient's life may be at risk.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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