3 Tips for Managing Conflict While Travel Nursing

3 Tips for Managing Conflict While Travel Nursing

Health Carousel Travel Nursing
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Do you remember the first time you had a travel nurse conflict with a nurse on your travel assignment? How did you feel? Were you supported by your travel nursing agency? What did you learn from that disagreement?

Conflict is a normal part of adult life and every nurse will experience it at some point in their career. Therefore, it is beneficial to learn how to navigate workplace conflict.

Unfortunately, nursing is a profession with a long history of nurses “eating their young,” which is a form of hostility and bullying. This incivility is defined by experts as rude, disruptive, intimidating, and undesirable behaviors directed toward a person. Over time, nurses have created a culture where you must prove yourself in order to be accepted by the unit. Travel nurses can often be a direct target of bullying or subject to passive-aggressive behavior from regular nursing staff.


Sometimes conflict can get escalated all the way up to your hospital’s or agency’s Chief Nursing Officer. No hospitals / healthcare systems or healthcare facilities will tolerate this type of behavior. Thus, avoiding conflict may lead to burnout, unhappiness, or you leaving an assignment. Learning to address and navigate workplace conflict will help create a more cohesive team.

When you sign your travel nursing contract with a travel nursing agency, you have an internal clinical liaison support team by your side to help you transition into your travel nursing job. Believe it or not, most travel nursing companies have this internal team.

This liaison team is composed of registered nurses with a variety of skill sets and leadership experiences and a strong understanding of travel nursing. You will also have access to the internal clinical liaison team, which is made up of trained mentors and coaches who can guide you through conflict resolution while keeping your interests in mind.

Conflict can occur during an assignment for a variety of reasons. It can come from fellow travel nurses, managers, or regular nursing staff. Disagreements are inevitable in the workplace—especially as you learn how to be a nurse in a new setting.

Addressing issues as they arise is a healthy approach that paves the way for professional growth. To help you prepare for a possible conflict that may come up, remember the following:

Know Your Resources and Leader

At the start of your assignment, it is wise to get to know your leadership (this includes even the Chief Nursing Officer). Introduce yourself to your immediate manager and start building a relationship with them. Ask your manager about the best way to address concerns around conflicts and clinical practice issues.

Also, inquire about hospital resources, department contact information, and other vital information to help you do your travel nursing job. When a conflict arises, a nurse manager that knows you is less likely to terminate you than one who doesn’t.

Not only do you need to know the hospitals / healthcare systems’ clinical leadership, but you also need to know your agency’s Chief Nursing Officer, leadership, and travel nursing recruiter. Getting to know clinical leadership starts with your travel nursing recruiter and before signing your contract, so make sure to build a good rapport.

If you encounter a conflict during your travel nurse assignment, travel nursing companies’ clinical liaisons will coach you through your individualized conflict resolution process. The liaisons suggest communicating directly with your department manager first, as many issues can be resolved at this level. If this approach does not lead toward a resolution, be sure to engage a clinical liaison for next steps. You and your clinical liaison can decide if pursuing conflict resolution at a different level is necessary, and they can connect you with the right people if necessary.

Focus On Teamwork and Patient Safety

It is not uncommon for a travel nurse to experience conflict with the staff nurses they are supporting. A staff nurse may be jealous of the amount of travel nursing pay a travel nurse is earning for doing the same job.

However, COVID has enhanced travel nursing pay discrepancies, as there are not enough nurses to fill all staff and sometimes even travel nurse positions. Hospitals and healthcare systems began looking for additional medical staffing options. To attract experienced travel nurses, healthcare facilities (even post-acute care facilities) are offering incentives, sign-on bonuses, and high pay rates on travel nursing contracts to fill immediate hospital needs.

During orientation for a new travel nursing job, make a point to learn where the unit and facility’s policies and procedures live. Be a team player and offer assistance whenever the need arises.

Also, never be afraid to ask for help. Everyone doesn’t have to like each other, but you do have to function as a team to create good patient outcomes. Remember that you already know how to be a nurse—the key is being a nurse in their house.

Even if you are the best team player, you may still experience a situation where nursing aids or staff refuse to help you because you are earning more than your staff counterparts. Similarly, you may be assigned a large high acuity patient load consistently. These behaviors can lead to patient safety issues, which can get escalated up to the Chief Nursing Officer.

