So you had an amazing interview and received an offer for a great travel nursing opportunity. That means that hard part is over. Right? Wrong. In order to complete the process you need to go through the following seven steps.
Step 1: Give me some credit
Though it may seem silly to have to prove you graduated from an accredited nursing school when you have an RN license in your hand, it is still necessary to provide documentation. It seems obvious that you must graduate from nursing school in order to get a license, but your agency may have to “prove” this. Agencies must do either primary or secondary source verification of your education. To make life easier and the process to go faster you should obtain an official copy of your transcript to fax or email to your agency. Many schools have closed, so find out what repository holds your schools records and give this information to your agency if needed.
Step 2: References? Who Needs References?
While I am sure that everyone you have worked with loved you, it is still necessary for your travel agency to do a reference check. This can be a very challenging and difficult step in the process.
Here are a few tried and true suggestions that traveling nurses say work best:
- Find out if your current or past Charge Nurse/Director/CNO will be able to provide an actual reference for you.
- Make sure the people you list as potential references know that you have listed them as such. It’s always best to ask them for a reference and explain what type of work you are looking for.
- Make sure you have current phone numbers for them and correct names. Also, make sure your agency knows what your last name was when you worked at the place they are calling.
- Get written letters of reference that can be verified. Sometimes the game of phone tag can create delay. Written reference letters can save a lot of time and can help alleviate the stress of reference checks.
- Provide information on the units where the charge nurse providing your reference works. This background information will help speed up the process.
Step 3: How hard can it be to get a license?
Some states make getting a license a snap but some make you jump through a few more hoops. If you follow these guidelines, you might get a relatively pain-free license.
- Read the instructions carefully. Filling out an application in red ink will get it returned to you. Always use black or dark blue ink.
- Making out a money order incorrectly can delay getting your license.
- Make sure you give the board an address where someone will physically available so that they can forward the license to you. The post office is supposed to return correspondence from the board (much like credit card or banking information) and will NOT forward this to you.
- Check your license status to see if it is “Compact”. If it is, you just opened the door to a lot of new destinations without needing an additional license. States like Arizona, Texas, North Carolina and Virginia are just a few of the 24 Compact states.
Step 4: ACLS – Don’t leave home without it
When it comes to certifications, you have to be very organized. It is a requirement that your ACLS, BLS, PALS or any other certification be carried on your person at all times. Make sure you have the actual cards issued by the instructor and that they are signed by both you and the instructor. If you only have a copy, save yourself a headache and renew the certification if you can’t get the instructor to send you a new card. Also, don’t take for granted that just any certification fits the bill. For example, ACLS provided by the American Heart Association is the most widely accepted and many facilities will not take any other variety.
Step 5: Do you have your health records?
Remember when you were processed as a staff nurse at your current hospital? They likely drew titers, performed a physical, renewed your TB, etc. Ask for copies of these records. As caregivers you bear the burden of proving you are immune to many diseases. To avoid delays and added expense, obtain these records from each employer as they renew them and keep them with you so that you can produce them “on demand.”
Smart Traveler Tip: Load all your documents on a flash drive and make copies. Keep one in a safe place (safe deposit box, Mom’s house, etc) and another in your vehicle at all times. You will then have a permanent record that can be updated as needed.
Step 6: Do you have skeletons in your closet?
Every travel assignment you do will require a new background check. The general rule of thumb is that screens cover the last 7-10 years for all cities/states where you have lived and worked. Credit checks are less likely although sometimes a landlord will require one even though your agency is the actual leaseholder and responsible for your housing. It is best to give your agency any information that pertains to a potential background issue no matter how insignificant it may appear. Having an assignment cancelled by the facility for something that shows up on your background screen, after you have completed all the other steps to get ready for the assignment, is really frustrating. Don’t be surprised!
Step 7: Drug tests?
Just like background checks, you will be doing lots and lots of drug screens. The most common is a pre-employment screen for every new assignment. Your agency arranges the screens for you and pays for them. You may also have one during your first week at the facility and others as requested by the facility. And contrary to popular belief, these screens are not just looking for illegal drugs. If you are taking any drugs at all, make certain you have a current and valid prescription. Drug screens are board reportable and failing one, refusing to take one, etc. could lead you down an unhappy path with your board of nursing.