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Traits it takes to be a travel nurse

January 18, 2013

Nursing is a profession which is respected and admired universally, but the life of a staff nurse can be quite stressful and overwhelming.  Many experienced staff nurses are making the change to travel nursing because they see how they can cut the stress without cutting the pay.  The opportunity to decide when and where to work, combined with some of the highest pay rates in the nursing industry, make travel nursing an exhilarating change for some staff nurses.  This lifestyle may not be for everyone, but for some, it is an adventure with limitless possibilities. RN's looking to get into the world of travel nursing have a world of opportunity at their fingertips, but there are a few character traits that may help transitioning to a life of exciting travel, meeting new people, and being your own boss.

Itchy FeetThe average travel nurse will get the opportunity to travel extensively, and to a wide range of stunning locations throughout America - from coast to coast. If you have an innate desire to travel, you will probably love this life of transience. Nurses will often specialize in a particular area of healthcare, and they can spend as much as the year on the road as they like, either taking a break between assignments or going from one assignment straight to the next. As a travel nurse, assignments include pre-paid accommodations and travel expenses, so the economic benefits of this career are two-fold.

Social and Communication SkillsRegular nursing positions give people years to form relationships with colleagues. However, the role of a travelling nurse involves working with new people every few weeks. To be a success, you must be a great communicator, as well as having the ability to socialize with strangers freely. That said, the life of a travel nurse gives people the chance to form lasting relationships with people all over the country; it is common for travel nurses to make many close friends during the course of their travels. Travel nurses also look out for each other, and the bonds formed between them are very special indeed. If it's camaraderie and friendship you're after, then a life spent as a travel nurse could be a deeply rewarding one.

AdaptabilityIf you fear change, a life spent as a travelling nurse may not be the life for you. During the course of your duties, you will need to adapt to changing procedures, management structures and the day-to-day differences between different healthcare providers. You must embrace the constantly changing nature of your work, or your career in travel nursing will be short-lived. Those nurses with a 'go-with-the-flow' attitude are likely to excel as a travel nurse, and the incredible opportunities to expand both your breadth of knowledge and your experience of different situations will improve your resume considerably.

FlexibilityThe life of a travel nurse is exciting and unpredictable, but that will not suit everyone. If you have a young family, it may be impractical to take them on long trips with you, although it has been done. Married couples also have the opportunity to travel together. You need to be able to hit the road, sometimes with only a few days' notice, although typically you’ll have 1-4 weeks to prepare. One of the big appeals of travel nursing is the chance to work and visit so many great cities across the country. However, you will also need to go where the work is at times and they may not always be the places that are at the top of your list. Those who chose a career as a rapid response travel nurse will only be given between 7 and 14 days to prepare - compared with the standard 21 to 28 days for regular travel nurses - so successful candidates will need to be even more flexible.

Each state in America has its own licensing arrangements, and depending on the state, an application may take up to three months to acquire, so travel nurses need to be proactive when applying for their various licenses. The more licenses you have, the more options you will qualify for.  Setting yourself up this way will give you more control over where and when you work.

IndependentThe life of a travel nurse is spent with no permanent professional home. A regular staff nurse has a permanent hospital to call home; however, a travelling nurse will move from one place to the next on a regular basis. It's important that you find a travel nurse staffing agency that you are comfortable with, because they become your family and your home base.  Be sure to interview your travel nurse agency and make sure you will have a recruiter that you connect with and can trust.   

The work of a travel nurse takes place in hospitals, so it is essential that applicants can demonstrate hospital-based experience of at least one year. A lot of the work carried out by travel nurses involves covering for vacation time, illness and staff shortages, so it is vital that replacements can hit the ground running! Of course, a career in travel nursing is extremely hard work, but the incredible benefits and flexibility involved make it one of the most rewarding and fulfilling professions in the world of healthcare.

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