After graduating with your nursing degree, you may be looking forward to beginning your travel nurse career. But you may discover most employers require at least two years of experience before you can land a job. How are you supposed to get a job when you only have your ADN or BSN and no professional experience? This seems like a catch-22: You need a job that requires experience, but you need the experience to land a job. We hope the insights below will help you better understand a prospective employer's requirements as well as how to land a job quickly now that you’ve finished your degree.
You should first understand that travel nurses are highly sought after, largely because of the nursing shortage affecting medical facilities nationwide. The COVID-19 pandemic has a lot to do with the reasons travel nurses are in such high demand. That means you should have little problem finding a job once you've completed your two years of experience.
Just think of the possibilities. You get to look forward to new experiences, meet new people, rack up airline miles, and enjoy paid trips all over the United States, all while earning a healthy salary to boot. But in order to gain all these perks, you first need to get those two years of experience under your belt as a beginner nurse.
Why Do Most Travel Nurse Employers Require Two Years of Experience?
Travel nursing is a career that can be tough to break into as someone fresh out of their nursing degree program. When you score a new job as a travel RN, you must adapt to the new environment quickly with only a few days of orientation. Once orientation is through, you can ask your fellow nursing team for help, but you are still expected to function as an independent nurse. Without asking for too much assistance, you need to learn where supply items are located and the layout of the hospital. You need to know how to work certain types of equipment and navigate a new charting system. All of these things are much easier to absorb when you have two years of experience as an RN on your resume.
Once those two years are completed, you will be much more able to work independently as a nurse. You’ll have your own unique way of managing the heaviest of workloads, and all the patients under your care. You’ll be more knowledgeable and, perhaps more importantly, confident regarding your role as a nurse. You’ll also be better equipped to manage the daily stressors and respond to various types of emergencies quickly. In short, two years of experience will prepare you to become the best travel nurse you can be.
How to Make the Most of the Two-Year Experience Requirement
Before you can start traveling, you should look for an RN job at a hospital close to home. As a brand-new nurse with a nursing degree and no professional experience to speak of, you will undergo orientation with a preceptor. This program usually spans between three to six months and is intended to help you become accustomed to the hospital setting. Most nurses who have been through these orientation programs will tell you that the time passes quickly, and you learn a lot about being a hands-on nursing professional.
The preceptor you are working under is akin to a mentor. You are encouraged to ask plenty of questions until you feel comfortable enough to manage your workload on your own. At this stage, you’re not required to know everything. Once you begin traveling around, you will be expected to be in-the-know. But for now, enjoy the experience of working under someone else, and take advantage of the preceptor’s knowledge as you learn the ropes while gaining the necessary experience.
The Importance of Self-Reflection
In most cases, other than the clinical work required to earn your degree, this is your first time working with a variety of different patients — and some will be tough. While working under a preceptor, your patient assignments are determined by what you are capable of handling on your own versus what you will need a mentor to help with. Take this time to learn as much about yourself and the workload you can handle as a nurse. Once you find a travel nursing job, you may not have the benefit of picking and choosing what you can handle on your own. You’ll have to take whatever you’re assigned, no exceptions.
Learn to Adapt as a Nurse
One of the biggest lessons you will learn in the two years of nursing experience is to roll with the punches. Look at the mentorship with your preceptor as an adventure, even when you are suddenly on your own after the mentorship ends. Travel nursing is a career where every day could be different. You may find yourself in a strange area at a new hospital working with a new team. Look forward to these changes and ambrace them. With change comes growth and more experience, which can translate to increased pay down the road. The longer you stick with it, the better nurse you’ll be, and the more sought after you will become by employers.
Start Looking for Your First Nursing Job Today
If you have recently earned your nursing degree, congratulations! You are well on your way to becoming a travel nurse. All you need is two years of experience, which can be obtained at a number of hospitals near you. Your first nursing job likely won’t be your last, so put your head down and strive to learn and grow.
You can start looking for your first nursing job or travel nurse jobs if you already have that experience by working with Prolink.
At Prolink, we pair you with a travel nurse recruiter who can notify you of jobs when they match your specialty and career goals. We pay competitive salaries, offer attractive benefits, and can help you find a job fast. Get started now by filling out our quick online job application.