Are you planning on becoming a travel nurse, but haven’t decided because you don’t know where to begin? Or maybe you have already accepted an assignment, but don’t know what to expect or do next? This blog reviews what to expect in life as a new travel nurse and some travel nursing tips to make your first assignment a breeze.
Life as a New Travel Nurse
Life as a new travel nurse can be exciting and intimidating at the same time. Travel nursing is a lifestyle that takes some time to acclimate to. After you’ve signed your travel nursing contract, plan to speak with your recruiter about the next steps immediately. They will get you started on the required licensure, documentation, and hospital credentialing.
Most travel nurse assignments and travel nurse agencies offer 13-week travel nursing jobs. The expectation is that you will work the entire 13 weeks. If you have vacation plans, notify your travel nurse recruiter before accepting your assignment.
Also, on their days off work, most travel nurses explore their new city and surrounding area. Don’t be afraid to get out and explore on your own. Whether you are traveling with someone else or alone, prepare to meet new friends.
As a travel nurse, you should also expect to be flexible and a team player. Many times, hospitals require travel nurses to float to different units (of course, within your skillset). Also, you may need to be flexible with your schedule and working weekends. Your work schedule will most likely not be planned for more than 4 weeks in advance.
During the last few weeks of your travel nurse job, good travel nurse recruiters will start making plans and sending you new travel nursing job posts. During this time, prepare your up-to-date resume, and have a list of locations you are interested in and your required state nursing license. Some travel nurses take time off between assignments. Remember that you will not get paid between assignments, so budget and prepare accordingly.
Tips for Your First Travel Nurse Assignment
Now that we’ve reviewed your typical life as a travel nurse, let’s detail some important tips below.
TIP #1: MAKE SURE YOU’VE FOUND THE PERFECT RECRUITER
This is probably the most important tip on the list. Your recruiter will be by your side every step of the way on your travel nursing journey, and having one you can trust to have your back is probably the most important aspect that determines your success in navigating the ups and downs of your assignment.
Here’s a disclaimer: not every nurse will have the same perfect recruiter! One nurse’s perfect recruiter might be straightforward and professional, always giving you details and cutting out the fluff. Another nurse’s perfect recruiter could be someone that you can talk to on the phone for hours and develop a deep relationship with that goes beyond work.
THERE ARE A FEW QUALITIES YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR WHEN YOU’RE DECIDING ON WHICH RECRUITER IS RIGHT FOR YOU:
- Honesty: is this recruiter telling me the truth about this facility/assignment/pay package?
- Experience: how many nurses has this recruiter worked with, and how capable are they when something goes wrong?
- Timely Communication: if I need my recruiter urgently, will they pick up the phone? Most recruiters work on a Mon-Fri schedule but will make time for some weekend and evening communication since they know their nurses work around the clock.
- If anything comes up on your assignment that you’re not expecting, your recruiter will be the first point of contact in remedying the situation. So, make sure you’ve found someone you connect with and can have honest conversations with.
TIP #2: ASK QUESTIONS!
Going into an assignment without knowing all the details could lead to disaster. It’s important to know what to expect, as well as find out things that less savory recruiters might not divulge themselves. It’s a good idea to ask about things like information about the facility, staff ratios, ancillary staff, scheduling, floating policy, which units you will float to, etc. These are just a few of the details you could ask about – if you have anything that is a deal-breaker for you, or would make you uncomfortable, don’t suffer in silence or make excuses in your head. Bring it up to your recruiter so that you can get the answers you need and make sure your next assignment is perfect.
TIP #3: Research and Plan Ahead
Before accepting any travel nurse contract, do your own research and plan ahead. If you choose Health Carousel Travel Nursing, our dedicated Travel & Housing department will help you find a housing option that’s right for you and your needs.
Also, research and plan your travel expenses ahead of time. If you notice your travel expenses are more than your travel nurse agency is offering, ask for higher reimbursement. Some travel nursing contracts may not offer you travel reimbursement specifically but may offer a completion bonus instead.
Search for activities in and around your new city that align with your interests. Make plans for your off days. This can include dining at local restaurants, and attending local events or activities.
TIP #4: TAKE A TOUR OF THE HOSPITAL
No matter how many travel assignments you’ve worked on, it can always help to do a hospital walk-through before the first day of your assignment. Beyond just knowing where the important devices and stations are, it can be helpful to visualize your first day and know what to expect. Picture yourself caring for patients, coordinating with other nurses, and locating medicine. When you show up for work on your first day of your assignment, you’ll be able to jump straight into work, without trying to get your bearings on your surroundings for a few hours (or a few days) at the beginning of your assignment.
TIP #5: Have Your Documents in Order
In order to start your travel nurse job quickly, always have your documents in order when accepting a travel nurse assignment. These documents will include a form of photo identification, state or compact nursing license, immunizations, and basic life support (BLS) certification. Depending on your area of specialty, you may also need other certifications, which can include advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), stroke certification, CN-OR, etc.
Also, bring these documents along with you to your assignment, especially during orientation or on your first day. Sometimes hospitals are missing items or need to verify physical copies of identification and certifications. Hospitals require this information before you start working in your unit.
TIP #6: BE FRIENDLY, POSITIVE, AND A TEAM PLAYER
Now that you’ve taken care of the technical stuff, you can focus on how to get into the right mindset for your upcoming assignment! There’s a few ways to make sure that your transition is smooth, and that you get your assignment off to the right start:
- Be Friendly: your assignment will be a breeze if you’re on great terms with your fellow nurses and hospital staff.
- Be Positive: don’t be the nurse who complains about coworkers or shows up to work cranky. You get what you give, and you may find your fellow nurses being negative towards you if that’s the energy you’re bringing to work. You don’t have to be a ray of sunshine 24/7, but try to avoid putting negative thoughts into words at work excessively.
- Be a Team Player: support your coworkers whenever possible. Make their lives easier, and they will do the same for you!
TIP #7: SOCIALIZE AND EXPLORE!
“Travel nursing” is only half about nursing… It's also about travel! If you’re just working, going back to your temporary housing, and then working again for the length of your 13-week assignment, you’ll probably start to feel burnt out. Take advantage of the opportunity to see a new part of the country and meet new people. Use your off days to explore your new city and meet up with groups in the area. Soon you’ll have more to do than just work.