What is travel nursing?

The global demand for nurses is growing and this growth is expected to continue at a rate of 7 percent from 2019 to 2029. This is good news for many aspiring nurses as it should open the door for new and exciting positions all over the world.


If you’ve completed your nursing studies and you have at least a year’s experience in your specialty, you could consider the option of travel nursing. Travel nurses take the option to expand their skills and experience while taking on short-term assignments across the world. 


As a travel nurse, you’ll enjoy flexibility, higher pay, and bonuses and incentives not offered to those in permanent nursing positions. 


A travel nurse is a qualified, registered nurse, who takes on short-term assignments in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities around the world. The assignments generally average at around 13 weeks at hospitals that have staffing gaps. 



Why are travel nurses important?

“It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together.”
-- Unknown

The healthcare industry depends on travel nurses to fill supply and demand gaps in the field of nursing. Hospitals often face short-term staff shortages, seasonal requirements, and many have critical shortages in some medical specialties.

Hospitals have to ensure that they stick to mandatory staff-to-patient ratios, as the health and safety of the patients depend upon this. By hiring travel nurses, hospitals can maintain these ratios.  

Recent research has shown positive correlations between nursing personnel levels, nurse retention, and enhanced patient outcomes. 

Travel nurses come from different geographical locations and they have different educational backgrounds, skill sets, and expertise. They are, therefore, able to share their skills with the local nursing team. This shared knowledge is of benefit to the patients and the other nurses at the institutions where they work.  


Education Requirements for international travel nurses


For the USA
To work in the USA, as in most other areas, you will need a degree from an accredited school and your nursing license will have to be up-to-date and in good standing. You will have to meet the licensing requirements of the state to which you’re assigned.

Depending on where you plan to work, you should be able to find work as a registered nurse RN, a licensed practical nurse LPN, or an advanced practice registered nurse APRN.


To Work in the US
Before you can apply for a US working license you will have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX. The NCLEX has various versions of the exam depending on the license level that you require. RN’s and LPNs will only receive their license once they have done the exam. APRNs should be guided in their choice of exams by their specialty. 


For the UK
Foreign nurses that meet the NMC Register standards can apply for registration. The NMC will check that the nursing training that you have completed meets the UK nursing requirements. 
If you’re looking for information on registering as a nurse in the UK, you’ll find everything that you need to know on the NMC website. The site contains a list that can help you to determine whether you are registration-ready. There is also an easy guide to help you through the registration process. 

Once registered you are not automatically permitted to work as a nurse in the UK. You’ll also need a health and care visa. 


For Canada
The requirements in Canada are somewhat different. Nurses who work here must apply for their nursing license in the province where they plan to work. To obtain the license would-be nurses must pass an exam and pay the fee. As in the USA, the NCLEX-RN exam is the test of choice in most provinces. Most assignments in Canada require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing accredited by a college or university in North America. 


When it comes to choosing the best province for your nursing specialty, agencies can be a big help. Nursing midwives, for example, may only practice in a handful of provinces in the country. 


For Australia
Before you can work as a travel nurse in Australia, you have to register through the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency, or AHPRA. You don’t have to sit an exam. All you need is verifiable proof of your studies and work experience. Start the registration process early as it can take months before you receive a reply. 


English proficiency requirements
If you plan to take on travel nurse assignments in the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand you will have to be proficient in English. 


  • IELTS OR OET Language Tests
    Unless you are a US citizen, you will have to take the International English Language Testing System, or IELTS exam to prove that you can speak English. Both computer and paper-based tests conducted at a test center are acceptable.
  • The Occupational English Test or OET is also acceptable. 

You must pass all four sections of the test. The results are valid for two years. 



Places that accept travel nurses

"Change your language and you change your thoughts."

-Karl Albrecht

Travel nurses are accepted for assignments across the globe, but many nurses prefer to restrict their assignments to English-speaking countries.


These countries are widespread and most offer good working conditions.


The following countries are the most popular destinations for travel nurses:

  • The United States
  • The United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand.

The Benefits of Travel Nursing


There is a global shortage of nurses. Short-staffed hospitals make attractive offers to qualified personnel.


Add to that the opportunity to see the world and grow your skills and expertise and it’s clear that there are vast benefits to travel nursing. We’ve listed some below:


  • Take the opportunity to travel
    Most nursing assignments are short, averaging around 13 weeks. This means that you will have the opportunity to explore many places during and between contracts. Don’t worry if you don’t initially get an assignment in your city of choice. It’s bound to come up in the future. Ask your agency to help you to look out for an assignment at your chosen destination. 


