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Travel Nursing Agencies for New Graduates—Do they Exist?

The nursing industry is booming and hospitals everywhere are desperate for nurses. The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched our healthcare system so thin that some states are paying nurses over $8000 a week to come work at their hospitals 5-6 days per week. Travel nursing has become the industry to work in as a nurse if you are looking for high paying contracts and are willing to deal with the stress that comes along with them. These crisis contracts usually require 48-72 hours a week and are high acuity, COVID saturated hospitals that are frantic for staff. 

That being said, due to the extreme need for nurses, some facilities and agencies are starting to work with less experienced staff to help fill the gaps. In the past, travel nursing almost universally required at least one full year of clinical experience in a specialty, if not two years for the higher acuity specialties like ICU, ED, L&D, PICU, CVOR, etc.  Now, hospitals are hiring new grads directly into those some of those specialties as permanent staff, and some travel nursing agencies are accepting nurses with less than one year of experience. 

Is Travel Nursing with Less than One Year of Experience Safe?

It’s time we acknowledge that not all new grads are alike. Some may come with LPN or CNA experience, some may have no work experience whatsoever. Some new grad nurses may be ambitious and always go the extra mile, and some do not.  New graduate RNs can be motivated and quick to learn and pick up new skills. While this isn’t the case for all new grads, some may find they are able to function as a travel nurse with less than one year experience.

Can you Travel Nurse as a New Grad?

As mentioned above, many current contracts out there are fast paced, high acuity environments. If a new grad nurse is coming from a high acuity facility and unit, they may be able to adequately function on a similar floor. The toughest part is not knowing the system and staff, or where all the supplies and are located. It can be frustrating as a newer nurse to adapt to new workflows if you aren’t already super confident in your skills and critical thinking.  But, there are facilities that are not overwhelmed with coronavirus, and still need nurses. And, due to the current state of the nursing profession some are willing to work with RNs who have less than the usual 18-24 months of required experience for travel nursing. 

What Travel Nursing Agencies hire New Grad RNs?

The short answer is, none. Unfortunately, most agencies are still requiring closer to a year of experience, but there are some agencies out there that are willing to work with RNs ‘early in their career’- and are working with travel nurses who have experience right around the 6 month mark. They have specially designed programs that provide a lot of support to the newer travel nurses and allow a slightly longer orientation time than usual travel nurse assignments

New Grad Travel Nurse Jobs

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were a few agencies that brought new grad travel nurses to hard hit places, like New York City, to work as a ‘team nurse’. These nurses were paired up with other RNs and rarely took their own assignments. Many received a crash course-like orientation to the unit, but were never properly oriented to their specialty and profession. So, when you hear about new grad RNs travel nursing- that is most likely what is being referred to. There are now enough experienced RNs wanting to travel that those agencies do not need to dip into the new grad RN pool.

Travel Nursing for New Grads

Working as a new grad RN travel nurse isn’t yet possible, but if current trends continue, it could be a possibility in the future. New graduate RNs that want to pursue travel nursing can work on getting themselves prepared and set up for success. First, new RNs need to find a permanent job. This in itself can be stressful, and new grad RNs are encouraged to be flexible with which position they will accept. Gaining clinical experience in an acute care setting is the goal, and anything to get your foot in the door is a good opportunity. 

What can New Grad RNs do to Prepare for Travel Nursing? 

After finding a staff job, new grads that work hard to excel at their jobs will find it easier to transition to travel nursing.  New grads that want to travel nurse should start working on getting any relevant certifications, be willing to float and learn as much as possible, and always try to go above and beyond for your patients. These actions will better prepare a new grad RN to start travel nursing early. Keep an eye on current trends in travel nursing and look for agencies that are willing to work RNs that are early on in their careers. New grad RNs can start connecting with recruiters after they come off orientation and have a few months of clinical experience to see how much experience is required and what you can do to optimize your chances of starting travel nursing early. 

rachel-nurseflygmail-com
Rachel Norton BSN, RN

I have been a critical care nurse since 2007. I grew up in the northeast but enjoy every corner of the country. My passions are people and travel. Travel nursing allows me to meet amazing people and satisfy my wanderlust. I love inspiring other nurses to travel and expand their practice.

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