Certified Nursing Assistant

How to become a travel CNA

Athena Kan
Apr 13, 2023

Travel CNA opportunities have become much more popular during the pandemic. You may have heard crazy stories about CNAs making upwards of $40/hr working at hospitals, COVID testing sites, and more. If you're a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and looking for a new job, becoming a travel CNA might be the perfect opportunity for you. Travel CNAs have all the same responsibilities as regular CNAs but also get to travel around to different assignments and locations.

How is being a travel CNA different from working as a regular CNA?

Although the job duties of a travel CNA are the same as those of a traditional CNA, there are some important differences in the day-to-day experience:

  • Travel CNAs work with agencies that place them at different facilities around the country. You might be placed at a hospital, nursing home, or other facility type
  • Travel CNAs travel to work in different cities. You might have to stay there for a few weeks to a few months
  • Travel CNAs must also be flexible with schedules and hours since their assignments can change quickly depending on demand; this means that they may have to work long hours when needed or even weekends

Pros of being a travel CNA

If you're looking for a career that allows for flexibility, variety, and opportunity to see new places, then travel nursing might be the career for you! Some pros of working as a travel CNA:

  • Higher pay. While wages vary significantly across geographies and facility needs, pay typically falls between $20-35/hr. However, pay appears to have peaked during the pandemic and we’re seeing pay start to fall now
  • Lower living expenses. The agencies usually pay for your travel costs, hotel, and food. For housing and transit, sometimes an agency will book a hotel and flight for you. However, if you get a stipend instead, you can make even more money if you book low-cost accommodations or travel on your own. You also amay get as high as a $50/day stipend for food! 
  • You can meet new people, try different types of facilities, and work with different types of patients 
  • Opportunity to see the wonders of the country—at no cost to you

Cons of being a travel CNA

There are some downsides to being a travel CNA, depending on your lifestyle and preferences. The main theme is high risk, high reward. The pros may still outweigh the cons, but it’s important to know what you’d be getting yourself into:

  • Traveling can be stressful, especially if you are used to a set lifestyle or have a routine at home. Agencies might give you only 24-48 hours advanced notice to pack up and leave to another state
  • Time apart from home. Although many agencies allow you to bring your significant other or kids with you, you may have to spend a lot of time apart from your family, friends, and your comfortable home
  • You might not like your work. You can specify some constraints such as preferred city/state, pay, and facility type, but at the end of the day you don't have much control over where you're going or who you'll be working with. You might end up not getting along with your coworkers or liking the facility, and you’d have to stay at the facility until the end of your contract
  • Time between contracts. You may have some time in between contracts, as your agency might not have a need. You can mitigate this downside by working with multiple agencies at once
  • You’ll need to quit your job. Since you’re leaving for weeks or months at a time, your current workplace is almost certainly not able to support that flexibility. If you like your current workplace, you might consider staying.

Requirements for becoming a travel CNA

To start your qualification as a travel nurse, you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • You must have your CNA license. If you’re not currently licensed, you can enroll in a CNA training program here
  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • At least one year of experience as a CNA. Many agencies have the experience requirement because the facilities they place people at also have that requirement. If you don’t have your one year of experience yet, it’s best to work at a nursing home or hospital first.
  • Pass a criminal background check. This means no felonies or certain misdemeanors involving theft or assault in the past 5 years
  • Your agency will handle the process of transferring your license over to different states when you start working with them, so no need to worry about that

Applying for jobs and interviews

  • Agency recruiters are constantly posting on job boards, Facebook groups, and websites. Watch out for scams - look up reviews for the agency and be sure to talk to your recruiter in person or over the phone before signing any contracts
  • You’ll need to submit a resume and prepare to answer questions about your experience
  • You might need to take a test to test your skills on how you approach caring for patients. This varies per agency
  • Interview with a few different agencies. That way if one of your agencies has a lull in work you’ll be able to find another assignment quickly
  • Be sure to ask details about benefits. Many agencies will hire you as a W2 employee which means that the role comes with health insurance and other benefits, but some might not. 

What to expect on your first travel contract assignment

So, you've decided that travel CNA is for you. You've found an agency to work with and they’ve hired you. What's next?

  • First things first: research! You’ll be able to submit your preferences on facility type, pay, preferred locations to work at, and more. Your recruiter will be able to help you figure out some of those details if you’re unsure about what it’s like to work in different states
  • You’ll get your assignment. Once you get your first assignment, make sure to ask your recruiter about all of the information you need before accepting the contract. You should ask for: pay details, travel/housing/food stipends, length of contract, and location. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you’ve already traveled to the work location and realize that the pay is a lot lower than you expected. If you terminate your contract early, you may need to pay back the stipend you received
  • Start your contract! It’s best to start with a shorter assignment so you can get a feel for if traveling is right for you. But once you start your assignment, have fun and you will be able to learn a lot! 

Working as a travel CNA isn’t for everyone, but it’s a great way to start getting paid more while being able to explore different facilities, meet different people, and see the country. You’ll have flexibility with your schedule and get to pick which assignments you want to do. It requires some careful planning to get started, but working as a travel CNA can be incredibly rewarding.

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Written by
Athena Kan

Athena is Co-founder and CEO of Dreambound.

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