  • Grow your career
    Travel nurses get to work in a wide variety of hospitals in varying geographic locations. This varied experience could boost your resume and get you a position in one of the more prestigious hospitals. It could also enhance your chances of making it into graduate school. 


  • Personal and professional flexibility
    Just because you’re a travel nurse doesn’t mean that you have to work back-to-back contracts. Many nurses take a month or two between contracts to travel the area and expand their horizons. You can also take the opportunity to visit friends and family between contracts. 


  • Make more money 
    As a traveling nurse, you should earn more than the local nurses. If you specialize in high-paying areas such as oncology, pediatric, or anesthesia your salary may be substantially higher. Higher compensation should help you to financial security and allow you some leeway for traveling and exploration.  Travel nurse pay often does not reflex their level of experience. A nurse with 2 years of experience is often paid the same as one with ten years of experience, making travel nursing a great option for nurses just starting. 


  • Expand your skillset
    Travelling enhances your life skills. Add to that the fact that you will work with people from different educational backgrounds and with different skills and expertise and you will realize that you will learn a whole new set of skills. Working in another country creates an opportunity to learn critical thinking skills. You’ll also learn to adapt to different living and working conditions, and your communication skills will improve. These are skills that you’ll take away with you when you return home, making you an attractive option for any employer.  


  • Enjoy great perks and incentives
    Most traveling nurses find their assignments through nursing agencies. Many of these agencies will cover your travel and provide free or reduced-cost accommodation. Some even pay for utilities. You’ll enjoy these benefits over and above the standard health care benefits which all nurses receive. 


The qualities of a travel nurse


Apart from the required technical skills, as a travel nurse, you will also need some soft skills, allowing you to interact with others and communicate effectively. You will need:


  • A positive attitude - A positive attitude pays off in almost every profession, but in nursing it is vital. A happy outlook and pleasant demeanor will help you to a successful future and enjoyment in your day-to-day tasks.
  • Adaptability - Traveling nurses must constantly adapt to changing environments and new settings. This requires a high level of flexibility. Travel nurses who are willing to change their work schedules and job expectations help to enhance teamwork. Those who are inflexible and unwilling to change will find it more difficult to get the assignments that they want. 
  • An excellent work ethic - as a travel nurse you must be self-driven. You must learn to use your initiative and work without continuous supervision. Your responsibility is to form an important part of a team and offer an efficient service to your patients. It is vital to your future career development that you leave a good track record when you move on to your next assignment. 
  • Emotional intelligence - a constantly changing environment requires a high level of assimilation, especially when working in foreign environments where you will have to pick cultural and social cues. By developing emotional intelligence you’ll be able to empathize with others and grow deeper relationships.  
  • A people’s person - nursing is, of course, people-centered, a travel nurse even more so. You will move from one assignment to another which means that you will constantly meet new people, from colleagues to patients, and roommates to neighbors. This is the type of profession for someone who finds meeting new people invigorating rather than draining. 
  • Good Communication Skills - when you are constantly on the move from one team to the next, good communication skills are paramount. You can only do your job well by communicating with your colleagues in a clear and friendly way.
  • Empathetic - the best nurses are compassionate and provide patients with comfort and support. Sympathizing with the hospital experience of the patient may be all that person needs to get through the day.

The impact that travel nurses make

Staff Shortages - nurses are in short supply and travel nurses can help to fill the gaps when there are such shortages. Hospitals use travel nurses to fill gaps when staff members are on maternity leave. Travel nurses are also invaluable when there is higher demand, as, for example when there is an epidemic and when specialized positions that are difficult to fill.

Fighting Nurse Burnout - unlike permanent nurses, travel nurses can take time out at the end of an assignment, meaning that they are more flexible and less likely to suffer from burnout. Happier nurses make for happier patients.

Improved Patient Satisfaction - travel nurses bring with them many years of diverse experience from several different hospitals. With so much experience the travel nurse often boasts superior skills and expertise. 


Agencies that can help you apply to become a travel nurse

If you want to have the best experience, with great benefits and a good salary, you must find the best travel nurse agency. We have listed below some of the better-resourced travel nursing agencies:



To sum it up...

If you are a qualified, licensed nurse the world is your oyster. Enroll as a travel nurse and you’ll not only earn more, but you will also receive added benefits.

Apart from the financial advantages of working as a travel nurse, you will gain so much as you learn to expand your horizons and broaden your skillset. Because most assignments are short, you will have the flexibility of taking time off between assignments to travel and get to know the world and its people. 

Choose the right travel nursing agency for your financial and lifestyle requirements and they will find you a post in a hospital in a location to suit you. 


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