How to Prepare to Be a Travel Nurse: A Comprehensive Guide

Discover the necessary steps to become a travel nurse and embark on a rewarding career. From organizing documents to finding the right opportunities and investigating agency benefits, this comprehensive guide will help you prepare for success.

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Written by: Breanna DeNino

SnapNurse Training Manager

May 26, 2023

Choosing a career as a travel nurse can be a thrilling and rewarding decision. It presents a chance to discover new destinations, acquire valuable expertise, and have a beneficial influence on the lives of patients. Before embarking on this journey, it is vital to be well-prepared. In this in-depth blog post, we will provide a comprehensive breakdown of the necessary steps to help you get ready for a rewarding travel nursing experience.

Collecting and Organizing Your Documents:

Ensuring that you have all the required documents in order is one of the first steps toward becoming a travel nurse. Gather all relevant items, be mindful of any expiration dates, and keep these documents readily available.

Professional Licenses and Certifications:

Familiarize yourself with the particular licensure prerequisites for each state in which you intend to work. Ensure your current nursing licenses are valid and consider obtaining additional certifications such as a compact license to broaden your scope of potential opportunities. Compact licenses can help fulfill the necessary Basic Life Support (BLS) requirements most agencies require. Additional examples include certifications in critical care, pediatrics, or emergency nursing.

Education and Training:

Gather copies of your nursing degree, transcripts, and any specialized training certificates you possess.

Immunization and Health Records:

Compile your immunization records, including those for diseases like influenza, mumps, rubella, and hepatitis B. Some facilities may also require a current tuberculosis (TB) test. Having these records steadily available will streamline the onboarding process.

Professional References:

Reach out to previous employers, supervisors, or colleagues who can provide professional references that highlight your skills, experience, and work ethic. Positive references can strengthen your application and increase your chances of securing desirable travel nursing assignments.


Having a typed, formal, formatted resume ready is necessary for travel nurses as it allows for efficient job applications, highlights relevant experience, demonstrates professionalism, facilitates credential verification, and maximizes networking opportunities. A well-written resume increases your chances of securing desirable assignments and effectively markets your skills.

Finding the Right Opportunity:

Research Travel Nursing Agencies:

Look for reputable travel nursing agencies that match your career goals, offer competitive compensation packages, and provide excellent support and resources. Read reviews, compare benefits, and ask fellow travel nurses for recommendations. Do they provide ongoing professional development opportunities, and comprehensive support throughout your assignments? Consider agencies that offer benefits like same-day pay and easy onboarding through user-friendly tech platforms.

Evaluate Job Opportunities:

Assess the available assignments based on location, length, clinical setting, and desired specialty. Consider the work environment, patient population, and potential growth and development. Think about your preferences and career goals to ensure that the assignments you choose align with your interests. Additionally, building a great relationship with your recruiter is crucial. They can guide you through the process, address any questions or concerns, and act as your advocate. Ensure you let your recruiter know your preferred method of contact and communicate your preferences.

Networking and Building Connections:

Become a part of online forums, social media groups, and industry conferences to establish a network of connections with fellow travel nurses. Participate in conversations, seek advice, and gain insights from their experiences. Creating a network of travel nurses offers resources for support, mentorship, and valuable guidance in discovering suitable opportunities.

Investigating Agency Benefits:

Compensation and Bonuses: 

Understand the agency’s pay structure (do you want to classify as a W-2 employee or a 1099 independent contractor), including pay rates, overtime rates, and any potential bonuses or incentives. Ask about tax advantages, reimbursements, and stipends for housing, meals, and transportation. Some agencies offer loyalty bonuses or referral programs that can be advantageous.

Housing and Travel Arrangement:

Inquire about the agency’s assistance in finding suitable housing options and travel arrangements. Some agencies provide fully furnished accommodation or a housing stipend, while others have partnerships with housing providers. Consider your preferences and the agency’s level of support when evaluating different opportunities.

Health Insurance and Benefits:

Evaluate the agency’s health insurance coverage, including medical, dental, and vision plans. Inquire about retirement plans, paid time off, and other benefits offered. Comprehensive health insurance coverage is crucial for travel nurses, as it provides security and peace of mind during assignments.

Clinician Resources:

Look for agencies that provide access to a clinician care center, where you can reach out for any questions or concerns related to your assignments or patient care. This resource can be invaluable in providing support and guidance.

 Preparing for the Journey:

Financial Planning:

Create a budget and carefully strategize your financial situation, taking into account expenses such as licensing fees, travel expenditures, housing, meals, and miscellaneous costs. Ensure that you have savings to cover any gaps between assignments or unexpected expenses. It’s also advisable to consult with a financial advisor to make sound financial decisions and maximize your earnings.

Packing Essentials:

Make a checklist of essential items to pack for your travel nursing assignments. This may include professional attire, comfortable shoes, personal documents (such as identification, nursing license, and certifications), electronic devices (such as a laptop or tablet), medical supplies (such as stethoscope and scrubs), and any other belongings you may need during your assignments. Consider the climate and specific requirements of each location. 

Emotional and Mental Preparation:

Take time to mentally prepare for the experience, such as online communities or fellow travel nurses, to connect with others who understand the unique challenges of the profession. Maintain a healthy work-life balance, engage in self-care activities, and develop coping strategies to manage stress effectively. Share your temporary address and contact information with family or trusted friends in case there is an emergency.

Researching the Location:

Before starting each assignment, research the location where you’ll be working. Familiarize yourself with the local culture, customs, and laws. Explore the attractions, amenities, and services available in the area. This knowledge will help you adjust more easily and make the most of your time off during assignments.

Prepare for Onboarding:

Look for agencies that provide access to a clinician care center, where you can reach out for any questions or concerns related to your assignments or patient care. This resource can be invaluable in providing support and guidance. Maintain open and frequent communication with your travel nursing recruiter. Inform them of your expectations and any specific needs you have for your assignments. It is recommended to have your I-9 documentation prepared when starting an assignment. Human resources will need to verify your employment eligibility within a specific timeframe. Ask your recruiter how to clock in and out and how to set up direct deposit or if ‘same day pay’ is an option.

Before starting a career in travel nursing, it is essential to meticulously prepare and give careful attention to all the necessary details. By effectively gathering and organizing the requirement documents, conducting thorough research on opportunities and agencies, and fully understanding the available benefits, you will be well-prepared for a successful experience as a travel nurse. Maintaining a flexible mindset, embracing fresh challenges, and enthusiastically seizing opportunities that arise are key principles to remember.

As you begin this venture, consider SnapNurse. SnapNurse provides a wide range of advanced technology and features that are perfectly suited to kickstart your travel nursing career. The SnapNurse platform offers a wealth of valuable resources and dedicated support, all aimed at streamlining and enhancing your travel nursing experience.

Travel nursing offers not only professional growth but also the chance to explore new places, expand your network, and make a positive impact on patients’ lives. Safe travels and best wishes on your nursing career!

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