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7 tips for getting the best travel nursing assignments

by Lindsay Wilcox

Quitting your full-time job and applying for travel nursing jobs can be a bit scary. You’re embarking on a brand-new position with brand-new people, and you’re not sure exactly what to expect. You’re also taking a temporary job and aren’t sure where you’ll be working in six months, much less a year.

Don’t let these concerns bring you down! Travel nursing is an exciting way to see the country and gain valuable clinical experience. Here are seven travel nursing success tips that will help you attract the best jobs.

Be nice to your recruiter

It seems so easy — and it is. One of the easiest ways to get the best jobs and have a positive experience as a traveler is to stay on your recruiter’s good side. Answer her calls or texts, be honest about what you want in a job, and tell her immediately when you have problems or need help. Your recruiter presents your resume to a potential employer and can talk you up and help you land that dream job.

When you refuse to cooperate with your recruiter or don’t tell him about red flags on your record, you can ruin your chances of getting a travel nursing job anywhere. Recruiters talk to other recruiters — even at other agencies — and word spreads quickly.

Tell your recruiter who else you work with and what jobs you’ve applied for

Some travelers work with a couple of agencies or even apply for permanent and travel jobs at the same time. If you’re doing this or plan to do this, tell every recruiter you work with. By being honest about how many jobs you’re applying for, you can avoid being submitted to the same job by multiple companies.

Since it’s common to work with several agencies who have contracts with different hospitals, recruiters will appreciate your candor and work hard to get you the best package possible. If you do apply for several positions at the same time, it’s crucial to respond quickly when your recruiter has an opportunity for you so you have a better chance of landing the job.

Get and give lots of details before submitting your resume

Before you ask your recruiter to submit your resume for a new job, find out as much as possible, including:

  • the pay package
  • the hours you’ll be working
  • the departments you could potentially float to
  • the patient load
  • the trauma level of the hospital
  • orientation time

You should also have your college transcripts and other paperwork ready and give your recruiter the following information:

  • dates when you need time off
  • whether you have friends working there (this could help you get a job)
  • if you’ve applied for a permanent job there in the past
  • if you have other offers with other travel nurse agencies

7 travel nursing success tips - image of travel nurse working on resume and credentialing

Tell your recruiter why you have turned down job offers

If you’re offered a travel nursing job and decide to turn it down, explain the situation to your recruiter. He or she will want to know if you need a higher salary, more flexible hours, a different location or more time off work. This helps your recruiter find you a better job in the future.

Be aware that turning down a job once it’s been offered can hurt your chances of working with that hospital again.

Be flexible wherever you can

If your sister is getting married next summer, you can’t budge on the dates you need time off. However, you can be more willing to work a different shift, try a rural hospital instead of an urban one, or work in a state you had never considered.

While it’s important to know what you want in a job and communicate that to your recruiter, it’ll be harder to find a job if your requirements are too specific. If your dream is to work in Alaska, you may have to be more flexible on pay or on shifts. Likewise, you may need to work in Florida during the summer rather than the winter (at least for your first assignment).

Give yourself time to fit in

As a travel nurse, you’ll have a short orientation (sometimes only a day or so) and will be expected to jump right in and help. You’ll have to quickly get up to speed on new electronic health systems, learn where the supply closet is, and even figure out what’s actually palatable from the hospital cafeteria.

It’s challenging to be the “new kid” every three months or so and get to know new doctors and nurses — but give yourself a break. Don’t expect the staff to instantly be welcoming or invite you to company events. And don’t expect to quickly make connections with everyone. If you do your job well and are willing to work hard, you’ll gain your coworkers’ respect and make lasting friendships.

7 travel nursing success tips - image of two nurses having fun together in the hospital cafeteria

Let your recruiter know early if you’d like to take a permanent job

Sometimes you end up loving a travel job so much that you decide you’d like to work there full-time. Or sometimes a hospital offers you a permanent position because they’ve been impressed with your work.

No matter how it happens, let your recruiter know as soon as possible if you’re taking a permanent job. They will need to cancel your benefits, help you transition out of agency housing, and evaluate your contract. While your recruiter will be sad to lose you to a permanent job, they may be able to help you find a place to live in the new city and give you tips on transitioning to full-time work again.

Travel nursing is an experience unlike any other, and it comes with a bit of a learning curve. If you communicate well with your recruiter, are honest about what you expect from a job, and are willing to be adaptable, you’ll be successful and have the time of your life.

Have you caught the travel nursing bug yet? Check out our open travel nursing jobs to get started.

About Lindsay Wilcox

Lindsay Wilcox is a healthcare writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional writing experience. When she's not circling typos, she's enjoying fish tacos and hanging out with her family.

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