8 Questions to Answer Before a Travel Nurse Assignment
By Melissa Hagstrom, contributor
Hitting the road as a travel nurse can be one of the most exhilarating experiences in your professional career. There are many unknowns—and endless possibilities.
New locations to explore and people to meet? Check! Great compensation and benefits? Check! New clinical experiences to expand your skill set? Check!
But before you pick a travel nurse assignment and sign your contract, you’ll want to clarify the factors that matter most to you. This can help you and your recruiter to find the most appropriate jobs, and ensure that you get the most out of the experience.
8 questions to answer before you travel:
1. What is your primary motivation for travel nursing?
Are you craving new travel experiences, better income or specific training in your nursing specialty? If travel is the focus, location will be key. If pay is your primary motivation, your recruiter can help you find the assignments with top earning potential. But if you really want to focus on your clinical nursing experience, your recruiter can find assignments that provide exposure to certain technology or medical procedures. All three may be important factors in your decision-making, but zeroing in on your main motivation for travel nursing can help set you up for success in every travel nurse assignment.
2. What is your ideal facility or working environment?
Are you coming from a big facility in a major city and looking for a change of pace? If so, an assignment at a smaller rural hospital or community medical center may be the perfect fit. Or maybe there is a Level 1 trauma center or an ANCC Magnet hospital that’s always been at the top of your wish list. Then again, you may be hoping to work weekdays at an outpatient clinic. The more input you provide to your recruiter, the more likely he or she can find an assignment facility that’s right for you.
3. Which clinical factors are important to you?
Clinical care is at the heart of what you do, and it’s important to consider what you want to get out of this professional experience. Thus, there are a few questions we recommend travel nurses ask of their potential assignment facility: What is the nurse-to-patient ratio? What technology is available for nurses in your specialty unit? What could one learn on the job? What electronic medical record system does the facility use? You’ll also want to ensure that you have enough clinical experience to feel confident in your skills.
4. How flexible are you willing to be?
Having an open mind is one of the key markers for success in travel nursing. While there may be some non-negotiables, the more flexible you are—regarding location, facility type, unit, shift schedule or other factors—the more opportunities you will find. Some travel nursing assignments ask that a nurse is able to float to other units, so make sure you are willing to do that, if required.
5. What are your top location choices?
The location of your next travel nursing assignment is one of the biggest things to consider, but it’s important not to put all your eggs in one basket. Make a list of your top three to five destinations, while keeping an open mind about cities and towns that your recruiter might suggest. If he or she presents you with an assignment location that isn’t among your top choices, don’t discount it right away. Oftentimes, travel nurses tell us that the places they hadn’t initially considered end up being their favorite assignments.
6. What are your salary goals and expectations?
Thanks to high demand, even before the COVID pandemic, travel nurses earn very competitive pay. Travel nursing compensation usually includes an hourly or weekly rate, plus housing, travel reimbursements and other benefits. Do you want overtime pay? Guaranteed hours? Are you willing to work in a less desirable location for greater pay? These are all things to consider in terms of monetary motivation for travel nursing.
7. Who will you take with you (including pets)?
Do you plan on traveling solo? With a partner or other family members? Or perhaps with a furry friend? Or do you and a travel nursing colleague want to be assigned together? Any and all of these scenarios will have an impact on your housing and other factors regarding your next travel nursing assignment. Almost anything is possible, with the proper planning; we’ve even had an RN travel with her horse before!
8. Do you want to arrange your own housing, or leave it to your agency?
Free, quality, private, furnished housing is one of the many perks of traveling with a major agency such as Onward Healthcare. Our team of housing experts will work diligently to find you safe and clean accommodations within a reasonable commuting distance of your assignment facility. But if you already have your housing situation figured out or plan to secure your own accommodations, we will provide you with a monthly housing subsidy, which can vary depending on the assignment location.
READY to get started? The recruiters at Onward Healthcare can match you with a travel nursing assignment that checks all the important boxes for you.