Prolink Travel Nurse Series: How Does Travel Nursing Work?
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Prolink Travel Nurse Series: How Does Travel Nursing Work?

January 10, 2023

If you have a passion for delivering excellent patient care while exploring new and interesting locations, working as a travel nurse may be for you. Keep reading for more information about how travel nursing works to see if this career choice suits your interests and lifestyle.

Why Do RNs Choose Travel Nursing?

Travel nurses help to fill staffing shortages at medical facilities around the country. Hospitals, clinics, physician's offices, and labs are in need of qualified nurses. In some instances, the need may be temporary due to nurses being on maternity or sick leave, for example. As a travel nurse, you get to lend your expertise while traveling to these facilities to fill in when the schedule is short at least one nursing professional.

How Do You Become a Travel Nurse? 

To become a travel nurse, you must be a registered nurse (RN) with a valid license. Employers typically also prefer that you have 12 to 18 months of hospital-based nursing experience in your chosen field. Some travel nursing jobs require even more on-site experience to be considered for employment. 

While the average annual salary for a travel nurse is $88,320, specializing in a certain nursing field can make you more attractive to employers and increase your earning potential. Nursing specialties in high demand include nursing positions in the ICU and oncology.

Fulfill the Requirements to Become a Travel Nurse


There are multiple ways to enter the nursing field. You can earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited program.

An ADN takes around two years on average, while a BSN can take three years or less. If you hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, there are accelerated programs that can help you earn a BSN in less time.

RN Licensure 

Once you graduate from a nursing program, you’ll then need to be licensed as an RN to work in a medical facility. After you graduate, you will be prepared to take the NCLEX-RN exam. Passing that exam allows you to obtain an RN license in your state. 

You also can apply for a compact license, which allows you to work in other states with the same license, thanks to the Nurse Licensure Compact Agreement (NLC). Currently, 34 states have joined the compact, with more being added all the time. If you live in a compact state and obtain a compact license, you can work in another state without applying for additional licensure. 

If you don’t live in a compact state, you’ll need to apply for a license to work in another state by following that state’s Board of Nursing licensure requirements. 

Specialization and Work Experience 

Employers prefer that you have work experience before you can begin travel nursing. You can use the time gaining your nursing experience to specialize or obtain certification in a chosen field, such as pediatrics, oncology, or emergency care. 

Get Paired with Travel Nursing Assignments 

Your Prolink recruiter will reach out when a travel nursing job becomes available. Most travel nursing assignments last around 13 weeks. However, you also can find travel nursing employment opportunities between 8 and 26 weeks. You’ll sign a contract before being allowed to work in facilities like hospitals, with the option to extend or renew your contract if you provide exemplary work. 

When you work at a facility, you can choose to work five 8s, three 12s, or four 10s, though these scheduling options will vary depending on the facility. All of the shift details will be detailed in your contract before signing.

You Choose Where You Want to Go 

One of the benefits of travel nursing is the variety. Travel nursing assignments are available from coast to coast. Want to see New Orleans, New York City, or Oahu, Hawaii? Chances are there are travel nursing assignments available in those areas. You only need an open assignment to make your dream location a reality as long as you can obtain licensing in the state where you want to go. 

Choose a Medical Facility Close to Home

Don’t think you need to hop on a plane to become a travel nurse. You have the option of choosing travel nursing assignments that are close to home as well. There is a caveat here that must be explained before you take a nearby travel nursing job.

As a travel nurse, you should be aware of the 50-mile rule, which states that you need to work 50 miles away from your permanent residence to qualify for non-taxed housing stipends and travel reimbursements. You don’t get these things if you choose assignments within the 50-mile zone. 

Travel to Other States and Begin Working Right Away

You can qualify for housing stipends and travel reimbursements if you travel beyond 50 miles, such as when you traverse to another state. To collect on these bonuses and perks, you need to be duplicating your expenses. In other words, you must be paying rent or a mortgage in your home state and spending money on housing in another state for work. 

Being a travel nurse makes it easier to see the rest of the country while providing quality care to patients. 

Housing and Travel Reimbursements 

For our travel nurses, Prolink offers a housing stipend to help you cover temporary accommodations while on assignment.  Finding temporary housing allows you to choose your price point and ensure that you are getting the accomodations you want.

Don't worry about larger items like a washer and dryer, vacuum, or television. Most household necessities can be rented from local businesses, making it easier for you to furnish your apartment during your travel assignment. 

Having a housing stipend lets you choose your own lodgings and put your own personal spin on your furnishings and decor.  

Increased Earning Potential

When you factor in hourly pay, non-taxed housing stipends, travel reimbursements, and other bonuses, travel nurses have an increased earning potential. The amount you earn as a travel nurse will depend on your location, specialty, and the shifts you accept. 

Qualify for Health Insurance and Benefits on Day One

Prolink offers medical benefits and 401k enrollment from the very first day. However, eligibility has specific rules, so it is important to be aware of the requirements associated with benefits, as well as the length of time you can take between assignments while still maintaining them.  

Apply Today to Get Started!

Interested in becoming a travel nurse? Get started now by filling out our easy application form.

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