Travel nursing is a dream for many of us. All we have ever wanted was to explore the world while pursuing our passion. This awesome career has aligned our dreams with reality, and many of us are so eager to start this amazing journey. From the outside looking in, travel nursing can seem a bit overwhelming as a newbie. Where do you even begin and what can you expect once you reach out to an agency?
I can say from my three years of traveling that the process gets easier and easier with each assignment. Once you find a recruiter you connect with, put your worries away because they will have your back and help you through the process. It’s important to note that you are not in this alone. The travel nursing community has grown tremendously and you will always have support from your peers and agency. Below are some tips that I wish I would’ve known as a new traveler!
Once you contact a BHS recruiter in search of a travel assignment, you should expect a few things right off the bat. Your recruiter is going to need to obtain certain information to get your profile built, in order to submit you to open positions. You'll need an updated resume, two references, and a completed skills checklist. This will allow you to be fully set to submit to positions of your interest.
Once you have been selected for an interview and the facility has extended an offer, you'll start the second part of onboarding. This includes completing your health screenings, drug test, background check and any other requirements by the hospital. Most of the time, you will have to also complete a clinical assessment test before your assignment starts. Knowing that you have to complete a test may be intimidating, but you will always have the resources you need to pass!
What to Bring With You on Assignment
Traveling across the country with all your belongings can be a hassle, trust me! For the longest time, I use to pack up my car every three months with everything I owned. This only lasted a few assignments before I realized that I didn't need all this "stuff" as much as I thought I did.
I personally decided to downsize tremendously and live a minimalist lifestyle. Exploring the world taught me how valuable my experiences were and the "things" I accumulated along the way were just weighing me down (and my car). I soon left behind all my extra clothes, decorations, and anything else that was not of my immediate need.
As a traveler, I recommend only bringing what your car will comfortably fit. There's nothing more time consuming that unpacking and repacking all of your belongings every assignment! Below are my recommendations for what to bring with you on the road:
- Documents: Always keep your records with you, so you don't have to depend on someone else to manage important documents while you’re away. Each assignment you take, you can easily send over any requirements that are needed without difficulty. I personally keep a folder on my computer of anything I may ever need for a job. Examples of these records include: my resume, physical form, health screening results, nursing license(s), insurance card, and references. Your BHS recruiter will also have a copy of these files, but it’s always a good idea to have a copy for yourself.
- Clothes: Think about what type of weather you will be exposed to for your current assignment, and then also factor in where you might go on vacation during your time there. If you absolutely have to bring all your clothes with you, then I recommend using vacuum sealed bags. They pack down really well and will save you a lot of space. Also, if you need more room for hauling your belongings, then a rooftop bag is the way to go!
- Decorations: When I first started traveling, I had a tendency to bring all my decorations so I "felt at home". Again, this got old real fast! Most places you stay will be fully furnished, so they will already be decorated. Only bring what you need (pictures, blankets, pillows, etc) and leave the rest at home!
- Hobbies: Whatever you like to do in your free time, do that! Bring anything with you that you know you'll want on your days off to avoid rebuying it. I bring my hiking gear, paddle board, hammock, camping gear, and other outdoor supplies with me.
- Kitchen Utensils: You never know what will come furnished in your house, so bring your day-to-day kitchen gear. I bring a NutriBullet, Tupperware, and coffee mugs with me just in case.
What to Expect: Week 1
The first week of your assignment tends to be similar at each hospital. They typically require travel nurses to go through the same orientation as a new hire. This means that, for the first few days, you will sit through policies and procedures.
After you go through the hospital onboarding, you will likely have a few days of computer training. The hospital usually gives travelers the option to test out if you have used the computer program before. Once you complete the computer portion, you are free to start on your unit.
The orientation on the floor consists of following a preceptor around for no more than two days. This is why it's important to have a base foundation as a nurse. Of course, there will always be helping hands around, but you want to feel comfortable in your skillset to care for patients with minimal supervision or onsite training.
Keep an Open Mind
The most important advice I can give is to keep an open mind! It will make or break your experiences. Keep in mind that every place you travel is going to be different in a special way. Each hospital has its own way of doing things and each city has its own culture. Instead of comparing these things to what you’re used to, look at it all as an opportunity to expand your comfort zone.
All of your good and bad experiences are going to shape you into the person and nurse you were meant to be! If you expect this part of your journey to be exhilarating, then that’s exactly how it will be. Being a travel nurse is a blessing and the amount of self-growth you will experience in this career is beyond what you could imagine.