So you have looked into becoming a travel nurse and you like what you see but you aren’t sure if you know what to expect or what might be expected of you before you can get started.

Your license

The first thing to consider is your license. Is it valid in the state or states you are interested in visiting? If you live in a “Compact State” AND the state you want to work in is also a compact state AND your license is a compact/multi state license you are all set. A compact state allows nurses who live in a compact state to work in another compact state without applying for licensure in that state. To get all the details on compact licensure go to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing at:

If you do not live in a compact state you will need to visit the board of nursing site for the state you will be working in by searching for the state and BON (ex. MA BON). Look for: apply for license by reciprocity, application by endorsement or something that refers to licensure. It is perfectly acceptable to ask for help from the board if you need it. There is no set fee for licenses or timeline for your license to become valid. Licenses can cost between $35 and $334 and the time it takes can be as little as a couple of weeks or it can take up to 3 months or more depending on how busy the board is at the time of your request. Give yourself plenty of time to secure your new license.

Medical Records

Every state has different requirements for immunizations for healthcare providers and different hospitals within a state may also differ. One thing is certain-you will need your medical records. Saving them all in one file on your computer or phone will make things go smoother. Here is what you should save:




Most hospitals require this to be done every year but hold on to your latest one.  

Varicella (Chicken pox)


2 shots or titers

Your childhood records could get you by but you could be required to have titers drawn to test your immunity levels.

Original records from the original provider or county health department records are most commonly what is required.

Third party (nursing school or employer) records are usually not accepted. History of the disease, according to the CDC, is not reliable as proof of immunity and therefore few facilities accept it.
Hepatitis B


3 shots or titers

Same as for MMR and VZV above. Hep A and C are not commonly required at this time.  


Every 10 years or sooner

Again, these records should be the originals DTaP –a less effective version-and TD –missing pertussis which has had an increase in cases recently, are not usually accepted.



There are several tests for TB but the annual PPD (Purified Protien Derivitive) is the most commonly required. Some facilities require a 2-step process (2 tests) while others require the test be done more frequently. If you have ever been diagnosed with TB or have had a Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine your PPD will be positive. HOLD ON TO THIS positive PPD! It will be needed to show why you need another form of the test.

Although the start and end of flu season varies slightly from year to year most facilities start vaccinating by Sept1. If you do not have proof of the vaccination by Oct 1, sometimes sooner, you will more than likely be required to wear a mask until the season is over-generally April 1 but again requirements vary.

Continuing Education

Some states have specific CEU requirements while others don’t require any continuing education. Here is a nice site to get an idea of what you might need for each state. Be sure to get the up-to-date information from the board of nursing in the state you will be working as this information changes frequently.



With every new assignment you will have orientation. Be prepared for some paperwork. You will more than likely have a privacy policy to sign, along with rules and regulations of the facility. Some will require you to update medication, core competency and other testing. Your skills checklist may need updating, you will need to learn how to clock in and out and you may even need to learn a new documentation system.



You will need an updated resume. Your resume should be in MS Word or a PDF format, be neat and consistent. Dates should be entered the same all the way through (April 5, 2010 to April 8 2017 or 4-5-10 to 4-8-17 but not April 5, 2010 to 4-8-17)  and the format should be in the same order for each listing (Date, Hospital, Title, Specialty should all be listed) with a basic and brief description of your duties. If you worked through an agency it is best to include it to avoid discrepancy issues. Here are a couple of ways you could do this:

Midland Hospital, Any Town, OK

April 5, 2010 to April 8 2017 (Travel assignment with Agency XYZ) RN ICU

This is all the wonderful things I did while I was there.


Agency XYZ-Travel RN ICU

4-5-10 to 4-8-11 Midland Hospital, Any Town, OK- a few words on duties there

4-18-11 to 7-18-11 General Medical Center, City, GA -a few words on duties there

7-30-11 to 7-1-13 Green Hospital, Village, HI -a few words on duties there

Any down-time of over 2 weeks should be accounted for. Vacation (you may be asked where) or Time at home are both perfectly acceptable.


Travel assignments are contracted. You will be legally bound to complete your assignment so make sure you look it over carefully. Let your recruiter know of any time off you need during the contracted time and that it is noted and agreed upon by the hospital. Be sure it also notes any other special needs. The contract should have the start and end dates, the shift hours, how much you will be making per hour, how much your housing allowance is and any bonuses that have been promised. This should also have the name of the hospital/facility and it may even say who your contact name is for your first day and where to meet them.


The latest trend in housing is for the full housing allowance or stipend be paid directly to you weekly, giving you more options and full control on where you stay and how much you spend…and keep. Popular sites like are making it easy to rent a nicely furnished place with no length of stay requirements and no utilities to turn on and off.  You could max out your budget for a little extra luxury and the use of a pool and onsite workout room or you might opt to get the inside scoop on the area from the locals who own the house where you rent a room. Travelers with their own travel trailers bring the comforts of home with them, so packing is a breeze, and it’s more economical.

Oh the places you will see

There is a lot to do to get ready for a travel assignment but it will all be worth it when you get there. Thirteen weeks is enough time to really saturate yourself in the culture and wonders of your destination. Explore all the touristy places; river raft the Grand Canyon, hike the Appalachian trails, visit Disneyland. Plan your travel to be in driving distance when your cousin gets married or your son graduates college. Or maybe your dream is to immerse yourself in the quiet, out of the way, country lifestyle.  Oh the possibilities….



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