Thus, it is important to mention this to your manager and start conversations with your clinical liaisons on how to proceed with conflict resolution. Take every challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow your skill set. Showing that you can overcome adversity will communicate to your team that you are a team player who wants what is best for your patients.

Practice Self-Awareness and Effective Communication

Do you find yourself in frequent conflict? Do you regularly avoid conflict altogether? Have you recently done some self-reflection? Knowing your personality traits, behaviors, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings can help you better navigate your way around conflict.

Self-aware individuals are able to understand others, know how people perceive you, and form responses in the moment. Travel nursing companies’ clinical liaisons can help you reflect, grow, and learn conflict management skills that suit your unique situation and personality.

One of the most common reasons that a conflict may arise is miscommunication. This can happen during any nursing job, including travel nursing jobs. As a nurse, you understand the importance of communication with respect to patient care and safety.

However, communication is vital in all aspects of professional nursing. Communicate your needs by requesting more orientation time (within reason), asking for feedback, doing self-chart audits, listening objectively, and using other travel nursing job tips. Building a solid support system during any travel nursing job can turn a great experience into an amazing one. Relationship-building facilitates trust and integration as part of the team.

Navigating your way around conflict is never easy. Luckily, connecting with your agency’s clinical liaisons can help you find a resolution. As a nursing professional, it’s important to stand up for yourself and your patients. Additionally, leaving an assignment due to an unresolved conflict may follow you on future travel nursing jobs.

Your goal is to complete your assignment in a safe environment while keeping your license protected. By partnering with a travel nurse company to secure your next travel nursing contract, you will have an experienced clinical liaison team to help you every step of the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now, let’s review some frequently asked questions of travel nurses.

Is travel nursing hard on relationships?

Travel nurses who accept travel nurse positions usually do not have any trouble finding or keeping romantic, personal, or professional relationships. You just need to put in the effort! Many travel nurses find long-lasting friendships with those who they meet on travel assignments.

If you’re in a relationship, you will need to put in the extra effort as well. This means setting aside time for phone calls and visits and maybe even planning a trip back home to spend time together during your assignment.

Do travel nurses get treated badly?

Almost all healthcare facilities and staff nurses are happy with the extra help! Thus, for the most part, travel nurses are not treated badly. However, this does not mean that you will always receive an easy assignment, make friends, or not have workplace conflicts. If you notice that you keep having difficult assignments or experience workplace hostility, bring this to the attention of your unit manager and agency immediately.

What are the challenges of travel nursing?

Travel nursing is like starting any other nursing job. It can be difficult at first to learn processes and make new friends, but communication is key. Some of the biggest challenges travel nurses face are not usually conflict-related. Normally, it’s figuring out and understanding the details of your travel nursing contract, travel tax info, or finding travel nurse housing.

However, you can hire an accountant or tax professional to help resolve questions about your travel tax info. Your recruiter can help guide you through any of your travel nursing contracts. Also, researching travel nurse housing before signing your contract will keep you one step ahead as well. If you want to read more about travel nursing contracts or housing, click here for a great travel nursing blog.

What is an example of conflict in nursing?

An example of conflict in nursing is if a coworker or manager asks you to pick up or switch shifts and you aren’t able. Sometimes, fellow nurses or managers aren’t understanding that you might have plans outside of work. To help resolve this, it might be helpful to communicate the reason why you are unable to switch (i.e. plans, working too many days in a row, etc.).

For more travel nursing job tips and to read our travel nursing blog, click here. Download our On Demand app, where you can search, compare, and apply for available travel nursing jobs. Health Carousel Travel Nursing offers a comprehensive benefits package, where we partner with other healthcare companies to give you the benefits you deserve. With our full circle of support, we offer monthly health tips and how our benefits can support your career and lifestyle.


Melissa Mora, BSN, RNC-OB is a second career nurse with over seven years of nursing experience, specifically in obstetrics, gynecology, neonatal care and informatics. She also has more than 10 years of small business management and leadership experience and currently owns, which provides professional nursing development and content writing services. Melissa and her husband Ryan are originally from San Antonio, TX, but now spend most of their time in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.


Land your dream job faster when you travel with us. Get started with top local and national travel nurse jobs in On Demand.

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