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When it comes to nursing, the possibilities in terms of specializations and opportunities for advancement are seemingly endless. If you have zeroed in on travel nursing as a potential career, it is important to realize that there are many sub-specializations within that category. Most travel nurses start out as basic registry nurses or agency nurses, but many then move into various specializations to qualify for more competitive pay and better opportunities. Learn more about the most popular travel nursing jobs out there by reading on below.
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Basic Travel Nursing Options
If you'd like to break into the world of travel nursing, the first step is figuring out what type of travel nursing you would like to do. Generally speaking, there are two categories: agency nursing or registry nursing. Technically, there's a third one as well: Working as an independent contractor. However, very few travel nurses pursue this option because it means literally finding work, billing and doing everything else yourself. The main upside is that you can name your own price, so it's often possible to get even better compensation.
1. Agency Nurse
Agency nurses are employed by nursing agencies, which are a bit like temp agencies in that match nurses with temporary work opportunities at hospitals, clinics and other facilities. Essentially, as an agency nurse, you agree to work on a very casual basis. In most cases, it is up to you to contact the agency to let them know that you are available on any given day or week. You must also be prepared to go to work on very short notice, so it is crucial to have flexibility.
2. Registry Nurse
Although some people use the terms agency nurse and registry nurse interchangeably, they refer to two different things. Registry nurses sign up with nursing registries. In doing so, they are agreeing to be available to fill temporary vacancies as needed in a specific geographic area. Registry nursing is primarily available in major metropolitan areas where there are lots of large hospitals. Employment under these circumstances tends to be very casual, and you are usually paid per diem, which means that you get paid at the end of every shift.
Travel Nursing Specializations
In addition to deciding between working as a registry nurse or as an agency nurse, you should consider moving into an area of specialization to make yourself more marketable to employers and to command the best pay. Most travel nurses start out doing the basics to acquire some experience. Over time, many naturally gravitate toward certain specializations. By understanding the most popular options, you can more easily figure out which ones suit your needs the best.
3. PICU/NICU Travel Nurse
Pediatric intensive care units, or PICUs, and neonatal intensive care units, or NICUs, often deal with staffing shortages. The main issue is that NICU and PICU nurses have very specific and specialized skill sets, so it isn't easy to find nurses to fill in for them. Ideally, you should try to acquire some experience working in these departments before moving into travel nursing. There are certifications that you can work toward to make yourself more marketable. Once you have experience in this area under your belt, become an agency or registry nurse with a specialization in NICU/PICU, and you will be able to take your pick from many exciting opportunities.
4. ICU Travel Nurse
Nurses who work in ICUs tend to have a very broad array of skills. People with every imaginable type of malady roll through ICUs, so nurses who work there see it all and gain experience in many different areas. This translates well in travel nursing, as nurses who have ICU experience can be placed in many different departments. In other words, as an ICU travel nurse, you won't necessarily always work in ICUs. However, being able to prove that you have a specialization in ICU will make you eligible for far many more travel nursing jobs.
5. Labor and Delivery Travel Nurse
Employees in labor and delivery departments often joke about how unpredictable things can be. One week, the department may be like a ghost town; the next, dozens of women roll through to give birth to babies. Due to this somewhat unpredictable ebb and flow, many departments keep a somewhat limited number of nurses on staff full time and then rely on registries and agencies for periods when more nurses are needed. With a specialization in labor and delivery, you shouldn't ever have to worry about finding paying work as a nurse.
6. Computer Conversion Travel Nurse
The switch from paper records to electronic medical records, or EMRs, which are also known as electronic health records, or EHRs, continues. Many facilities are already on board, but plenty of others still need to or are still in the process of doing so. Travel nurses with experience in converting facilities to EHR or EMR records are very much in demand as a result. They are often brought in to assist with the transition so that the full-time nurses can focus on their regular duties.
7. Operating Room Travel Nurse
If you already have OR certifications from prior nursing experience and are thinking about branching out into travel nursing, you are in the happy position of having a very marketable set of skills. From huge teaching hospitals to smaller ambulatory surgery centers, demand for OR nurses is high, and many facilities like these largely rely on registry and agency nurses to cope with the ebb and flow nature of this type of work. If possible, become proficient with specific population types or with specific types of surgery to be even more marketable.
As you can see, travel nurses can pursue a wide variety of options. By acquiring a specialization, you will stand apart from many others in this area and will have an even easier time landing lucrative and rewarding nursing jobs.