A nursing degree can provide limitless opportunities for the adventurous. However, few of those career options deliver more chances to see the world and explore different cultures than being a cruise ship nurse. These vessels sail every ocean, from the Arctic to the South Pacific, and carry passengers and crew from just about every nation.
How to Become a Cruise Ship Nurse in 8 Steps
Step 1: Complete your BSN
Step 2: Take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam
Step 3: Gain licensure as an RN
Step 4: Look at the nursing requirements for the cruise line you wish to work for, and start working toward completing them
Step 5: Gain several years of experience as an RN, preferably in the ER or ICU
Step 6: Look for and apply for RN jobs on a cruise ship
Step 7: Complete any requirements for the job
Step 8: Enjoy working as a nurse on a cruise ship!
What You’ll Need First: Qualifications and Experience
The cruise industry is global, and companies in many countries and continents own and operate vessels. Unsurprisingly, each company has its own employment rules and hiring criteria. However, a U.S. nursing degree and license probably make you at least as — and often more — attractive to these prospective employers than the equivalents from other nations. This applies as much to many foreign-owned vessels as to those registered in the United States.
Those different hiring criteria mean it’s impossible to define precisely the postgraduate experience you’ll need in order to land (if that’s the right word) a post. However, many companies say they prefer or insist that candidates have two or three years under their belts in ER or ICU environments, and some require advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification.
The American College of Emergency Physicians’ website maintains a Cruise Line Directory that outlines many companies’ hiring criteria for nurses as well as doctors.
What You’ll Need Second: Skills and Attitude
Communication: English tends to be the universal language for cruising, and fluency in that is often enough to get you the job you want. However, some companies, especially those headquartered overseas, like you to have some level of proficiency in one or more foreign languages.
Adaptation: You may think that the way you learned to do things is the only “right” way. However, many hospitals develop their own protocols and procedures, and some adjustment is needed when you move between them. That adjustment may be much greater on a cruise ship. Your clinical colleagues may each have been trained in a different institution, and you have to be flexible enough to engage with them all, so you can work together as a team.
If some members of that team are foreign, the need for flexibility can be noticeably greater. Even those from English-speaking countries, such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand, can be used to different practices and jargon. For example, British doctors almost always use only generic drug names rather than trade ones. They also use abbreviations much less frequently than their American counterparts, and won’t always instantly recognize that an “FBC/CBC” is a “full/complete blood count,” according to a nurse who’s worked in both Britain and the United States.
You may also need to be flexible about your contract. Plenty of companies offer permanent, full-time employment, and these often provide generous vacation periods between voyages. However, you may have to start off taking short-term (as brief as two-week, though usually several-month) contracts to prove you have the aptitude, skills and personality for this highly specialized work.
What to Expect
One thing’s for sure: nursing on a cruise ship is no vacation. Yes, you’ll usually (pretty much always on a longer voyage) get days off, and, when those coincide with your ship being in a port, you’ll have plenty of chances to explore exotic locations.
But you’ll be one of very few clinicians — possibly just you and a solitary doctor — providing care for many people. Some new ships have more than 4,000 passengers (or “guests”), and crews of more than 1,000 are common, though these vessels should have much larger medical teams.
Depending on the ship, the itinerary and the time of year, you may find your passengers are almost exclusively seniors — or overwhelmingly young families with kids and babies. If there’s a (thankfully rare) incident of food poisoning, or an outbreak of an infectious disease, you could find yourself working ludicrously long hours. And there may be many times when you personally are the sole 9-1-1 first-responder to an emergency. You and your team also have to provide full personal-physician services to the permanent crew, and are likely to spend hours filling in insurance paperwork and medical records.
All this, and your salary may be no more — and often could be a little less — than the average for landlubber registered nurses . The same may apply to ships’ nurse practitioners, chief nurses and paramedics. However, your living expenses may be lower than those for people working on dry land. And there should be many days when the view from your bedroom window makes it all worthwhile.
Master of Science with a Major in Nursing: Nurse Executive
Master of Science with a Major in Nursing: Nursing Education
RN to MS: Nurse Executive
B.S. in Nursing (Registered Nurse – R.N. to B.S.N)
M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Education
M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems
Master of Science Nursing, case management specialization
Master of Science Nursing, management and organizational leadership specialization
Master of Science Nursing, nursing education specialization
Master of Science in Nursing – Specialization in Nurse Educator
Master of Science in Nursing specialization in Nursing Informatics
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
RN to BSN Online Option