I’ve had many, many people (co-workers, family, friends) ask me about my future as a travel nurse in January. Most people ask, “Where are you going first?” or some variation of this question. The answer is, “I don’t know yet, it’s complicated.” This is followed by a lengthy, not always interesting explanation of how this whole process works. So if you’re one of those people who are wondering what it takes to get to your first travel nurse position, this post is for you!
Step 1: Find a recruiter or two. This means researching companies, reading lots of reviews, crowd-sourcing from travel nurse groups, and finding recommendations from real travel nurses. There are hundreds of options, so if you find a company with good reviews and a recruiter at the company with lots of recommendations, try seeing if that recruiter will work with you! Now you have to call them and tell them what your priorities are for choosing assignments: location, size of hospital, good housing, great overtime pay, etc. Then you fill out the paperwork and submit all of the requirements to the recruiter’s company.
Step 2: Get some licenses. I’ve heard over and over that you shouldn’t interview for jobs if you don’t have a license for that state in your hand. Some states take many, many months to license you after you submit all of their requirements, so if you’re planning to start traveling at a certain time, you need to start applying for licenses pretty early. (Some states are compact states, meaning your home state license will work there, but my home state license works no where but in my home state. Some states will issue a license same day or week, but those states are not always places you want to go.)
Step 3: Apply and interview for jobs. 4-6 weeks before start dates hospitals will start posting their traveling needs. Your recruiter(s) will be looking for jobs that begin around the time you’re wanting to start, and start asking if they can submit your profile or resume to certain places. You look at the pay and the location and either agree to be submitted or not. Once you’re submitted, you wait and hope that the manager there likes your profile and wants to interview you. If they do, they arrange a phone (or video) interview and of course after interviewing and asking them a lot of questions about the position, you and they both have to make a decision. They’ll either offer you the job or not, and you’ll accept or not. You work out your contract with your recruiter, trying to negotiate for higher pay or better housing or whatever.
Step 4: Move to your new location, practice getting to your unit before the first day, and show up to your new job at the right time!
So there it is! I’m currently in step 2. Even though I want to work in California, that license could take up to 6 months to be issued, and since I want to start in January I’m trying to get a few other licenses so that I have options. I have licenses currently pending in California, New York, Virginia, and Florida and am almost ready to submit my applications for licensing in Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. Then there’s that Hawaii license I need to go after! Which licenses will be ready by November when I start applying for jobs? I don’t know. Which states will have ICU positions in cities I like, in the type of hospital I want (large, teaching hospitals)? I don’t know! And will I even get the positions that I interview for? I don’t know again!
So that is why I can’t predict where I’m going first. It’s all up in the air, but I’m making sure that I don’t put all of my eggs in one basket.