Let's be honest, starting a career in travel nursing is exciting! Since college, I had longed to be a travel nurse. I was so eager to start this path, that I jumped right into it without doing my research. Although I overcame any obstacles that were thrown my way, there are several things I wish I would’ve had the scoop on before diving in!
Below are some tips to note if you are just starting this journey.
1. Every hospital operates very differently
In my three years as a travel nurse, I never came across two hospitals that operated the same. From lab draws, to charting, to paging doctors, each was different from my previous experiences. Don’t get me wrong, you will always be able to adapt to the changes but don’t go into an assignment thinking it’s going to be a breeze.
To succeed in travel nursing, you've got to be able to get out of your comfort zone. That's the key to growing within this career, all while being paid to travel and see new places. One of the reasons we are paid so well is because we're expected to jump right in and get the hang of things. Be open-minded and willing to learn new ways of practicing.
2. Have all your documents together before applying to jobs
Before you apply to a position, make sure you have all your documents in one place. The process of accepting a job generally happens quickly and you’ll need to have everything ready promptly. I have a folder on my computer with all my documents scanned to it. I like to keep my resume, certifications, licenses, medical records and references all in one place so it’s easy to send over quick and easy.
3. Don’t try to take all your belongings with you to each assignment
I can personally say that I made this mistake for the entire first year of traveling. I was so attached to my belongings and thought I needed it all to go with me so I “felt more at home”. I quickly learned that unpacking and repacking every three months is tragic. Especially when you have an entire car full of stuff!
Do yourself a favor and only take what you need and leave the rest behind.
I found myself getting so frustrated when I moved because I had to spend my last few days organizing my belongings and somehow fitting them into my car. Leave anything extra with your parents, at your home, or in a storage unit. It’s definitely worth it! If you’re anything like me, you’ll end up getting rid of many things because life on the road teaches you that you need very little to be happy. I can proudly say that my belongings are down to a few suitcases, and I’m loving the minimalist life!
4. You're the newbie at each hospital, so be diligent with your words
It seems a lot of travel nurses make the mistake of saying, “that’s not how I did it at....”. My rule #1 is, don’t ever say those words!! I definitely learned the hard way, and honestly, I never meant it in a rude way when said it. With myself and another instance, I've seen a staff nurse take offensive. It just comes off as critical, so don't do it. Be open to learning alternative ways of thinking, because there is no specific way to do something. Nursing is about improvising, and we have to get creative sometimes!
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Although you know what you’re doing, and you may have been a nurse for a few years, you will still need to use your resources. Since every hospital goes about things differently, it’s important to ask those around you when you are unsure of something or get overloaded. Patient safety is the most important thing and you should not hesitate to use your colleagues as you adjust. You may be excellent at what you do, but there's typically a learning curve and many other variables that should be respected.
6. You are there to help, don’t complain about your schedule!
This is a sensitive subject to staff nurses, so again, be diligent when talking about it out loud. Ultimately, we are there to help. Even when staff nurses seem helpful, you may arrive mid-schedule and everything is set or the best scheduling has been claimed. Be ready to get stuck with what's left and deal with it. With the envy of getting paid more for the same job you also don't want to appear needy or ungrateful.
Additionally, the managers don’t want to hear you complain about your schedule either, and you’ll likely get on their bad side. Be super polite and understanding. If you have a problem with your schedule, ask around and other nurses might switch your days. If your schedule is different than what you talked about in your interview, and you can't easily resolve it with the staff nurses, you can also address it with your recruiter, and come up with a game plan.