First and foremost, you must have been a registered nurse for 1-2 years.
To get started as a travel nurse, one must update his/her resume and ask charge nurses and/or managers if you can use them as a reference. This may be tricky because often you may be looking into travel nursing while still at your staff nurse position.
Next, look into travel nursing companies. This part can be very overwhelming because there are literally hundreds of travel nursing companies. There are a couple of very large companies that many travel nurses start out with because they have plenty of jobs. That is not my preference because a big company has a bigger bottom line, which means less pay for me. I choose to stick with small to medium sized companies because they feel more personal to me. Your best bet is to pick 2-4 companies/recruiters to “interview” and set up profiles with at least two. Make sure you feel like you connect with your recruiter because you will be spending a lot of time on the phone with him/her and want to ensure he/she has your best interests in mind.
At the very least, a recruiter will want a resume and references to discuss positions with you.
Setting up a profile is tedious. It is an online application with skills checklists, licenses, certifications, work history, references, and often, online testing. The first few times I set up a profile, it definitely took at least a couple hours. But, once your profile is complete, you are ready to be submitted for a position. Now, I will say that you should not set up a profile unless there is an actual position you are interested in. A recruiter should understand that completing a profile is a lengthy process, and not pressure you to fill one out.
Phone calls. Lots of phone calls. And emails.
Once you have spoken with your recruiter to establish where you want to work, what size city, what type of unit, what shift, how much pay, then the phone calls and emails will start rolling in. The recruiter makes money when a travel nurse takes a contract with him/her, so he/she will definitely call you with new positions as they pop up if you have not been submitted yet. Sometimes a recruiter will call with a job that does not fit into your specifications, but maybe the pay is phenomenal, or it’s a well known hospital. It’s up to you to decide, but make sure you discuss most of the details before being submitted. The recruiter will often not have any information on the unit specifics, but should be able to tell you about pay, location, hospital, shift, etc. The more in depth information will come after you’ve been submitted and you have an interview with a manager/hospital representative.