5 Important Things to Know When Starting Travel Nursing in 2021

What a year 2020 was!  As the COVID pandemic took over in the United States, the entire healthcare system went into a panic.  There was no doubt that this was a respiratory virus, but we had more questions than answers. Did we need airborne or droplet precautions, who was most at risk, what was the best treatment for our patients?  At the time, most information was speculation and much of it was contradictory. 

Starting Travel Nursing with a Reputable Agency

Within the nursing community, we saw nurses rapidly exiting their staff positions in 2020 for a chance at making significant money through travel nursing on COVID Units.  Many are still starting travel nursing in the new year in the pursuit of sizeable paychecks.

The unfortunate problem with this mindset is that travel nurses often look at the big bucks they see in job ads, but fail to realize the price these jobs truly take on the person.  Yes, you can make $10,000 per week for an assignment, but how many hours are you working, what are the conditions, is there adequate PPE?

Look before you Leap

New Crisis Agencies have popped up to meet the demands of eager travelers.  Nurses jumped on the bandwagon only to realize that some agencies may not be what they seem. Unfortunately, there have been instances of misrepresented pay structures, bait and switch pay rates, no pay (!!), contract postponements and contract cancellations. The integrity of an agency is critical when starting travel nursing.

In recent years, we have seen a rise in both contract delays and canceled contracts.  With the pandemic, these are becoming more and more of a problem.  The NEED for nurses is there, but the agencies and vendors are so overwhelmed that it is hard to get things started on the right foot. I have been a traveler for almost 18 years, and have NEVER seen rates like this.

Expert Advice

So, you’re still anxious to start the travel adventure in 2021. Let’s talk about the five most important things to know when starting travel healthcare.

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Have a financial safety net

You MUST have at least $1,000 saved up for an emergency.  As a Dave Ramsey Financial Coach, I prefer for nurses to have at least 2-3 months of living expenses in their bank account.  If nothing else, please have enough money to get you back home in case something happens.

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Know where you are living

Make sure that you have housing setup BEFORE you take off.  I’ve seen many contracts agree to pay for your flight to the assignment location, but won’t assist with the housing.  Knowing what you can afford at your destination is important and having it setup in advance is even more important. 

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Anticipate communication challenges

You MUST have an exact communication route with your recruiter when starting the assignment and understand that your answers may not be addressed as quickly as you hope. Learn what channel your recruiter prefers and be persistent.

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Hit the ground running / do your homework

Because the staffing needs are highly in-demand, your facility is moving fast and cutting corners on orientation.  In the good ole days (2019), we used to get 4 hours to 4 days of orientation. Right now, the biggest obstacle is ICU and vents. Have you ever taken a vent? Do you know the setting? What about drips? There is a big difference between insulin, Lasix, Protonix, and Dopamine, nitro, and Precedex. Are you qualified to titrate meds? It’s okay if you don’t know all the answers/procedures, but be ready to put in the time to do your homework to prepare yourself.

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Keep your credentials organized

Looking at starting travel nursing or travel healthcare means lots and lots of paperwork. To make life easier, I recommend using a secure digital profile to keep everything in one place. Kamana can save you the headache by having one shareable profile – meaning more time to find jobs that meet your needs. No more repetitive, slow applications and onboarding or sending the same files to recruiters (see #3 for communication challenges).  You CAN end repeat conversations by deploying your profile with a single-click. Create your free profile and get your work files organized!

Still Not Sure about Travel Health?

If you’re still not sure whether travel healthcare is right for you, Check out TravelNursingNewbies.com.  There’s a nine-part video series on how to get started in travel healthcare.

Have faith. You CAN have a successful career in travel healthcare AND make the money you desire.  You can even confidently do this by preparing yourself by using available resource like Kamana’s digital profile and Travel Nursing Newbies videos to get you started.

Remember, be professional, stay open to learning, save patient lives, pay off debts, and enrich your passion for helping others!

Written by Kay Slane, RN, BS, CGM, CEO of Highway Hypodermics. The matriarch of travel nursing that helps you find the best assignments with the information from her websites.  For general information on travel healthcare, please visit www.HighwayHypodermics.com. For instructions on how to get started in travel healthcare visit www.TravelNursingNewbies.com.  If you just want to be a part of a super cool Facebook Group on getting your career started, come on over and chat!