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The Ultimate Guide to Travel Nursing

The Ultimate Guide to Travel Nursing

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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What is a travel nurse?

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.


Professional Benefits

Expand your skills

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.

Experience different work environments and roles

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.

Build a professional network

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.

Enjoy free online continuing education

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.


Pers
onal Benefits

Explore new places

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!

Control your schedule

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.


Financial Benefits

Travel inexpensively

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.

High pay, reimbursements, and bonuses

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.

Coverage of housing and moving expenses

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.

Health, life insurance, and pension benefits

Travel nurses on staff may be eligible for medical, dental, life insurance, and retirement savings plans.

Professional liability insurance and worker’s compensation

Some agencies provide comprehensive professional liability insurance and worker's compensation for travel nurses.

Discounts

Things like hotel stays, car rentals, mobile phone service, and medical wear are discounted for travel nurses through some agencies.

 

Travel Nurse Salary

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.

 

How can I become a travel nurse?

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:

Medical/Surgical Nursing

Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, stroke care certification, telemetry certification. 

Intensive Care (ICU) Nursing

Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, critical care nursing (adults, pediatric, neonatal). 

Reproductive/Women's Health, Labour and Delivery Nursing

Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, Neonatal Resuscitation Program certification. 

Emergency Room Nursing

Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, Neonatal Resuscitation Program, Trauma Nurse Core Course certification. 

 

Becoming a travel nurse in the US

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:

  • Submit proof of foreign nursing education to the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS).

  • Obtain licensure from the State Board of Nursing where you choose to work in the US. If you are eligible, the board of nursing will issue an Authorization to Test for the NCLEX, if needed.

  • Take the NCLEX or the CGFNS Qualifying exam.
    Information can be found at ncsbn.org and cgfns.org.

  • Get a VisaScreen ® Certificate. Section 343 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 requires specific healthcare professionals, such as Registered Nurses, to complete a screening program before they can receive either a permanent or temporary occupational visa, including Trade NAFTA status.

  • Pass the TOEFL if you were educated in Quebec or trained in a non-English speaking country.

  • Once you have a passport, US nursing license, VisaScreen ® Certificate, and a US job offer, you can apply for and obtain a TN Visa at any Canadian/US border as you enter the country.


Becoming a travel nurse in the UK

To become a travel nurse in the UK, be sure you have:

  • The correct qualifications: you must be an RN and have a formal qualification registered in Canada.

  • Completed a three-year training course in general nursing, half of which being clinical or practical training in direct contact with patients and a third being theoretical. You must also have at least 12 months experience working as a nurse, post-registration.

  • Had your training assessed in order to join the register of UK travel nurses (this applies to applicants from non-EU countries).

  • If your qualifications meet the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s standards, complete their Overseas Nurses Programme. Be sure to leave yourself lots of time to apply, since the process can take up to six months.

  • Acquire a valid work permit or visa status. If you go on a working holiday visa, you will only be able to undertake ad hoc shifts and rotational work. With a work permit, you need to be sponsored by a private clinic, hospital or company, which usually commits you to working with that employer for at least one year.

  • Since you’re from outside the EU, you may need to take an English language test to ensure you can communicate effectively with patients and colleagues. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam is pretty simple if you’re fluent and you can take the exam at home. For more information, visit the British Council website.

 

Becoming a travel nurse in New Zealand

The biggest step to becoming a travel nurse in New Zealand is getting your nursing license. You’ll first need to register with the Nursing Council of New Zealand. Here are the general steps to do so:

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.


Becoming a travel nurse in Australia

To work as a travel nurse in Australia, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Register with the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Keep in mind, this can take a long time, so begin the process early. AHPRA has an office in each Australian state capital but there is no exam to become a Registered Nurse in Australia. You simply need the correct educational qualifications and experience, along with proof of both.

  • Once you get a list of all the necessary documents, start obtaining these from your employers and nursing school. This includes a nursing school transcript (requirements include a class in medication administration and pharmacology, along with over 800 hours logged in a clinical setting).

  • Provide verification of employment for the past five years, your CV/resume, and all provincial or state nursing licenses you’ve obtained.

  • Prove English language proficiency via either a letter from your high school, or through taking the IELTS exam.

  • Obtain a visa in order to work. If you are under 30 you can apply for a work-holiday visa that lasts up to 12 months and does not allow you to work for the same employer for more than six months. If you are over 30, you’ll apply for a sponsorship visa, where a health care organization sponsors you for up to four years.

 

Becoming a Canada Travel Nurse 

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: 

  • Get a contract (you need a contract first before applying for a visa) 
  • Submit all documents for a work-permit visa 
  • Get a Medical Exam


Next steps... 

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!

 

 

Author Bio:

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