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Start an Exciting Career as a Travel Nurse

Whether you are considering a career for the first time, or already have one that no longer fulfills you, the option to become a travel nurse is worthy of your consideration. If it is important to you to help others, you want an exciting career, and you want to travel the world or even the USA, becoming a travel nurse will answer all these needs.

What Is a Travel Nurse in the USA?

A travel nurse is any registered nurse who undertakes contract work as a registered nurse to fill vacancies for nurses in different states. They sign up with an independent staffing agency that finds them temporary positions as a registered nurse. Travel nurses come from all the various clinical settings and are thus suited to filling a variety of nursing jobs.

This highly specialized field came into being due to the global shortage of nursing staff. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2020, massive staff shortages of healthcare workers are being experienced around the world. Fifty percent of this shortage is for nurses and midwives, who make up almost 50% of the global healthcare workforce. By the year 2030, the world will need an extra nine million nurses and midwives to maintain standards of nursing as per Sustainable Development Goal 3. These statistics show how critical registered nurses are to healthcare, not only in the USA but around the world.

To attract travel nurses, hospitals, clinics, and other care facilities offer housing, relocation expenses, and a very competitive, above-average salary.

Opportunities for a Travel Nurse Outside the USA?

You can work in the USA if this is where you are based. But there are plenty of opportunities for registered nurses in other countries on other continents. This will allow you to travel and get to know other cultures and landscapes. The most severe shortages for registered nurses are found in Africa and Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia is expanding rapidly. It has the sixth largest economy globally and is the world’s biggest market. Businesses in other countries are making the most of this trend to open up international branches in this region. Southeast Asia has a combined GDP that was the equivalent of $3 trillion in 2018. Its total population exceeds 635 million people. The top growing countries in Southeast Asia are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. These are also some of the best places to visit for a travel nurse, or anyone looking for an exciting career.

In Africa, India, and elsewhere, thirty countries have been identified as having a critical need for registered nurses.

Travel nurses gain valuable experience in the nursing field as they contribute and get to learn from multiple institutions. Traveling overseas expands these capabilities and the knowledge gained. For example, dealing with a malaria pandemic in Africa is vastly different from working at a primary care unit in India.


Travel Nurses Are Vital to Healthcare for Many Reasons

Travel nurses play a key role in the healthcare environment. The demand for registered nurses far outweighs their supply, leaving a huge gap that travel nurses can help to fill. Because mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios have been shown to improve patient safety and lower patient mortality, it is vital to fill these gaps to the required level. Fourteen states in the USA, including California, have legislated mandatory ratios.

Registered nurses who travel are able to share practices and ideas that they have picked up from their travel experience with local registered nurses. This helps to increase nursing knowledge and provides a benefit to the patient when best practices are used that have been tested in the field.

Travel nurses also learn something new in each hospital or clinic that they work at.

The Qualification Requirements for a Travel Nurse

To become a travel nurse, you must be a registered nurse first. This can be achieved in either two years or four years of study at a university. The two-year program is an associate degree in nursing (ADN), while the four-year program is a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BDN).

Although you can become a travel nurse with the ADN qualification, some institutions require a registered nurse with a BSN. The travel nurse is hired by a staffing agency which will determine which jobs the candidate is suited to out of the available vacancies. This should not present a problem due to the global staffing shortages for registered nurses. Thus, a position will always be available for the travel nurse who is wanting to work.

Once you have completed either the ADN or the BDN, you will be required to take the NCLEX-RN exam. This will enable you to be registered and licensed to practice. At a minimum, you will also need a full year of practical, direct nursing experience before an agency for travel nurses will sign you up. This year would be in a selected specialized field such as intensive care or emergency care wards.

If you are planning on traveling overseas as a travel nurse, you will need basic proficiency in the language of the region you will be working in. This will enable you to communicate effectively with patients and other healthcare providers. You should not settle with the first travel nurse agency you come across. Do your research to see which offers the best benefits and has a caring and practical approach to help you move into the right positions. Then there will be no need to change agencies down the road and your agency will be familiar with your experience and requirements.

If you have not previously considered a nursing career but are recently thinking of changing to one, you will have a big advantage if you already have a bachelor’s degree in any field unrelated to nursing. For example, Elmhurst University Online offers a Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice (MENP) program, which takes twenty months to complete, and an online Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, which takes sixteen months to finish. Programs like these also offer practical training in a simulated nursing laboratory set-up that mimics the real situation to enable students to gain hands-on experience.

