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Tips for Your First Week as a Travel Nurse

Tips for Your First Week as a Travel Nurse

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So now that you've landed your first travel nurse assignment, it's time to start preparing for your first week. Your first week as a travel nurse, new or experienced, can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Remember, if you can survive nursing school, you can survive this! Let's review what to most likely expect during your first week as a travel nurse and helpful tips to help with those first-week jitters.

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Get Over First Day & First Week Jitters with Us

Starting a new travel nurse assignment can give you some first-week jitters. Let's review some ways to help contain those first-week jitters.

First, get plenty of sleep the night before, which means anywhere from seven to nine hours. Set an alarm, even if you're an early riser. You wouldn't want to be late on your first day! Also, lay out your clothes the night before and pack your nursing bag. It's also a good idea to prepare any meals or snacks the night before to save you some time in the morning.

Know where you're meeting for your orientation and who you're meeting with. If you have a contact number for the person you're meeting, keep it handy. It's also a good idea to visit the hospital or healthcare facility the day before to locate parking. Larger healthcare facilities can have many parking areas and you might be parking in a lot far from the campus. Sometimes there can be morning traffic, so plan your route from your travel nurse housing beforehand and ensure you leave early enough.

Also, bring your nursing documents with you, including a copy of your contract. Even though many travel nursing companies provide healthcare facilities with nursing licenses ahead of time, sometimes they still ask for them. Bring your compact and home state licenses. If you are unsure of what is required, check out a compact state nursing license guide. Click here for other travel nursing job tips for first-time travel nurses, or visit our travel nursing blog.

First Day Instructions

Before your start date, travel nursing companies send out first-day instructions. Many travel nurse agencies can send these out about a week beforehand. However, there are some instances when you may not receive them until a few days before or the day before. Make sure to keep in contact with your travel nurse recruiter.

Usually, first-day instructions include where to meet, what time, and who to contact. Some healthcare facilities provide detailed instructions about what you'll be doing, while others are vague. You could be going to hospital orientation, starting on the unit, completing computer-based learnings (CBLs), or learning their charting system. Thus, it's important to come prepared. Come dressed in scrubs, and have your supplies and all of your nursing licenses and documentation (including a contract with a guaranteed hours clause).

Some travel nursing companies require that you clock in, while others have you fill out a time sheet. Either way, ensure you track your punch times and weekly pay information because there could be an error. You wouldn't want to miss getting paid for your travel nursing orientation hours. Also, if your travel nurse contract has a guaranteed hours clause, this will ensure you are meeting your hours.

First Day Orientation

Depending on the healthcare facility, you may be completing first-day orientation along with other new staff members. This can be other new hospital staff members or even fellow travel nurses. Many times, hospitals start their incoming travel nurses on the same days.

Sometimes the first day of orientation is a short four to six-hour day and there is nothing planned afterward. If your travel nurse contract has a guaranteed hours clause, it would be best to meet with your new unit manager to review the next steps. They may give you a unit tour or start shadowing on the unit to help you fill the requirements of the guaranteed hours clause.

Depending on the facility, you may go straight into a charting class or be asked to complete CBLs. Some healthcare facilities ask that you complete CBLs during your own time during the first week. Make sure you track your time for completing these. In many instances, the labor relations board and travel nurse agencies require reimbursement for these hours. So oftentimes, it's written into travel nursing contracts.

Unit Start

Most healthcare facilities have you shadow or precept a unit staff nurse during your first week to acclimate. The number of hours or days you will precept depends on the unit. Depending on the facility, you could be starting on the unit on your first day. So make sure you come prepared in scrubs and have any nursing items you usually use. Sometimes your unit start isn't until the following days of your first week. Most likely, you'll always receive a unit tour to know where the supplies, linens, and other areas are located.

Always ask about shift start and end times since they differ. For example, some hospitals have a 6:45 am shift start time and at others, it's 7 am. You don't want to be late! Some travel nursing companies ask you to clock in, so know where the unit time clock is located. Track your hours on your own as well to confirm your hours match your weekly pay information.

Also, when precepting with another nurse, ask where to locate hospital phone numbers and transportation procedures. Ask about where to access hospital and unit policies and procedures. In addition, meet with the unit manager to understand their processes for shift scheduling, sick callouts, and floating to other units. If their unit census is low, oftentimes, unit managers will have you float to other units. This is to meet the guaranteed hours clause of your travel nurse contract.

