can an rn be a travel nurse

RN Roadmaps: Can Registered Nurses (RNs) Embrace Travel Nursing?

In the United States, registered nurses (RNs) have a world of possibilities when it comes to their career. One exciting avenue to explore is travel nursing. By becoming a travel nurse, RNs can unlock the opportunity to work in different locations, embrace new experiences, and advance their professional growth. However, this journey requires obtaining specific licenses that demonstrate their qualifications and competency.

In this article, we will delve into the various licenses that registered nurses need to navigate their careers successfully in the world of travel nursing. From state nursing licenses to advanced practice licenses, we will explore the different pathways RNs can take to expand their horizons and make a positive impact in patient care across the nation.

Key Takeaways:

  • Registered nurses (RNs) can explore the exciting opportunity of travel nursing in the United States.
  • To become a travel nurse, RNs need to obtain specific licenses that ensure their qualifications and competency.
  • The journey starts with acquiring a state nursing license, which acts as the foundation for RNs.
  • For those seeking advanced practice roles, pursuing advanced practice nursing licenses is essential.
  • RNs can also enhance their expertise through specialized certifications that showcase mastery in specific areas of nursing.

State Nursing License: The Foundation for RNs

In the United States, obtaining a state nursing license is an essential step for registered nurses (RNs) to practice their profession. Each state has its own Board of Nursing that oversees nursing practice and grants licenses to qualified individuals.

To become a licensed RN, aspiring nurses must fulfill specific educational requirements. This typically involves completing an accredited nursing program, which can range from an associate degree in nursing (ADN) to a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program.

After completing their nursing education, RNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). This standardized exam evaluates the knowledge and competencies required to safely and effectively practice as an entry-level RN.

Once RNs have successfully passed the NCLEX-RN, they are eligible to apply for a state nursing license. The specific requirements for licensure vary by state, but they typically include submitting an application, providing educational transcripts, and paying the required fees.

An important consideration for RNs seeking to practice in multiple states is the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). The NLC is an agreement among participating states that allows RNs with a multistate license to practice nursing across state borders without needing to obtain additional licenses. This offers RNs greater flexibility and mobility in their careers.

The state nursing license serves as the foundation for RNs to provide safe and competent care to patients. It ensures that nurses have met the necessary educational and examination requirements to practice nursing within a specific state’s jurisdiction.

Requirements for State Nursing LicenseNurse Licensure Compact (NLC)
  • Completion of an accredited nursing program (ADN or BSN)
  • Passing the NCLEX-RN examination
  • Application submission
  • Educational transcript submission
  • Payment of required fees
  • Allows RNs with a multistate license to practice across participating states
  • Provides flexibility and mobility in nursing careers
  • Eliminates the need for additional licenses when practicing in NLC states

Advancing in the Nursing Profession: Pursuing Advanced Practice Licenses

RNs who aspire to take their practice to higher levels can pursue advanced practice nursing licenses. These licenses are required for roles such as nurse practitioners (NPs) and clinical nurse specialists (CNSs). Advanced practice nurses bring specialized expertise to patient care, often holding master’s or doctoral degrees and certifications in their chosen specialties. These credentials enable NPs and CNSs to diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medications, and provide comprehensive care within their areas of specialization.

In order to pursue an advanced practice nursing license, RNs typically need to complete additional education and training. This may involve earning a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, with a focus on a specific area of expertise. For example, an RN interested in becoming a nurse practitioner may choose to specialize in family practice, pediatrics, or gerontology, among other specialties.

After completing the required education, aspiring NPs and CNSs must pass a certification exam in their respective specialty area. These exams are administered by professional organizations such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB), depending on the specialty. Certification serves as validation of the nurse’s advanced knowledge and skills in their chosen field.

Once certified, advanced practice nurses must apply for an advanced practice nursing license in their state. The specific requirements for licensure may vary from state to state, so it is essential for RNs to familiarize themselves with the regulations and guidelines of their state’s nursing board.

Obtaining an advanced practice nursing license opens up a world of opportunities for RNs to make a significant impact on patient care and advance their careers. NPs and CNSs can work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, private practices, and research institutions. They have the autonomy to provide comprehensive care to their patients, including diagnosing illnesses, prescribing medications, ordering diagnostic tests, and developing treatment plans.