Special Certifications Required for a Travel Nurse

Having covered the qualification and exams required for a travel nurse, it should be noted that while no other exams are required in general, you may require specific certification for your specialty. For example, if you are working in intensive care, you will need certification for Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), and Critical care nursing (adults, pediatric, neonatal)

A medical or surgical nurse requires Basic Life Support (BLS), Stroke care certification, and Telemetry certification. Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) may be required as well. A labor or delivery nurse is required to have Basic Life Support (BLS), and Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) certification. Additional certifications that may be required are Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS). These certifications will also enable you to work with women’s health.

The Personal Competencies Required for a Travel Nurse

While being a travel nurse holds out many possibilities, not everyone has the right personal traits to do well in this job. If you have the following characteristics, you will be able to succeed as a travel nurse.

You must be adaptable and want the freedom to decide your term of employment (e.g., three months at a location), income, work schedules, and benefits packages, The best way to achieve this is to be selective in deciding which travel nurse agency you want to work for.

A travel nurse also has to enjoy traveling, meeting new people, staying in different locations, and having good interaction skills. If you are only doing a three-month stint, you can’t take two months to adjust to the culture and your colleagues. You must also be able to handle the challenges of adapting to each institution’s workflow methods and structures as these will differ between organizations.

You must be a fast learner. You may encounter new technology and standards that you have to adapt to from day one. The huge benefit of this is that you will become a highly experienced and sought-after registered nurse.

Your family and friends should be understanding and support your decision to be a travel nurse and move around frequently. This may be difficult if you have a significant other unless you have agreed to a set number of years that you will travel before settling down in one location. The positive aspect is that you will forge new friendships in each location. Thus, you should be able to form new relationships easily or enjoy your own company to prevent loneliness.

Additional Requirements for an International Travel Nurse

Although the travel nurse agency will handle the paperwork for you, a new passport and work visa will be required for each new location.

You may have to be immunized against certain diseases that are common in the area you are going to. There will also be a need to learn about specific diseases that are specific to the area where you are going and standard treatments, although the reality may be different when you get there. For example, you may be used to working in a clean clinic but have to operate out of a tent with a line of patients queuing up outside.

It has already been mentioned that some contracts will require you to learn a new language so that you can communicate with patients and staff. This will also help you when you go sightseeing, ask for directions, or want to order food at a restaurant. This means having an ear for languages and a natural talent for acquiring them.

Challenges That Face a Travel Nurse

While being a travel nurse is a real opportunity to advance your career as a registered nurse and acquire great experience that will help you to advance, there are a few negative aspects to consider. You may suffer from stress as many of a travel nurse’s assignments occur in hospitals and clinics that are seriously understaffed. This will mean that you have a heavier than normal patient load at times. Combined with the life-and-death decisions that are required, this may put you under severe pressure.

It is important to develop a support network and to avoid being too isolated. A travel nurse should have a high degree of equanimity and independence which will enable them to cope with the stresses of the job. Use every opportunity to gain knowledge and experience as this will give you confidence that your decisions are the right ones.

Some of the locations where a travel nurse is based when working internationally can expose them to chemicals, blood-borne pathogens, and workplace violence. Familiarize yourself with the new environment, read up before leaving for your destination, and follow all safety protocols. You will also need to know specific laws pertinent to a country and the types of diseases found in that location. Make sure all immunizations are up to date.

Benefits of Being a Travel Nurse

Although there are a few challenges to take note of, travel nursing can be very satisfying. For one, the other registered nurses will be pleased to have additional support to deal with patient loads, which could be worse during a pandemic. The rewards, such as much higher salaries, make up for the trials you will encounter. Additionally, you get to travel and see more of the world, become a more compassionate person with greater social awareness, and gain experience that other nurses don’t get the opportunity to explore. This means that when you are ready for promotion you will have a solid resume to your name.

Being a travel nurse makes for an exciting and rewarding career. You will also be helping to fill the gap caused by the shortage of trained and experienced nurses around the world. So, you can be assured of making a real difference in people’s lives. You will grow as a person and develop your social and communication skills. The job of a travel nurse is one of the most fulfilling careers available in the world today.

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