Nursing
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How To Become An International Travel Nurse

How To Become An International Travel Nurse

One of the benefits of being a travel nurse is that you can see more of your home country, exploring the biggest cities and towns, as well as a slew of healthcare facilities.

But as an international travel nurse, you can take things a step further, exploring more countries and cultures and broadening your horizons as a result.

What is International Travel Nursing?

Travel nurses are qualified nurses hired to fill temporary nursing positions. Healthcare facilities hire travel nurses to deal with shortages and increased demand, and they typically work for several months at a time.

US travel nurses work for US agencies and those agencies work with healthcare providers all over the world. An international travel nurse is simply someone who is hired to complete assignments outside of the United States.

How to Become an International Travel Nurse

Nurses need many of the same qualifications to work internationally as they do domestically, but there are a few differences.

The traditional steps required for a US travel nurse are:

  • Complete a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) degree or an associate degree in nursing (ADN).
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN exam.
  • Gain at least 1 year of experience.
  • Acquire the necessary licenses.
  • Find a travel nurse agency.
  • Find work.

In the US, travel nurses can rely on the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which allows them to use one license to work in many states. Outside of the United States, it's a little more complicated.

The exact requirements will depend on your chosen destination, but it's not just licensing that you need to consider.

You may need a work visa that permits you to stay and work in the country. In the COVID age, you'll also need to think about vaccinations and testing.

In addition, you should consider the cultural and language differences.

How Do You Find International Travel Nursing Jobs?

You can secure employment via a travel nurse agency. They will provide you with the assignments and answer any questions you have relating to the job. Before signing with a travel nursing agency, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • How is your pay package structured?
  • Will you be providing me with a housing stipend or will I be given free housing?
  • Will I be getting paid for vacation time?
  • Will travel health insurance be included in the pay package?
  • Can I cancel my contract if I am not happy with the employer or the location?
  • How much free time will I have between nursing assignments?
  • Which countries do you serve and where am I most likely to find employment?
  • How often will I be paid and in what currency?
  • Are there any bonuses for agreeing to an assignment and finishing an assignment?
  • What expenses will be covered, and are there any limits that I need to know about?

Where Do International Travel Nurses Work?

As an international travel nurse, you could be hired to work in a variety of healthcare settings for a number of reasons:

  • Hospitals : Travel nurses with the experience and qualifications to work in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the Emergency Room (ER) are some of the most in-demand. These areas require a great deal of skill, composure, and experience. They are stressful and can struggle during times of crisis, as seen during the height of the COVID pandemic.
  • Doctor's Offices: A nurse working in a doctor's office must be a good communicator and have a solid patient rapport. They will also be asked to perform assessments, administer medication, and assist with minor procedures.
  • Outpatient Care Facilities: Nurses working in outpatient facilities are tasked with performing an array of duties, including triage, patient education, administering IVs, and performing assessments.

Where Should You Work as an International Travel Nurse?

International travel nurse jobs vary, and you'll ultimately be sent where you are needed the most. However, the following lists may give you an idea of where you can—and perhaps will—work.

Countries with the Most Registered Nurses

The following countries have some of the most registered nurses in the world. They also tend to be the countries with the highest healthcare rankings, as well as the ones often voted as the best places to live. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that there will be a sudden need for international nurses in these locations:

CountryNurses Per 1,000 Population
Norway17.86
Denmark17.21
Switzerland16.81
Iceland16.31
Ireland13.87
Germany12.92
Australia12.47
Luxembourg12.33
Sweden11.85
France10.94
Belgium10.82
New Zealand10.80
Netherlands10.47
Canada9.84
Malta8.95
United Kingdom8.83
Slovenia8.81
Russian Federation8.66
The United States8.55
The Czech Republic8.37
Austria8.18
Lithuania7.90
Maldives7.15
Kuwait6.97
Hungary6.68

Countries with the Least Registered Nurses

The following nations are some of the most deprived in the world and have very low numbers of registered nurses. You could find yourself working in one of these countries during your career as an international travel nurse.

CountryNurses Per 1,000 Population
Haiti0.011
Chile0.145
Madagascar0.218
Ethiopia0.25
Central African Republic0.252
Bangladesh0.267
Sierra Leone0.319
Tanzania0.416
Ivory Coast0.479
Uganda0.648
Costa Rica0.796
Rwanda0.832
Guatemala0.864
Zambia0.886
Democratic Republic of the Congo0.961
Bolivia1
Columbia1.08
Indonesia1.3
Dominican Republic1.33
Nicaragua1.38
Peru1.49
Paraguay1.5
Bhutan1.51
Jamaica1.66
Nepal2.04

Top Paying Countries for International Travel Nurses

Although the countries in the table above all need nurses, they are also some of the poorest in the world and it's unlikely that you will make a lot of money working there. However, the same can't be said for the following countries. A registered nurse assisting with international nursing shortages can stand to make a lot of money in these countries.

CountryAverage Salary
Luxembourg$91,000
Denmark$87,436
Canada$75,660
Virgin Islands$72,000
Australia$69,699
Switzerland$64,793
Norway$46,050
Ireland$39,768
Italy$30,179
Dubai$23,316

How Much do International Travel Nurses Make?

The average salary for registered nurses is around $73,000 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it all depends on where your assignments are and how much experience you have.

Generally speaking, though, travel nurses may make more than nurses working in similar permanent positions.

As an international travel nurse, you will also be paid reimbursements and stipends, ensuring you don't have any significant out-of-pocket housing and travel expenses.

How To Succeed as a Travel Nurse Abroad

To maximize your rewards and comfort while working international travel nursing jobs, keep the following tips in mind:

1. Arrive Early

The best way to reduce the inevitable stress of international travel nursing is to arrive at your destination early and take some time to settle in.

Spend time in the local area, arrange your transportation, and prepare your home. Make sure you know where the local grocery store, pharmacy, parks, coffee shops, and other essentials are and get used to the different way of life.

2. Check the Local Laws

Making assumptions about local laws could have serious consequences.

You probably know, for instance, that cannabis laws are much stricter in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe than they are in the United States. What you might not know is many countries take a hard line against drugs that are commonly available in the United States.

In Greece, for instance, opiates are rarely prescribed and you could find yourself in serious hot water if you carry them into the country.

Alcohol is also banned in a number of countries, and some nations have much stricter laws on cigarettes than others.

To avoid any problems at the border, do your homework in advance and discover what you can and can't do in your destination country.

3. Learn the Language

English is spoken all over the world, but in many of those countries, it's a second or third language and you can't expect everyone to understand you. If you want to assimilate yourself into the country and its culture, you must learn the language.

It sounds like a tough challenge, and it is, but you're not trying to gain complete fluency. A basic comprehension should suffice, and that will take you much less time.

Understanding basic instructions and everyday conversations will make a massive difference, ensuring you don't feel left out and won't be frustrated when trying to communicate with patients and colleagues who don't speak English.

4. Pack Light

Check the local climate, consider what you will need and what you won't need, and pack as lightly as you can.

You're not going for a 1-week or 2-week vacation, and you will have access to washing machines. You'll also be spending some time in the country and will be making a lot of money, so packing light is a good excuse to buy some clothes and other essentials when you arrive.

5. Take Someone With You

Travel nursing jobs are much less daunting if you have someone else with you. Take your partner along or look into quarantine rules to see if you can take a pet. It will make your assignment more bearable and keep that homesickness at bay.