If you’re looking for a change or new challenge in your nursing career, you may want to consider travel nursing. Maybe you’ve heard of this field and haven’t taken the time to look into it, or you know other nurses who have been enjoying it. Whatever the case may be, this mini guide is the perfect place to learn more.
We discuss what a travel nurse is, who travel nursing is best for, the benefits and salary of travel nursing, and how you can become a travel nurse.
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Travel nursing in Canada first started out in response to nursing shortages.
Canadian travel nurses work in temporary nursing positions within hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities that are faced with unfilled positions and patients needing care. Travel nurses help bridge the gap between supply and demand, which leads to increased safety and better outcomes for patients.
Nurses with different educational backgrounds, care areas, and geographic locations bring a lot to nursing. When different perspectives, ideas, experience, and practices are shared, not only do patients benefit, but other nurses do as well.
Working in different facilities, with different demographic groups, to provide different services offers travel nurses opportunities to expand their skill sets. Also, moving and adapting to change is an important life skill that travel nursing brings.
The variety of health care settings you can find yourself in as a travel nurse allows you to see how different facilities function and the various roles that operate within them. This can help you uncover roles you might wish to pursue full-time.
Developing relationships with colleagues at different facilities is very beneficial to any nurse. If, down the road, you’re looking to get out of travel nursing and into a full-time, permanent position, these contacts can act as leads or references for you.
Some agencies offer free continuing education credits through programs with online courses that are compliant with the Occupational Health and Safety regulations of various countries.
Travel nurses get paid to visit different parts of the world to help those in need, where care is most in demand. When you’re off the clock, you can meet locals and explore everything your new town, city or country has to offer!
Contracted travel nurses get the freedom to choose which contracts to take and when. For example, you might want to take a break between jobs or only work long or short-term contracts.
Travel nurses get to travel while making money - a huge plus for anyone who loves to travel but can’t afford to do so often or for long periods of time.
Travel nurses earn competitive salaries (more on this, below), expense reimbursements (such as for state or provincial licensure), and bonuses (including for referrals of your nurse colleagues to agencies). Salaries have been increasing, and the earning potential of travel nurses often exceeds that of local staff nurses.
Some agencies provide furnished private apartments in desirable neighbourhoods that are in close proximity to health care employers. As well, many reimburse for travel expenses to offset relocation and moving costs.
Travel nurses on staff may be eligible for medical, dental, life insurance, and retirement savings plans.
Some agencies provide comprehensive professional liability insurance and worker's compensation for travel nurses.
Things like hotel stays, car rentals, mobile phone service, and medical wear are discounted for travel nurses through some agencies.
The average travel nursing salary in Canada ranges from approximately $61,212 per year for a Registered Nurse working in home health to $122,124 per year for a Registered Nurse working in an operating room.
The average travel nursing hourly pay in Canada ranges from about $50.69 per hour for a Registered Nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit to $90.00 per hour for Registered Nurse in a post-anesthesia care unit.
In the US, many travel nurses can earn over $3,000 per week or $50 per hour, plus employer-paid housing accommodations.
Nursing specialties in high demand, such as operating room, critical care, and emergency nursing, offer more travel nurse jobs and at a higher salary. Some places need nurses who are willing to work in remote rural areas, as well as those who are bilingual in French or Spanish, and English. Being able to offer these things will, in turn, demand more pay.
Travel nurses work with recruitment agencies that act as intermediaries between them and prospective employers (but they may also work independently).
Agencies are very common in the travel nursing sector, as they help pair you with open positions that suit your skills and work preferences. They also help identify provinces and health care organizations with the most and best opportunities for your education and nursing specialty.
Just like with any job though, travel nurses interview for positions they’re interested in to ensure a good, mutual fit for the role before a contract is offered. It’s strongly recommended that you research agencies and reference-check with other nurses to make sure you work with an agency that is reputable and suits your needs.
