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How to Become a Cruise Ship Nurse

When your job is something you love, every day is a vacation. And for many cruise nurses, every day is a vacation as they live and work on cruise ships. If you’re interested in becoming a cruise nurse, let’s look at the requirements you need to meet before you can be considered for the job and advice on what you should know before you apply.

Have the Credentials Cruise Ships Want

Cruise ships don’t want to pull into port ahead of schedule or have to delay a departure because of a medical emergency. They don’t want to have to make an emergency evacuation because this disrupts operations. Cruise ships want medical staff who can handle everything from suspected food poisoning to serious medical emergencies.

This means they need a few nurses onboard who can handle heat stroke, food allergies and first aid, and at least one medical expert to determine when it is, truly, a medical emergency. Most cruise ships also require nurses to have advanced cardiac life support certification.

Doctors are expensive, which is why cruise ships love nurses who have completed doctor of nurse practitioner programs. A nurse practitioner can handle almost everything a doctor can and costs less than an MD.

If you’re enrolled in one of the many online doctoral nursing programs, finish the program before you apply for the job. They’ll pay you based on the credentials you have when you sign the contract, not a higher pay rate based on the credentials you may or may not complete.

How to Become a Cruise Ship Nurse

Understand Licensing and Requirements

You must have a valid nursing license to be allowed to work on many international cruise ships. Depending on where the ship travels, you may have to meet other requirements. For example, you may need to be vaccinated against yellow fever and other “pre-travel” vaccinations. They also want nurses who have experience handling a variety of cases, so two to three years of experience is a minimum for most cruise nurse jobs. Note that it is your obligation to keep your license up to date, such as completing continuing education requirements.

Know the Pros and Cons

Cruise nurses are typically paid less than nurses working in a hospital in the U.S. You’ll also usually have to pay higher taxes than you would if working for an institution since most contract nurses are hired on contract. However, you probably get free room and board (food and lodging).

Cruise nursing jobs usually cover your transportation to and from the cruise ship and/or its port. If you take some time off after your contract in an exotic location, it is your obligation to arrange transportation home and you aren’t paid when on leave unless you end a cruise nursing assignment with a travel nursing assignment at the destination. It is also your obligation to handle all visas if you are trying to stay in a foreign port at the end of your contract. If your contract ends while you’re still on the ship, they may ask you to pay for your room and board.

Now that you understand the credentials, licensing rules, and other requirements needed to become a cruise nurse, you can now begin your path towards gaining an actual position.