Addressing the Old Stigma: Do Travel Assignments Make Resumes Look Inconsistent?


The majority of nurses and other allied healthcare professionals who choose to travel for their career (versus permanent placement) will eventually transition back to permanent staff at some point. Many of them wonder: will traveling hurt my chances to succeed in a future permanent staff position? They fear that their years spent traveling will hinder job prospects when they do decide to become a permanent employee again. Does traveling carry with it a stigma of erratic work history that will turn off potential employers? This notion may even prevent would-be travelers from pursuing this career path.

So, how do you make your travel experience work in your favor on your resume? Believe it or not, there is a formula on your resume that, if followed, can give you a leg-up on landing your next position – whether it’s permanent placement or travel.

How to make your work history express your professionalism

Work the system. As in, the Applicant Tracking System (ATS), a computer program used by most hospitals in the country for job applicants. These systems help to parse resumes and search for certain keywords to rank candidates. If you’ve been traveling, there are three ways you can optimize your resume to stand out, even when it’s a computerized system (instead of a person) vetting your resume.

  1. List the agencies you’ve worked with.

If you’re hoping to demonstrate stability, going with this approach could be the best option for you since you’ve likely worked with fewer agencies than hospitals in your travel career. You can provide more general job descriptions, highlighting the broad range of specialties and hospital sizes with each agency you’ve worked with. Listing your agencies as employers is also the technically correct thing to do: even if the work you performed took place at a healthcare facility, the agency you worked with was your actual employer.

If you do take this route, make sure you’ve got a solid background with only a handful of agencies – it defeats the purpose of showing continuity if you’ve jumped around a good bit over the years.

  1. List the hospitals you’ve worked with.

A second approach is to list the hospitals you contracted with prominently. This is an especially wise tactic if you’ve had the opportunity to work at any premier hospitals around the country, because it allows you to center your experience on the prestige of the facility vs. the staffing agency.  However, the challenge of this approach is that it can make your employment history look irregular. The ATS evaluating your resume could even become confused due to the large amount of “Previous Employer” fields, resulting in a lower ranking for your resume.

  1. List your travel experience.

Rather than using agencies or hospitals as your resume headings, another possible strategy is to list your work experience here, along with brief descriptions of your job duties and accomplishments. Using this method, you would list the start and end date of your travel career as a whole (showing continuity). While this approach might have the best chance at success for manual resume parsing, the ATS could misinterpret the data and display it incorrectly in the system, resulting a low ranking. Furthermore, you wouldn’t necessarily be listing your previous employers, a main component of a resume.


Don’t let a fear of being unemployable keep you from your dream of traveling for a living – your travel experience can and will work in your favor, so give us a call to find out about our open assignments.