To showcase the significance of pursuing advanced practice nursing licenses, let’s take a look at the representation of nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists in the United States:

RoleNumber of PractitionersPercentage of Nursing Workforce
Nurse Practitioners290,000+5%
Clinical Nurse Specialists72,000+1%

As the table illustrates, nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists form a vital part of the nursing workforce, contributing their advanced knowledge and skills to improve patient outcomes.

The Role of Nurse Practitioners (NPs)

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who provide primary and specialized care to patients of all ages. They collaborate with physicians and other healthcare professionals to deliver comprehensive care and promote health and wellness. NPs often serve as the primary healthcare provider for their patients, offering a full range of services, including physical exams, diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions, interpreting diagnostic tests, and prescribing medications. Their advanced training and expertise allow them to offer personalized, patient-centered care that addresses the unique needs of their patients.

The Role of Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs)

Clinical nurse specialists are advanced practice nurses who specialize in a specific population, setting, or disease. They are experts in evidence-based practice, providing direct patient care, consulting with other healthcare professionals, and developing and implementing healthcare policies. CNSs play a critical role in improving the quality of care and patient outcomes by incorporating the latest research and best practices into their practice. They provide education and support to patients, families, and nursing staff, ensuring that healthcare practices align with current standards and guidelines.

Click here to learn more about the diverse opportunities and personal growth available in the nursing profession.

Enhancing Expertise: Specialized Certifications for RNs

RNs have the option to enhance their expertise through specialized certifications. These certifications indicate mastery in areas such as critical care, pediatrics, oncology, and more. While not mandatory for practice, specialized certifications showcase a nurse’s commitment to elevating patient care and staying updated in their chosen field.

Obtaining specialized certifications can open doors for career advancement, as some healthcare settings require specific certifications as prerequisites for particular roles. These certifications provide nurses with a competitive edge, demonstrating their specialized knowledge and skills.

For example, critical care nurses can pursue certifications like Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) or Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP). These certifications validate their expertise in managing critically ill patients and contribute to better patient outcomes in intensive care units.

Pediatric nurses can further their knowledge and skills by acquiring certifications such as Pediatric Nurse Certification (CPN) or Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP). These certifications demonstrate their competence in providing specialized care to infants, children, and adolescents.

Oncology nurses can pursue certifications like Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) or Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP). These certifications validate their expertise in delivering comprehensive care to patients with cancer, supporting them throughout their diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.

Career advancement is facilitated by specialized certifications as they showcase a nurse’s dedication to professional development and patient care. By obtaining certifications in their respective specialties, RNs can position themselves for growth opportunities, leadership roles, and higher salaries.

Benefits of Specialized Certifications:

  • Increasing knowledge and skills in a specific area of practice
  • Enhancing career prospects and potential for leadership positions
  • Improving patient outcomes through specialized care
  • Meeting specific requirements for certain roles in healthcare settings

Specialized certifications empower RNs to provide the highest level of care in their chosen fields. Whether it’s critical care, pediatrics, oncology, or any other specialty, these certifications demonstrate a nurse’s dedication to continuous learning and professional growth.

Critical CareCCRN (Critical Care Registered Nurse)
PediatricsCPN (Certified Pediatric Nurse)
OncologyOCN (Oncology Certified Nurse)

Lifelong Learning and Continued Growth in Nursing

In the nursing profession, lifelong learning is crucial for staying current and growing as a nurse. As the healthcare landscape evolves and new advancements emerge, it is essential for registered nurses (RNs) to actively engage in continuing education to maintain their knowledge and skills. By participating in continuing education opportunities, RNs can ensure they are up-to-date with the latest practices and techniques, ultimately enhancing the quality of patient care.

Continuing education plays a vital role in the professional development of nurses. It allows them to expand their knowledge base, learn about innovative treatments and technologies, and gain a deeper understanding of complex healthcare issues. Moreover, continuing education helps nurses stay informed about changes in regulations, policies, and evidence-based practices, ensuring they adhere to the highest standards of care.

