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Part 2: How to Transition From Staff Nurse to Travel Nurse - Agencies and Resumes

Feb 3, 2021
Kailin Haugh, BSN, RN, CPN

Three-Part Series: How to Transition From Staff Nurse to Travel Nurse

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Welcome back, dear readers! This starts article two of our three-part series on making the change from staff nurse to travel nurse. I hope the last one served you well, and I’m glad you came back for more!

As a short recap, the first article covered some travel nursing basics and what to know before starting. If you haven’t read the first article, I highly recommend you go back and have a look. 

As for here, we’ll cover travel nursing companies (also known as travel nursing agencies), recruiters, and your resume. Let’s hop right in!

Introduction to Travel Nursing Companies

Golden nuggets to remember:

  • Get a recruiter you LOVE. Make sure you trust them to be in your corner. One thing I love about Trusted is that they have Nurse Advocates, instead of recruiters, who walk you through each step of the process.
  • Companies I've worked with: Trusted, AMN, CCN, TNAA. Others that my friends have joined: Aya, Fastaff, MedPro Healthcare. Bottom line is you need to choose one YOU resonate with.
  • Always ask for what you want. Worst they can say is no. But bottom line, YOUR license is on the line, so if you don't want an assignment in a certain area/hospital, don't take it.

Travel Nursing Companies

As with anything in life, do a little research before picking your company or agency. Make a quick comparison list of what each company offers you, what ratings they have, and do a “gut check” to see if you feel right going with them. 

Pro tip: you can Google specific nursing jobs based on location and typically see a wide variety of open positions, likely presented by various travel nursing agencies or facilities (i.e. “NICU nurse California”). You can even type something like “trusted health NICU nurse California” to see more options specific to that agency.

If you are with a company but you see another company paying higher for the same job, ask your recruiter for more money. It is totally acceptable to do that! You are an experienced nurse, dang it! You SHOULD be paid what you’re worth.

woman looking on computer finishing travel nurse paperwork staff nurse to travel nurse

Traditional Recruiters

This brings me to recruiters. I’ve had quite the experience with them... not all recruiters are going to pose issues, but trust your gut when matching with a recruiter in your travel nursing company. 

You need to like them and trust that they will pull more money for you if you ask, advocate for the best housing stipend for your state's cost of living, and get you the jobs you're asking for. It has to be a mutual match! Don't think that because you work with that company you HAVE to work with that recruiter. 

I particularly like Trusted’s model of Nurse Advocates, since they’re not incentivized by money and genuinely care about your success on all of your travel nursing assignments.

If you are getting red flags from your recruiter: they ghost you after you accept your upcoming assignment, they are pushing to go in a direction you are unsure of, they are not responsive to what you're asking for, or you feel like you are just being "pitched a sale"... DISENGAGE. I REPEAT, GET ANOTHER ONE. 

I will make an addendum to this: always make sure you have covered your own bases. Make sure you have clearly and respectfully communicated what you are looking for, what you will and will not accept, and make sure you have done your part to try and establish a good relationship.

If you have done those things, then your conscience is clear and you can feel confident in your request for another recruiter. I have had to do this, and I can say I am 100% more comfortable with the recruiter I have now for that company than with the previous one I had. 

All I did was contact the manager (you will get a slew of people's contact information when you onboard to the company, so keep those handy) and ask for a new recruiter, stating my reasons for what wasn't working.

Ask For What You Want

People are not mind readers! If you want something, ask for it! More money? Different contract length? Specific areas or hospitals to go to? You call the shots as a travel nurse. You are going to be the one carrying out the duties of that job, so you need to make sure you aren’t settling.

That said, if you don’t necessarily know what you want yet, that’s okay! Try out your first assignment, and you will learn very quickly what you prefer. This is not to turn you into a snippy travel nurse, but instead, I want you to feel empowered to ask for things that you feel would truly benefit you!

plane in sky on blue-sky background staff nurse to travel nurse

Your Travel Nursing Resume

Beef it up, baby! Give yourself credit for all that you’ve done and show them what you have to offer. Be sure to add what EMR systems you've used, the acuity of your unit/patients, any certifications, volunteer experience, awards, and charge nurse experience you've had. 

Trusted has a huge collection of resources to help you build up your nursing resume, including a Resume Builder that you can use for free with a Trusted profile.

Additional nurse resume and cover letter resources:

Trusted’s weekly newsletter, The Handoff, also often includes career-focused articles and links to help point you in the right direction.

Generally speaking, it’s best to have two years of experience on the floor before you travel. I have heard as little as one year, but most travel nursing companies, as well as hospitals, these days are really looking for more experience (aside from recent pandemic/crisis needs). 

I applied after two-and-a-half years and received a little push back from some areas. Travel nursing is not about teaching you the basics of how to be a nurse, employers trust you already know those things. 

Being a traveler is about adapting to the policy and flow of a unit while still performing like a pro! So, it’s a fair expectation that they want you to have a solid foundation of nursing first.

Ready to Find Your First Travel Nursing Assignment?

Create a free Trusted profile for access to your very own Nurse Advocate, and receive job matches based on your preference immediately! 

Part Three