When you start a travel nursing assignment, 13 weeks feels like a long time. You’ve got months before you start thinking about your next placement, right? Spoiler alert: those 13 weeks are going to fly by, and the best time to start looking for your next assignment is now.
The good news is that you’re not alone when planning your travel nurse assignment, and your recruiter is there to help. Rachel Southworth, an experienced RNnetwork recruiter, offers the following advice on when to start looking for your next travel nursing assignment so you can keep working as much as you want.
Check in often with your recruiter
Rachel says she tries to touch base with her travelers about a month into an assignment to find out if they’re interested in extending. “A lot of our hospitals will extend, especially if they have the need and if the travel nurse likes it,” she says. “Sometimes they’ll extend them as early as a month into the assignment,” she explains.
After six or seven weeks on assignment, if you’ve decided not to extend, you’ll need to start thinking about your next placement and when you want to start working. Many travel nurses like to take a week or two off in between jobs, so make sure you take that into account when choosing your desired start date.
About six weeks before you want your next travel nursing assignment to begin, your recruiter will start submitting your profile to clients. At this point, you should expect to be in touch with your recruiter almost daily to discuss jobs that have opened and get updates on applications that have already been submitted.
Keep in mind that you may not be able to start a new assignment exactly when you want to, because the start date you want might not fall in line with the hospital’s orientation schedule. Rachel recommends being prepared with at least an extra week’s worth of savings in case you’re not able to begin on your desired start date.
Be flexible with your location
One of the best ways to avoid delays with your next assignment is to be flexible. “Everyone has their first choice of where they want to go next, but they need to have a second choice and a third choice,” says Rachel. “Having your heart set on one specific location can result in more time off than you wanted.”
Many nurses want to work in popular locations like Nashville, Denver, or south Florida, but these places are also going to attract a lot of applications and more competition. Your recruiter can help you determine the places where you’ll be a competitive candidate. One recommendation Rachel gives is to be licensed to practice in your top three locations, because this can give you a leg up on candidates who would need to obtain a license after receiving an offer.
RNnetwork doesn’t pay for licensing costs up front, but you will be reimbursed for the cost of the license once you’re placed in a job (if it’s the first time you’ve worked in that state). Make sure you keep all receipts related to your licensing in order to request reimbursement.
Have realistic expectations
In addition to being flexible with your location, it’s important to keep your expectations in check in other ways.
Travel nurses are often called in to help a facility fill gaps in the schedule, and that means you should assume you’ll be working holidays. “You’re going to be expected to work two out of the three holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s – so pick the one that is most important to you to ask off and then expect to be told no,” says Rachel.
It’s also important to recognize that in some cases, you simply won’t be as competitive as more experienced travel nurses. Rachel says she’s most successful in rebooking candidates with over a decade of experience and over three years of travel experience, but that doesn’t mean that newer travelers are out of luck. “People who do not have a lot of time off requests, scheduling requirements, shift requirements, and who are flexible on all of those things have a better chance of getting interviewed.”
Rachel offers a final piece of advice for planning your travel nurse assignment: make sure you have an extra bit of cash, don’t ask for too much time off, and “basically don’t be a diva.”