Experience before Travel Nursing?

  1. I eventually want to be a traveling nurse. Some agencies say that you can travel with as little as 10 months experience, however I do not feel like that is enough experience. I know that a lot of travel nurse jobs do not get a lot of training so you pretty much have to know feel comfortable just being thrown in somewhere. My question is what is the right amount of experience to start travel nursing or when do most nurses feel like they were comfortable to start traveling?
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    About spasta

    Joined: Dec '18; Posts: 2


  3. by   Sour Lemon
    Seven years.
  4. by   Jedrnurse
    Depends on if you've stayed in one specialty and if that's what you'll be doing while traveling as well. I'd want a minimum of three years in the specialty, and would prefer five.

    Ten months is ridiculous and sets a nurse up for failure. (potentially dangerous failure)
  5. by   klone
    I was a nurse with 4 1/2 years of experience when I first took a traveler position. I think 3+ years in the same specialty would set most nurses up for success.
  6. by   RNNPICU
    DEpends from what I have seen 2-3 years is what I have witnessed
  7. by   Swellz
    I was a nurse for 3.5 years before traveling, and I could have used more; or at least, I could have been a float nurse or worked in more than one hospital ever in my career lol and I would have been more prepared.

    You're always going to have someone who will say, "well I was a nurse for less than a year and I'm doing fine traveling". I'm sure they think they are. The bottom line is you don't know what you don't know early in your career, and you can't master anything with 8 hours (or less) of floor "orientation" in an unfamiliar environment with coworkers you don't know, doctors you don't know, a computer system you don't know, policies/procedures you don't know, etc.

    You will be set up for much more success if you learn your craft for a few years first. Travel nursing will be there when you're ready for it.
    Last edit by Swellz on Dec 7 : Reason: just cuz
  8. by   ruby_jane
    I've been doing this for 10 years and I still don't think I know enough to travel!!! But it's a matter of comfort level as much as training. 10 months is not enough. Swelllz is right- you don't know what you don't know right now. Good luck.
  9. by   JBMmom
    We currently have a traveler in our CCU with 1 year experience. We're in desperate need, so we seem to take any travelers that come along. She can't find another assignment because she doesn't have enough experience. I'm sure it depends a lot on your skills, confidence, experience and attitude. Good luck.
  10. by   CalicoKitty
    You could always try the float pool for a little while. It can give you the experience of various units where you can get more varied experience. But, 2 years on a floor people consider "heavy" would probably be fine. Just never know what you're going to get thrown at you.
  11. by   Rose_Queen
    Quote from Swellz
    You're always going to have someone who will say, "well I was a nurse for less than a year and I'm doing fine traveling". I'm sure they think they are. The bottom line is you don't know what you don't know early in your career, and you can't master anything with 8 hours (or less) of floor "orientation" in an unfamiliar environment with coworkers you don't know, doctors you don't know, a computer system you don't know, policies/procedures you don't know, etc.
    Especially because chances are, you aren't going to get feedback as a traveler. Half the staff just can't be bothered because they know you're only there for 13 weeks. Instead of confronting it, they just put up with it since it's temporary. We have a standard question we ask anyone who is applying for a permanent position after being a traveler (who didn't have a contract with us and was asked to stay): how often would your contract be extended? If a facility wanted to keep you on more than the original contract, that was a sign you knew what you were doing. Currently, we have an employee who was hired without any input. Has a background as a traveler right out of school. He is not succeeding in the role, despite an orientation that has essentially been tripled in length.
  12. by   Been there,done that
    The amount of experience required is entirely up to the individual. I took my first travel job at 20 + years and it was tough. I was very strong clinically. You will be expected to hit the floor running with minimal training on the EMR, within 3 days.

    Please see the travel nurse forum.

    Best wishes.
  13. by   Medic/Nurse
    I started doing local contract work after 4 months of "staff experience". 4 months after being licensed. My staff spot was a 12 hour a week spot with benefits.

    Local contract is essentially travel without having to change states. I could go home, to a friend's house/stay with family or sometimes I'd stay in a hotel if doing back-to-back shifts for them -- depending.

    I think it was fairly easy as I was a bit of a known quantity (this can be for better or worse -- lol). There wasn't any shortage of demand.

    Actually, there was a lot of demand. Plently of offers to hire.

    I didn't want to hire and I tried to avoid staying anywhere longer than 4-6 weeks, (I did contract with one for 8 + 4, I can't say no sometimes - Arrrgh!) tho I would go fill in an occasional odd day or 2 in OT for a previous place if I was on another contract.


    I was burned a bit in staff spot (I'd been a deluxe unit clerk prior to RN licensure for 16 hrs weekly), so I'd resolved I'd try to never take another one. Leaving staff work behind was heartbreakingly difficult. Once I finally left the area to travel, it was like leaving my family. Never again.

    I did local contract for 16 months.

    Plus, flying had always been my ultimate end goal, so I tried to find diverse experiences that would help me focus on that goal.

    Joined ENA, AACN. Studied, read a LOT. Pre & Post shift. Eat, lived & breathed NURSING

    My real mastery of nursing -- EMERGENCY and CRITICAL CARE came in those days of CONTRACT and TRAVEL. I knew how to care for critically ill patients, but putting in into action in different settings is challenging.

    Assessment is EVERYTHING.

    I took advanced critical care classes, I had ACLS, PALS, NPR, actually I had been instructor in ACLS & PALS for over a decade.

    I had certification in Emergency Nursing.

    I traveled for 18 months out of state on 4 main contracts in 6 facilities. I was extended on 2 of the 4. Invited to be staff on 1.

    The last contact I was on terminated me 2 weeks early and it was such a freaking blessing.

    Prolly cost me a few thousand dollars and it was money so well spent -- I can't even recall what the issue was, just nonsense I'm sure. I can't find my Can you say beautiful new facility that's run by an administrative ER director who is not a NURSE and has no clue. In the 11 weeks I was there, 9 staff left (5 nurses, 2 RN clinical leadership, 2 techs) Literally, I expected a portal to hell to show itself any day.


    I am not going to say I was comfy, I don't think you will ever know it all, be able to master it all, have seen it all, eat once and for all or, well, you get it.

    I was was competent clinically. Part of that is knowing that you don't know it all and knowing where to access help. Ask for help.

    You will run into things that you will need help with -- ask. There should be a clinical leader.

    Spend time getting to know your computer charting system -- it pays off.

    It will make you a better nurse if you embrace it.

    Learn all you can. Come out better. Save money.





    I was a medic for years prior. That matters. Confidence wise, I guess

    As for nursing -- my staff was 4 months + local contract work was 16 months. But that's misleading.

    I think you have to look at hours/units worked in.

    I worked over 4100 hours in 16 months. That's well over 2 years of "experience" in 16 months.

    It all depends on how you define experience.

    I define my experiences as clinically caring for patients. Being a nurse.

    Good luck.

    Look at facilities very critically.

    Last edit by Medic/Nurse on Dec 7
  14. by   amzyRN
    Probably at least 2 years in the specialty you're traveling in. I've never traveled but most travelers I've spoken with said 2 years will give you a solid foundation and skill set. Travelers are usually very proficient nurses and serve as valuable resources. I know in our ED our travelers are some of our best nurses. To be a successful traveler, it seems like the bar is pretty high. With that said, people learn by doing and experience.

    I knew a nurse who got a travel assignment after working in the ED for 6 months (she was a NICU nurse before). She took a travel job in a busy ED that would accept any nurse with a pulse but she learned a lot and was successful. They valued her help and taught her a lot of skills that made her a better nurse.

    So, I suppose some people could do it with 10 months in the right facility with the right staff.