Most Canadian travel nursing assignments require that you have a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree from an accredited North American college or university. Travel nurses must obtain a license for the province in which they plan to work, which means passing an exam and paying the required fee.
International travel nurses should speak the language of the country they intend to practice in - since communication is an important part of effective healthcare delivery. International travel nurses may also need to obtain a passport and work visa, immunizations, and knowledge of diseases unique to the area they’re working in.
Most agencies require travel nurses to have a minimum one year of hands-on experience in their nursing specialty. No additional exams are required for travel nursing but, based on the specialty, certification(s) may be required. Examples include:
Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, stroke care certification, telemetry certification.
Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, critical care nursing (adults, pediatric, neonatal).
Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, Neonatal Resuscitation Program certification.
Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, Neonatal Resuscitation Program, Trauma Nurse Core Course certification.
The TN nonimmigrant visa allows qualified Canadian citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level.
Travel nursing agencies, such as American Traveler, provide support and guidance to Canadian travel nurses looking to work abroad. To obtain your US work permit and qualify for the TN Visa, you must:
To become a travel nurse in the UK, be sure you have:
1. Prove your identity
Prove your identity with a passport and proof of registration for all the countries in which you’re registered to be a nurse.
2. Pass one of the two English Language tests
Pass one of the two English Language tests before registering (Occupational English Test or IELTS). As a Canadian nurse, you can request a waiver of the English language standard with your driver’s license or ID card.
3. Prove that your nursing qualifications match New Zealand’s
Prove that your nursing qualifications match New Zealand’s nursing qualifications of a Bachelor’s degree or higher. If your program wasn’t as extensive as New Zealand’s criteria, a condition might be put on your license to limit the scope of your practice.
4. Provide evidence of your nursing license
Provide evidence of your nursing license using the verification form emailed to you upon your online application’s completion.
5. Provide evidence of your post graduate nursing experience
Provide evidence of your post graduate nursing experience, which you’ll need at least two years of over the last five years (counted from the date of registration with the Nursing Council of New Zealand).
6. Provide your CV or resume
Provide your CV or resume, which needs to include professional information such as your education, registration(s), and employment history.
7. Prove that you’re fit to practice nursing
Prove that you’re fit to practice nursing. You must let the Nursing Council of New Zealand know of any mental/physical conditions that may affect your ability to perform your duties. As a Canadian nurse, the Nursing Council of New Zealand will ask that you pass the International Criminal History Check for every country that you have lived in for more than 12 months.
To work as a travel nurse in Australia, you’ll need to do the following:
If you're Canadian skip down and read 'next steps' to see how best to find travel nursing jobs.
If you'd like to come to Canada specifically to be a travel nurse you will need to check your qualifications first through the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS).
After you verify your qualifications you'll need to:
The best thing to do if you’re interested in becoming a travel nurse is to research job postings to get a sense of what’s out there. Then, you should research some agencies in your province to see how they work, where they place travel nurses, and what they can offer.
Take a look at their websites and consider setting up appointments or phone calls to learn more. Some examples of Canadian agencies include Select Medical Connections and Solutions Staffing.
Now that you have some background on what a travel nurse is, who travel nursing is best for, the benefits and salary of travel nursing, and how you can become a travel nurse, you’re in a great place to research and decide if travel nursing is a good fit for you.
The challenges and rewards it offers may be just what you need in the next step of your nursing career!
Emma Caplan writes and edits client-facing documents and takes pride in making them sales-ready and reader-friendly. She has additional experience in quality control and proofreading. She has written articles and podcast summaries for the Vancouver Real Estate Podcast, edited fiction and non-fiction books, and volunteers as a copy editor for Editors BC’s West Coast Editor and Students for High Impact Charities.
Emma has also earned a certificate in editing and a bachelor of management degree. In her free time, Emma enjoys hiking, travelling, and creating jewelry. Connect with her on LinkedIn.