How do you pick an agency?
There are so many agencies you can choose from and it does get overwhelming. When picking an agency, you have to know what you want. Some agencies offer some out of state assignments such as the Virgin Islands or Guam, and some agencies are just for in the USA. There are also some agencies that staff specifically for strikes.
A lot of information about specific agencies you will receive from other nurses and their personal experiences with the agency. You can also do research on different agencies and see what they offer such as benefits and pay packages.
Can you be with more than one agency?
Yes. In fact, many nurses are with more than one agency. This opens up their opportunities available to them. It is also okay to be with just one agency, or switch agencies throughout your travel career.
How long are assignments?
Most assignments are 13-weeks. You usually get the opportunity to extend your contract if you would like. Every once in a while there are 8-week assignments, but the 13-week ones are more common.
What shifts do you work?
They have both night and day shifts you can have. Most shifts are 12-hours long. It all depends on what the hospital’s needs are and which shifts they need more nurses on.
How much orientation do you get?
Usually you get a day or two of computer training so you can get familiar with the charting system. And then you will get one to two days of orientation with a nurse on the unit. Make sure to get a tour of the unit when you are in orientation.
How much experience do you need before traveling?
You need at least one year of hospital experience before you can travel. Most agencies require 2-years, but there are a select few that will let you travel with them after one year.
If you have a specialty you are traveling with such as ICU or L&D, most places require you have 2-years of experience in that specialty before traveling.
Do you get to choose where you go?
Yes and no. You definitely get a say in where you want to go and you should let your recruiter know what states you’re interested in. But sometimes there just aren’t job opportunities in the area you are hoping to go, especially if it’s super specific like one certain city. Also places with a lot of interest, like Colorado in the summer or Hawaii in the winter, can make it hard to find job opportunities in those places.
You will usually apply to 3-5 positions at one time. Make sure each position would be in a place you’d enjoy and be excited about if you were to get it. Whichever hospital gets back to you the soonest depending how desperate you are for a job you take that one.
So sometimes you get a say in where you go and sometimes it’s what’s available. You should keep an open mind to the assignments your recruiter suggests or has available, you may be pleasantly surprised.
How do you get to your assignment? Drive or fly?
You can choose if you want to drive or fly. I personally enjoy driving; I then get to make a road trip on my way there. Also, it’s nice to have your vehicle available for any trips you’d like to take while on assignment.
However, if I would have an assignment in a big city such as Los Angeles or New York City, I would probably fly. I know some people also fly to their assignments and ship their cars, so that is another option.
Also, a good agency will give you some type of relocation bonus in order to help out with traveling to and from your assignment.
Travel and Housing
Can you travel with your pet?
Yes, you can travel with your pet. You just have to keep in mind that rent will be higher to pay for the pet fees.
Do you get money for housing?
Yes. You get a housing stipend that you can use toward rent. Or you can have your agency find your housing for you and pay the rent. If you chose that option you will then not receive your weekly stipend for housing. They say that you will make more money if you take the stipend and find cheap housing.
Where do you stay?
I have stayed in a fully-furnished apartment, an extended stay hotel, and an AirBnB. Some people find cheap month-to-month apartments and rent furniture. Some people find roommates on Craigslist or Facebook groups. Some people drive their campers and stay in those.
Do you get insurance?
Yes, your agency should have some type of insurance for you. Just a heads up, sometimes the insurance is only for when you are working the dates of your contract. That being said, if you take time off in-between assignments you may not be insured. I know a lot of nurses, find their insurance through somewhere else.
Insurance through your agency will most likely be taken out of your paycheck, and you will never even see it being paid for. So again, if you find your own insurance and not through your agency, then your weekly pay-check will go up.
How do you get state licenses?
When you go to the board of nursing website for that state, there is a packet you can print off that will include all the information you need to get their license. Usually you have to fill out an application, verify your other state licenses, and send in money. Some states require fingerprints, a passport-size photo, and college school transcripts.
Make sure you have all the requirements gathered before sending in your state application. You can then follow up with the board of nursing in a week or two in order to make sure that they have received your packet and all the right components are included.
Some states are part of the compact so if you took your NCLEX in a compact state, then you won’t have to apply to the other states that are also in the compact. There are also walk-through states where if you go to the board of nursing in person, with your application and all other requirements, you will get issued your license that same day.
Do you get reimbursed your license fees?
Yes. A good agency will reimburse you for your licensing fees as long as you take an assignment in that state you got licensed in.