Opportunities for travel nurses abound. So too, however, does competition. Travel nurses must be prepared to market themselves and their skills. They may also need to contemplate heading to destinations they hadn’t previously considered. Sure, the idea of relocating to a state that didn’t make the bucket list might not sound appealing, but there are tremendous advantages to exploring new areas, including skills and network development.
Travel Nursing: Destinations of Choice vs. Destinations of Opportunity
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, along with the rare pressures it placed on health systems, the need for travel nurses and allied medical professionals has soared. Yet even as the effects of the pandemic have abated, an aging population, increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, and ongoing staffing shortages have done little to mitigate the demand for travel healthcare professionals.
For nurses craving adventure, variety, professional development, and a chance to collaborate with new colleagues — all while saving lives — travel nursing is often the answer to that call. As a traveling healthcare professional, your skills and insight help expand your commitment to patient care across the country. But new scenery isn’t the sole benefit of travel. Immersing yourself in fresh, unfamiliar surroundings exposes you to experiences that help shape and refine your skills, specialties, professional networks, patient communication expertise, and even leadership qualities.
As healthcare recruitment professionals, we know that one of the biggest challenges for travelers is the recruiting process itself. Traditional recruiting is mostly a reactive process: clients post job openings, recruiters seek out best-fit candidates, and then work to make the placement. The initial need and the final decision both rest on the end client.
To some extent, that flow carries over into staffing for travel healthcare professionals. Hospitals and health systems have personnel needs, they post openings, and they expect their staffing providers to produce vetted and well-aligned candidates. But in this instance, candidates have a lot of say. They are coming to recruiters with their own lists of desires: types of facilities they wish to support, the cities or states in which they ideally want to work, flexible schedules and pre-approved off-time for work-life balance, and ongoing support for licensing, credentialing, and housing.
Location, Location, Location — and Compromise
To be effective, recruiters must assume the role of candidate advocate. The job doesn’t end at the placement — it truly begins the moment a traveler touches ground in a new location. Recruiting becomes more of an exercise in passive sourcing and proactive pipelining. Pools of available candidates must be established in advance of job requisitions being distributed. Recruiters should be seeking out locations and jobs that match the needs of travel nurses as much as they are seeking travel nurses who match the job postings. It’s a delicate balancing act with a lot of spinning plates. It’s also where those plates can come crashing down.
If recruiters are presenting positions or destinations that fall far from a candidate’s stated desires, they aren’t really doing their jobs. That said, clients still require staff in their facilities. So what to do? Well, the answer, while not earth-shattering or magical, is to strike a healthy compromise. Clients may not always have opportunities that perfectly match a candidate’s preferences. But travelers who are willing to collaborate and partner with their recruiters to find an acceptable middle ground may benefit more than they think.
- Performing well in a location not initially considered may help a traveler prove his or her value to a client who will later place them in a facility that does satisfy all of their needs.
- Different locations have different specialties, which help travel healthcare professionals enhance their skills to become more marketable overall and better poised for career advancement.
- Familiarity with region-specific health issues may help nurses specialize in similar conditions that manifest or exist in the areas they want to visit, increasing their competitive appeal.
Of course, that means recruiters must work closely with their clients to uncover the unique attributes of their facilities, determine the advantages to their travelers, and engage with candidates to help sell the benefits of relocating while negotiating to find a compromise where each party walks away satisfied. It’s about open communication, open minds, and open doors. Here are some of the reasons to entertain or promote destinations that didn’t originally place in the top 10 on the travel guide.
Skills Development Benefits of Traveling
Exposure to Different Healthcare Settings
Travel nurses enjoy unique opportunities to work in different healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. This provides exposure to different patient populations, medical technologies, and treatment protocols, which can broaden a nurse's clinical skills and knowledge. Many hospitals and clinics are eager to train travel nurses on new procedures and technologies. This can help them to stay up-to-date on the latest advances in nursing care.
Experience with Diverse Patient Populations
Traveling exposes nurses and allied healthcare professionals to diverse patient populations, including wider variations in age groups, cultural backgrounds, and medical conditions. This helps nurses develop cultural competence and sensitivity, while shaping how they can adapt their nursing care to meet the unique needs of each patient. Adaptability and flexibility are highly valued traits throughout the healthcare industry. By gathering insights, experience, and specialized skills in caring for increasingly diverse patient communities, travel nurses can demonstrate greater ease in acclimating to new environments, operating efficiently in the presence of change, learning new procedures quickly, and effectively collaborating with coworkers when seeking future roles.
Travel nurses may want to specialize in a particular area of nursing, such as critical care, cardiology, or emergency medicine. Gaining expertise in specific practice areas can be instrumental to career advancement. However, every hospital and healthcare system is different. For example, let’s say the hospital in your idea city excels at cardiology but the culture is resistant to training. But, there’s an equally good hospital in Minnesota that loves to train. In this situation, there’s a material advantage to accepting the Minnesota assignment if becoming a cardiac nurse is your ultimate goal.
Travel nurses must be able to communicate comfortably with patients, their families, and other healthcare professionals. This includes listening attentively, explaining complex medical information in a clear and concise manner, and providing emotional support. The core of a continuum of exceptional care is founded on principles of empathy, respect, and trust. Understanding how to build rapport with large and eclectic groups of people will enhance a traveler’s ability to deliver better, more predictable outcomes.
Time Management, Prioritization, and Problem-solving Skills
Travel nurses often need to think on their feet. This includes being able to assess a situation, identify the problem, and develop a plan of action. In that way, travel nursing helps improve time management and problem-solving skills. As a travel nurse, you will often be working in new and unfamiliar settings. This can be a challenge, but it can also be a great opportunity to learn how to allocate your time effectively and to solve problems rapidly, helping you develop stronger scheduling, treatment, and prioritization skills, which benefit you throughout your career.
Exposure to New Technologies
Another advantage of traveling is the chance to work with new technologies and equipment, which helps nursing and allied healthcare professionals remain current on the latest advances in healthcare.
Career Development Benefits of Travelling
Collaboration and Teamwork
Travel nursing assignments often require nurses to partner with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, therapists, and social workers. This provides opportunities to develop teamwork and collaboration skills, which are essential for providing quality patient care. This can also be a great way to learn new techniques, technologies, and to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in nursing.
As nurses travel, they inevitably meet and work alongside a wide range of healthcare professionals, including other nurses, allied professionals. doctors, specialists, hospital staff, and others. Interacting with these colleagues better positions travelers to build their professional networks and expand their career opportunities.
Travel nurses may be called upon to lead teams of nurses and other healthcare professionals, which may include being able to motivate and inspire others, to delegate tasks, and to provide feedback.
Travel nurses must be able to adapt to new situations quickly and efficiently. This can be a challenge, but it also helps them to develop increased confidence in their abilities.
Increased Job Satisfaction
Travel nurses often report feeling more satisfied with their job than staff nurses. This is likely due to the variety of experiences they have, the increased pay, and the flexibility of their schedule.
Flexibility Helps Travel Healthcare Professionals Flourish
Traveling affords nurse and allied healthcare professionals opportunities to develop a wide range of skills and experiences that can enhance their careers and help them become more well-rounded healthcare professionals. Yet all of those rewards require flexibility. The location you need may not always be the location you think you want. By partnering with skilled recruiters, travel healthcare professionals may find the answers they’re seeking in corners of the map they never noticed.
Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash