Q: How will travel nursing look on my résumé?
A: As with any job experience, I think the key is in how you present it. A résumé is a great tool, but wording it just right to reflect your experience and skills can be tricky. So, whether you plan to stay a traveler indefinitely or want to plan ahead for an eventual return to staff nursing, I’m going to give you a few tips to building a great résumé while having a blast traveling.
First you need to look at the résumé itself; the typical layout lists jobs from most recent or current all the way back as far you want to reveal. As I was updating my résumé while traveling, I realized that it looked like I jumped jobs every three months. To avoid giving people that impression, I decided to list only my job with my one travel company. This showed five years of dedication to one job. I then sub-listed all the different hospitals where I had contracts underneath.
Bigger staffing companies may maintain a résumé of sorts for you, complete with references, job history and your skills inventory. They then send this information to potential travel jobs you approve. By my third travel assignment, however, I realized I should start keeping track of my own references and information, as well.
As you travel, keep names and contact information of staff and managers for your records. I also liked to keep the names of managers I really got along with in places I really loved to travel; contacts on the inside could help you secure a job that you might otherwise miss out on.
Another tip: keep in touch with other travelers you work with at assignments. This usually isn’t hard. When I traveled, most of us travelers hung out together after work and carpooled. These contacts may help you find a hidden gem or an assignment or may be able to give you a good reference from the inside that can help you secure a job. I always appreciated the advice of other travelers when it came down to deciding on a job.
When you are making choices about your next assignment, you may want to consider the facility and not just the destination. Big facilities and even top rated places like Johns Hopkins use travelers. These assignments can be great résumé builders; when employers see top notch facilities where you’ve worked, they may take another look or move you to the top of the pile of potential candidates.
You can use working at great places to your advantage in other ways, too: write down ideas and processes that you witness and use while on assignment, and take this with you into your future jobs. Nursing isn’t all about creating new ways of doing things; it’s about finding the best evidence-based ways and emulating them.
The skills and work experience you gain from some of your assignments can be invaluable.
So keep that résumé up to date and make some good contacts while you travel. You never know where your future may take you, and as my dad always said, “It’s not what you know, it’s who.” In the travel nursing industry, and nursing in general, I’d say it’s a little of both.