Hospital Orientation

Hospital orientation looks a little different for travel nursing jobs. You can sit through a day of orientation with company culture and other areas. Some common items addressed during hospital orientation include bloodborne pathogens, occupational safety and health administration (OSHA), and health insurance and portability accountability act (HIPAA) requirements.

Oftentimes hospital orientation includes completion of CBLs. As mentioned, you may be asked to complete these on your own time or during your precepting shifts. If you're asked to complete these on your own or before your start date, track the hours. The labor relations board requires that you are paid for the hours you work. So oftentimes, your travel nurse contract will review pay information regarding travel nursing orientation hours.

Hours and Schedule

As with all travel nursing jobs, probably one of the first things you'll want to figure out is your schedule and hours. During your first day, connect with your unit manager and review your schedule. Communicate your preferred days or if you have certain days you would like off. Remember to be flexible because you are there to help with unit staffing needs. Also, ask when to submit a schedule, if any, and how many weeks the schedule covers.

Many travel nursing contracts have a guaranteed hour clause. A guaranteed hours clause states that the hospital facility must give you the number of hours as outlined in your travel nurse contract. Remember that sometimes to get the number of hours outlined in your guaranteed hours clause, you'll have to float to other units. So discuss with the unit manager if you have a guaranteed hours clause.

Tips to Succeed in Your First Week

To make your first week as a travel nurse successful, try the below tips.

  • Be flexible. As a travel nurse, flexibility is key. Sometimes orientation or precepting doesn't go as planned. Also, be flexible with your schedule and communicate if you have a guaranteed hours clause so the unit manager is aware.
  • Get enough sleep. Ensure you get enough sleep each night to prevent fatigue. It's recommended you get at least seven hours of sleep every night.
  • Plan ahead. Before your first day, drive to the healthcare facility and find where you'll be parking. When driving from your travel nurse housing to work, make sure to leave early and account for possible traffic.
  • Prepare your meals. Preparing your meals for the week ahead of time can be a lifesaver. It can save you time and money.
  • Be a sponge. During your first week, there is a lot of information to absorb. Take notes, and don't be afraid to ask questions.
  • Bring everything with you. Sometimes your first day might not go as planned or your documents weren't received. So wear your scrubs, and have your nursing supplies, documents, and nursing licenses (here is a compact state nursing license guide). You never know when you might need to show your immunization records or N-95 fit testing documentation.
  • Keep a positive attitude. A positive attitude goes a long way. Remember, if you can survive nursing school, you can make it! Also, healthcare systems like to see travel nurses with positive attitudes!

Your first week as a travel nurse can be exciting! To ease your first-week jitters, try these travel nursing job tips. And remember, if you can survive nursing school, you can do this! If you want to learn more about travel nursing, visit our travel nursing blog.

Frequently Asked Questions

What to expect on your first day in a travel nurse assignment?

Your first day will look different for every travel nurse assignment because it depends on the healthcare facility. You could be attending hospital orientation, learning their charting system, or precepting on the unit.

How much can I make a week as a travel nurse?

Travel nurses can make anywhere between $3000 to $8000 on average. There are some travel nursing assignments where the pay is over 10k a week. Your pay depends on the demand, location, specialty, and number of hours you work per week.

Do travel nurses make 10k a week?

Depending on the assignment, yes, travel nurses can make over 10k a week. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for travel nurses and, in turn, has increased their salaries. Several factors can affect pay rates, including specialty, location, and hours worked per week.

What is a typical day for a travel nurse?

Travel nurses' job responsibilities are the same as staff nurses. However, they are hired by the healthcare facility through a travel nurse agency. During your first week on assignment, you will most likely go through orientation and precept with another unit nurse to learn their unit-specific policies and procedures.

Learn More about Health Carousel

Interested in learning about what travel nursing jobs Health Carousel has to offer? Check out our available travel nurse assignments on our job board. With our On Demand app, we make searching for and tracking your application easier.

See what benefits HCTN has to offer and how we stack up against other companies. Aren't sure how to use your benefits or want to learn more about maximizing your benefits? Check out our full circle of support.

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