Switching Specialties as a Travel Nurse

You’ve done the hard work to obtain your RN degree and locked in your specialty. You’re currently what many would consider a “veteran nurse” based on years of experience in a full-time permanent position as well as completing several travel nursing assignments. Whether you’re feeling burned out in your current role or are just wanting to add to your clinical skillset, we want you to know that you’re not stuck - switching your specialty is possible.

However, you might not know where to start. One of the best perks of travel nursing is flexibility. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of choosing and obtaining a new specialty, there are a few things you can do first:

1. Become a Float Nurse First
Consider becoming a float nurse on your next travel assignment, to get the opportunity to dabble in different areas. A float nurse is someone who moves (or “floats”) from one department or unit to another based on staffing needs. For example, hospital float nurses may be sent to several units within the same building to cover shifts or breaks, to adhere to the required patient-nurse ratios.

You should not be asked to float to a unit where you aren’t familiar with the basics. For example, if your current specialty is ICU Nurse, and then you request to be a float nurse on your next assignment, you could expect to float to Med Surg, since those two areas are closely aligned. When floating to different areas, observe all you can and ask the staff what they love about their job (and what they find to be the most challenging).

2. Swap Settings
If most of your nursing experience has been in acute care, consider applying to a travel assignment in a post-acute setting, such as a skilled nursing facility or assisted living. You might find that long-term care settings offer a pace that better suits your needs.

The great thing about taking on 13-week travel assignments is that they can help you determine what you do not want to do, just as much as they can confirm what you do want to do.

3. Do Your Research
Do some digging online to find out which specialties are in high demand. There is a whole world outside of traditional settings that you may not have considered, such as working for pharmaceutical companies, Telehealth, or home health.

If you don’t personally know nurses in the specialties that you’re considering, join Facebook groups and ask the members what they do on a daily basis and how they like it. People that are experts on something usually love to talk about it. If you’re comfortable, ask for their email or phone number for future networking.

4. Make the Switch
After gaining invaluable experience in new units and across multiple settings as a travel nurse, and after doing hours of research, you may feel confident to make the switch to a specialty as a Wound Care Nurse. You can use this certification in both acute (OR, Critical Care, ICU, and inpatient settings) and post-acute settings, as well as home healthcare agencies, hospice, and public health. And the best part? There are opportunities to travel as a certified wound care nurse. In short, by obtaining this certification, you’re setting yourself up to have a wide array of career options.

As with any new specialty, a set number of clinical hours will be required. For example, most wound care certification programs take about three months to complete. And since traveling allows you to take extended time off, you can fully dedicate yourself to learning.

No matter what you choose, make sure that you choose a focus that works with your lifestyle and your personality.

Listen to the voice inside your head. Take the leap of faith. If you’re a go-getter and hate the thought of staying stagnant, you can always leap again.



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LeaderStat specializes in direct care staff, interim leadership, executive recruitment, travel nursing and consulting for healthcare organizations nationwide.