One way for nurses to access continuing education resources is through nursing associations and professional organizations. These groups offer a wide range of educational programs, conferences, and workshops that cater to various specialties and interests within the nursing field. By participating in these activities, RNs gain access to valuable networking opportunities and the chance to learn from experts in their respective fields.

Active involvement in nursing associations and professional organizations also fosters a sense of community among RNs. It allows them to connect with like-minded individuals who share similar passions and professional goals. By exchanging ideas and experiences, nurses can collaborate on solving industry challenges and contribute to the advancement of nursing practice as a whole.

continuing education

Benefits of Continuing Education

  • Keeps nurses updated with the latest advancements and practices
  • Enhances nursing skills and knowledge
  • Expands career opportunities
  • Fosters professional growth and personal satisfaction

Nursing Associations and Professional Organizations

American Nurses Association (ANA)The premier organization representing the interests of registered nurses across the United
National League for Nursing (NLN)A membership organization dedicated to promoting excellence in nursing
Emergency Nurses Association (ENA)Provides education and resources for emergency

By actively pursuing continuing education and engaging with nursing associations and professional organizations, RNs can stay at the forefront of nursing practice. They can ensure their skills remain current, their knowledge remains relevant, and their commitment to providing high-quality patient care never wavers.

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Nursing Shortage

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the nursing shortage in the United States. The already existing shortage of nurses has been exacerbated by the challenges brought about by the pandemic. As a result, healthcare facilities are facing significant vacancies in their nursing workforce, leading to increased demands for travel nurses.

One of the main factors contributing to the nursing shortage is the upcoming wave of retirements. More than 500,000 registered nurses are expected to retire in 2022, leaving a substantial gap in the healthcare staffing. This, combined with the increased burnout among nurses, higher patient census, and limited time off, has created an urgent need for additional nursing professionals to fill these vacancies.

The ongoing impact of COVID-19 has resulted in staffing shortages that are expected to persist even after the decrease in COVID-19 patients. The healthcare industry is experiencing a long-lasting ripple effect, and travel nurses are becoming crucial in addressing these staffing gaps.

Travel nurses, with their flexibility and ability to quickly adapt to new environments, are playing a pivotal role in supporting healthcare facilities and providing quality patient care. These nurses step in during critical times, ensuring that patients receive the necessary attention and medical assistance.

The nursing shortage and the demand for travel nurses present unique opportunities for those seeking a dynamic career in nursing. As the healthcare industry continues to adapt and navigate the challenges brought forth by COVID-19, travel nursing has become an indispensable solution to address staffing needs and ensure quality healthcare services for patients across the United States.

Benefits and Challenges of Travel Nursing in a Post-COVID Era

Travel nursing offers several benefits that make it an attractive career option for registered nurses (RNs) looking for new opportunities. Firstly, travel nursing offers higher wages compared to traditional nursing positions. RNs can earn competitive pay rates, often with additional compensation for housing, travel expenses, and benefits. This financial advantage allows travel nurses to save money, pay off debts, or invest in their future.

Secondly, work-life balance is a significant advantage for travel nurses. They have the freedom to choose when and where they work, allowing them to create a schedule that suits their lifestyle and personal commitments. Whether it’s taking time off to travel, spending more quality time with family, or pursuing personal interests, travel nursing allows RNs to achieve a better balance between work and life.

Thirdly, travel nursing provides the opportunity to explore new places and experience different cultures. By working in various healthcare facilities and locations across the country, travel nurses can broaden their horizons, expand their professional networks, and gain diverse clinical experiences. This exposure enhances their skills, knowledge, and adaptability, making them highly sought-after in the nursing industry.

Benefits of Travel NursingChallenges of Travel Nursing
  • Higher wages
  • Better work-life balance
  • Opportunity to explore new places
  • Adjusting to new environments and facilities
  • Building rapport with new colleagues
  • Potential staffing issues

While travel nursing offers numerous benefits, it is not without its challenges. First and foremost, travel nurses must adapt quickly to new environments, healthcare systems, and patient populations. They need to learn the policies, procedures, and electronic medical record systems of each facility they work in.

