first travel nursing job

What To Look For In Your First Travel Assignment?

March 8, 2011
By:  Allison Erwin, Recruitment Specialist

As you begin gathering information on travel nursing opportunities you may find yourself wondering where to begin and what to look for in your first travel assignment. There are a few things I would suggest you look into as you begin your career as a travel nurse, such as what company is the best fit, what locations you are open to and what facilities would be the best fit for you.

Choosing a Company

When choosing a travel nursing company there are many things to consider. Every company is different and sets up their assignments and benefits in different ways. One thing I would consider is housing. Does the company you are working with offer private or shared housing? Do they cover utilities? Can you choose to take the subsidy rather than their housing? How close is the housing to the hospital? Housing is a big factor to consider since you will be living there for the next three months. Another benefit I would look into is the quality of the health insurance. Is the insurance covered by the company and when does the coverage start? Travel companies may also choose to reimburse for different things during the course of the assignment such as travel expenses, certifications and your nursing license for a state you are not currently licensed in. If these benefits are important for you to have, make sure you ask your recruiter about it. Last but not least, I would consider the pay rate. Many companies pitch the pay rate in different ways. There are companies that do per diem packages where in addition to your base pay rate you get a daily per diem that is not taxed. These daily per diems are based off the cost of living in the city you will be traveling to. Other companies may pitch a very high pay rate, but keep in mind all the benefits (such as housing, insurance, license reimbursement, etc.) you choose are taken out of that rate leaving you will a lot less then what was originally pitched. I would recommend asking your recruiter exactly how your package is laid out so you know exactly what you are getting and not surprised in the end. A good point of comparison is to know what your weekly take home will be. This way you can have a clear understanding of how much you will make each week.


With travel nursing assignments all over the nation, location is a very important factor to keep in mind. If you have family you are trying to see throughout the assignment, I would recommend finding a location within a few hours from them so that you could realistically visit when you have time off. I would also consider states where you already hold a license or states where you can get a license in a short time period. Your recruiter should be able to guide you in the right direction when it comes to licensing and what states would be a good fit! For example, if you want to travel to California but do not currently hold a CA license, I would recommend applying for the license a couple of months in advance as this license can take a few months to obtain. However, if you want to travel to Maryland, you can get that license the same day you apply through what is called a “walk through” process o that would not be a problem. The first travel assignment can be a large adjustment since you are moving to a new place and starting a new job. I would suggest taking your first assignment in an area you know you will enjoy. If you like warm weather, I would not take your first travel assignment in a location currently covered in snow. This will help make the transition smoother when you choose a location you know you will enjoy….especially for your first assignment!


Travel assignments are available at hospitals of every size. If all of your experience has been in a Level I trauma center, I would recommend looking for similar hospitals with a similar setting to your current work experience. However, if all of your experience is in small community hospitals you will want to focus on assignments in smaller facilities. Applying for travel assignments in hospitals similar to your past experience not only makes your adjustment easier, it will also increase your chances of getting the job! If you are looking to gain experience at hospitals that are not similar to your experience then I would suggest making that adjustment over time. For example, if your experience is in smaller hospitals take your first assignment in a similar facility and then for your second assignment, apply for a medium sized hospital and slowly work your way to the facility you are interested in.

These are just three of the key factors I would look for in a travel assignment. As every traveler is different it is important to know what you want when you speak with your recruiter to help you find the position that is the best fit for you. Good luck with your first travel assignment!!