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Finding Your First Travel Nursing Assignment

By: Sarah Gray, Founding Clinician, Trusted Health

So you’ve done the research and decided that you want to give travel nursing a try. Great! The next step is to find your first assignment. This can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. The key is to be strategic about your search. Take the time to understand the full scope of the job landscape and gain clarity into what is most important to you and where you might be willing to compromise. Read on for some of the most important considerations for finding your first travel assignment. 

  • Geographic location: One of the primary perks of travel nursing is being able to explore new and exciting locations. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the beaches of Hawaii in between shifts, commute on the subways of NYC, or take a weekday trip across the Golden Gate Bridge. While these places should absolutely be on your list, it’s important to be mindful that they can be highly competitive, so you should be open-minded to consider less obvious destinations as well. Ultimately, many travelers’ favorite assignments wind up being the lesser-known, non-coastal spots.


  • Facility: Similar to a geographic location, there may be a particular hospital or facility on your wish list. And while you should absolutely keep your eye on those particular opportunities, it’s best not to put all of your eggs in just one basket. Every facility moves at its own pace or opens roles at variable intervals and you don’t want to be stuck waiting on a single opportunity. Prestigious or highly sought-after facilities may also be more stringent on requirements, including years of travel experience. Consider pursuing a few different facilities to ensure that you have options.


  • Compensation: It’s easy to get caught up in the in eye-popping salaries that cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles might offer, but I’d urge you to look beyond a simple  gross weekly number. The cost of living in these places might actually make them less financially attractive than they initially seem. Do your research into what the cost of living is like in each of the locations you’re considering so you can figure out how far your paycheck will stretch. This way, you’re not simply looking for the highest numbers, but accounting for value as well. A good place to start is Trusted’s recent Travel Nurse Compensation Report, which found cities like Atlanta, Tucson, and St. Louis are great for travelers because the average traveler salary stretches far relative to the cost of living.


  • Agencies/Employers: In the same way that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket for location and facility, it’s also important to take advantage of multiple avenues to finding a travel assignment. This might mean working with more than one staffing agency, as well as a platform like Trusted. The opportunity costs for relying on one channel can be high — it can mean lower compensation, less robust benefits, missed opportunities that open and close quickly, and limited opportunities by location or facility due to the nature of the recruiter or agency’s relationships.

None of this is to say that you should take the first job that comes your way or settle for an opportunity you’re not excited about! Rather, to keep an open mind, be flexible, and be patient. Even though your first assignment may not have every single thing you’re looking for,  it can still be an amazing and transformative experience and surprise you in ways you didn’t expect. And ultimately, with a few assignments under your belt, you’ll be a stronger candidate for the remaining bucket-list assignments come around… and eventually, it will! 

Sarah is the Founding Clinician at Trusted Health, the career platform for the modern nurse. Sarah is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Nursing School and began her nursing career at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Prior to moving away from the bedside, she was a Clinical Nurse III and an Evidence Based Practice Fellow, and served on multiple hospital-wide committee boards. At Trusted, she utilizes her clinical insight and passion for innovation to change how nurses manage their careers and solve for inefficiencies within healthcare staffing.

You can connect with Sarah on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

The views and opinions expressed by My Nurse Influencer contributors are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or recommendations of the American Nurses Association, the Editorial Advisory Board members, or the Publisher, Editors and staff of American Nurse Journal. These are opinion pieces and are not peer reviewed.

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