Have you heard the adage “jobs may fill your pockets, but adventures fill your soul”? It certainly rings true for most—unless you’re starting a career as a travel nurse.

Travel nursing provides a unique and exciting opportunity to grow professionally and help patients across the country while exploring new cities and making new friends. But as you prepare for your first adventure, you may find yourself frantically asking Alexa how to prepare for first travel nurse assignment. Fortunately, we have your answers right here. 

Read on for 7 steps for navigating your first travel nursing assignment.

#1. Research Potential Assignments and Locations

Whether you envision serving as a travel nurse in the rolling, sun-splashed hills of Napa or the vast landscape of Juneau, examining potential assignments and how they align with your preferred destinations is arguably the first and most important step in the process.

That said, you may want to shy away from gathering your information from sites designed for tourists, which usually only provide a snapshot of a locale’s leading qualities. Instead, consider seeking direction from:

From there, narrow down your search to states that allow nurses to practice with a multistate license in a contract known as the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC). To date, 38 of the 50 states allow for this, as well as two U.S. territories. 

#2. Secure Licensure and Certifications

Licensure may seem tricky for travel nurses who bounce between Baltimore and Boise, but it’s actually much less complicated than you might think: You must obtain (and maintain) licensure in the state of your permanent residence and, again, accept assignments that are part of the NLC.

Don’t see the state you’re intent on experiencing? You might be in a position to apply for a state-specific license (a process that may take some time), or, in some states, apply for an expedited track to a temporary license. 

Additionally, like all nurses, you typically must hold up-to-date certifications in Basic Life Support (BLS). However, if you’ve obtained other certifications, such as your Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) or Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), highlight it on your travel nurse resume. It may help you stand out from the competition. 

#3. Organize Important Documents and Certifications

There are few things more terrifying than finding yourself stranded in an unfamiliar city without proper documentation. To this end, ensure you have copies of your:

  • Driver’s license, social security card, and/or passport
  • Immunization records
  • Medical records and clearances
  • Certifications and licenses

#4. Prepare Yourself Financially for Travel Nursing Assignments

Fact: Contracts can fall through. 

This can leave you in a pickle—without the paycheck you were planning to use for bills and other expenses. 

With this in mind, consider holding off on accepting your first travel nursing assignment until you have enough money saved up to manage a canceled agreement.

#5. Plan Your Housing and Accommodations 

Depending on the travel nursing agency you work with, this tip may be relatively easy to achieve. This is because some travel nursing recruiting agencies offer housing assistance. Still, it may be to your benefit to explore listings on sites such as:

  • Airbnb
  • Furnished Finder
  • Transplant Housing
  • Zillow
  • Vrbo

#6. Understand Contract Terms and Conditions

One of the greatest advantages of travel nursing is that it allows you to determine which months of the year you’d like to work (and, oftentimes, where), but it’s vital to understand precisely what you’re getting into before signing a legally binding agreement.

This is where it’s especially helpful to have a recruiter by your side. They can walk you through the terms—such as the length of your assignment, your shifts, your duties, and your pay rate—and assist you with negotiations.

Handling it all on your own? Be sure to also negotiate travel expenses, benefits, and reimbursements. 

#7. Pay Mind to the Details

How to prepare for first travel nurse assignment well also boils down to focusing on the particulars, including:

  • Creating a plan that addresses how you are going to get to the location of your assignment, whether that entail a road trip or plane ride
  • Packing the essentials, including attire to sport on your off days
  • Learning about the location

Lastly, to make your first travel nursing assignment (as well as those to come) the most rewarding, create a list of your expectations and goals while you’re on assignment. Then, strive to meet them. 

Fulfill Your Travel Nursing Dreams with Host Healthcare

Travel nursing is an incredibly unique occupation that enables nurses to pack up their skills—literally—and offer care to patients in cities across the country. Nonetheless, a fair amount of trepidation is understandable and even expected before your first assignment. By following the steps outlined above, you can embark on your first travel nursing adventure with confidence. And Host Healthcare can help. 

At Host Healthcare, we pair nurses with dedicated recruiters who provide exclusive access to thousands of healthcare jobs in cities all over the United States. Plus, we have your back every step of the way, taking care of paperwork, negotiations, housing, benefits, and more so that you can focus on making the most out of your experience. 

Apply now to kickstart your travel nursing career into first gear!



“Nursing Compact States.” NurseJournal, 20 Dec. 2023, nursejournal.org/resources/nursing-compact-states/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023. 

“How to Become a Travel Nurse.” ANA, 18 May 2023, www.nursingworld.org/resources/individual/how-to-become-travel-nurse/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023. 

Faubion, Darby. 50 Useful Travel Nursing Tips for First-Timers in 2023, Nursing Process, www.nursingprocess.org/travel-nursing-tips.html. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023. 

Yang, Y. Tony, and Diana J. Mason. “Covid-19’s Impact on Nursing Shortages, the Rise of Travel Nurses, And …” COVID-19’s Impact On Nursing Shortages, The Rise Of Travel Nurses, And Price Gouging, Health Affairs, 28 Jan. 2022, www.healthaffairs.org/content/forefront/covid-19-s-impact-nursing-shortages-rise-travel-nurses-and-price-gouging. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023. 

Morris, Gayle. “6 Tips for Negotiating Your Travel Nurse Contract.” NurseJournal, 14 Jan. 2023, nursejournal.org/articles/travel-nurse-contract-negotiations/. Accessed 20 Dec. 2023.