Additionally, building rapport with new colleagues can be challenging as travel nurses find themselves in different work environments with different staff members on each assignment. However, this constant exposure to new teams can also provide valuable networking opportunities and foster personal growth.

Lastly, travel nurses may face staffing issues at certain facilities where the demand for healthcare professionals outpaces the supply. This can result in heavier workloads and potential feelings of being overwhelmed. However, travel nurses who prioritize patient care and maintain proactive communication with their assigned agency can navigate these challenges effectively.

Overall, the benefits of travel nursing, including higher wages, better work-life balance, and the opportunity for personal and professional growth, outweigh the challenges. By embracing adaptability, flexibility, and a patient-centered mindset, travel nurses can thrive in their careers, make a positive impact on healthcare delivery, and enjoy the adventure of exploring new places.

Are you interested in learning more about travel nursing? Click here to explore our comprehensive resources and insights on this exciting career path!

travel nursing benefits

How to Become a Travel Nurse: Requirements and Steps

Becoming a travel nurse offers exciting opportunities for RNs to explore new places while utilizing their skills and expertise. To embark on this rewarding career path, there are certain requirements and steps that aspiring travel nurses need to follow.

Educational Requirements

A crucial requirement for becoming a travel nurse is obtaining a nursing degree. Most travel nursing positions require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. RNs with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) may also be eligible for travel nurse positions, but having a BSN increases job prospects and earning potential.

If you are considering starting or advancing your nursing career, check out our comprehensive guide on the top nursing schools in the US to find accredited programs that can help you meet your educational goals.


In addition to a nursing degree, travel nurses must hold a valid RN license in the state where they plan to practice. Each state has its own licensing requirements, so it’s essential to research and fulfill the specific criteria set by the state board of nursing. Some states may also require additional documentation or fees for travel nurses.


To stand out as a travel nurse and increase job opportunities, obtaining relevant certifications can be beneficial. Basic Life Support (BLS) certification is often required for travel nursing positions as it demonstrates essential life-saving skills. Specialty certifications, such as Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) or Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), can also enhance a travel nurse’s credentials and open doors to specialized assignments.


Most travel nursing agencies require a minimum of two years of recent bedside nursing experience. This experience ensures that travel nurses have a solid foundation of clinical skills and can adapt to various healthcare settings. Prior experience in a specific specialty can also increase job prospects for specialty-focused travel assignments.

Working with a Travel Nursing Agency

Partnering with a reputable travel nursing agency and recruiter can streamline the process of becoming a travel nurse. These agencies have established relationships with healthcare facilities nationwide and can help match travel nurses with assignments that align with their skills, preferences, and desired destinations. Working with an agency provides valuable support, including guidance on licensing, certifications, housing, and benefits.

By fulfilling the educational requirements, obtaining the necessary licensure and certifications, gaining valuable experience, and partnering with a reliable travel nursing agency, you can open the door to an exciting career as a travel nurse. Start your journey today and explore the endless possibilities that await in the world of travel nursing.


Travel nursing offers an exciting and fulfilling career path for registered nurses (RNs) who are eager to explore new opportunities and experience professional growth. By obtaining the necessary licenses, advancing their education, acquiring specialized certifications, and gaining valuable experience, RNs can embark on the journey of travel nursing, enjoying the freedom and flexibility it offers.

The current nursing shortage, exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, has created a high demand for travel nurses. This presents abundant opportunities for RNs seeking to make a meaningful impact on patient care while immersing themselves in different healthcare environments. Travel nursing not only allows RNs to expand their horizons but also offers competitive pay rates, better work-life balance, and the chance to explore new places.

To succeed as travel nurses, it is crucial for RNs to embrace lifelong learning and adaptability. By staying updated with the latest advancements in nursing practice, participating in continuing education, and actively engaging with professional organizations, travel nurses can stay at the forefront of their field. This commitment to professional growth not only enhances patient care but also opens doors for exciting career prospects.

If you’re an RN looking for travel nursing opportunities or seeking guidance on how to navigate this career path, visit our website. We provide valuable resources and insights to help you make informed decisions and take the next step in your travel nursing journey. Embrace the possibilities and embark on a fulfilling career that combines your passion for nursing with the opportunity to explore new horizons.

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