Your first assignment as a travel nurse can be both exciting and intimidating. Getting the opportunity to explore new places, meet new people, expand your knowledge, and advance your career can be thrilling — but preparing for your first job in a city and medical facility you may be unfamiliar with can feel overwhelming.
Whether you’re contemplating where you’d like to start your travel nursing career or recently accepted your first assignment, we’re here to help you gear up for the job. Read on for valuable tips that’ll help you set yourself up for career, financial, and personal life success as a travel nurse.
Do Your Research
Although travel nursing can be an incredibly rewarding career, it does have its drawbacks, including some you may not anticipate — which is why doing your research is essential.
Spend some time online learning about the travel nursing profession. Read blogs, watch videos, or join groups where you can network with other nurses who are currently on assignment. Learning from others in similar positions will allow you to get a good feel for the pros and cons of the job, what to expect throughout your assignment, and what to watch out for.
Choose Your Travel Nursing Agency Carefully
You don’t have to work with a medical staffing agency to land a travel nursing job, but most nurses do, and using one can be advantageous for many reasons. Not only do agencies have connections with medical facilities looking for travel nurses, but they typically also handle the bulk of your job-related paperwork.
More importantly, many agencies offer contract nurses highly competitive pay and attractive benefits that may include:
- Medical, dental, and vision insurance
- Life insurance
- Retirement plans
- Living stipends
- Travel reimbursement
- Bonuses and referrals
- 24/7 support
Some agencies also offer housing support to help travel nurses find secure short-term rentals near their work locations.
Keep your options open as you compare multiple agencies and connect with prospective recruiters. Only make a commitment when you’ve found an agency with policies, pay, and benefits that align with your best interests.
Get Specialty Experience and Earn Certification(s)
Diversifying your areas of expertise will not only open up more assignment opportunities and make you a more attractive candidate, but will also increase your potential pay.
You may want to gain experience in specialties that typically have a high demand for travel nurses to get your foot in the door. Or, if you know you’re interested in something specific, you can start by earning a certification in that specialty, so you’ll be well-positioned to secure assignments working in the department you’d prefer.
Keep in mind that as a new travel nurse, you may not be offered your ideal assignment simply due to your lack of experience. You’ll need to be as flexible as possible concerning the work locations and facilities you’ll consider accepting contracts at.
As you continue working in the industry, you’ll be able to be more selective about the contracts you accept.
Moving to and working in a new city can be exhilarating, but living in a new place will only be as satisfying as you make it. To help give yourself the best shot at having a good work-life balance, take time to research potential destinations thoroughly before you commit, so you can plan for activities that’ll allow you to enjoy your days off.
Plan Ahead for Your First Day
When you find a location you like and accept your first assignment, make a plan for a simple and streamlined first day. This may include:
- Finding out when you need to arrive for your shift, where to clock in, who you should meet for orientation, and what you need to bring to work
- Completing any required training modules or certifications
- Determining how long your commute will take to ensure you arrive at work on time
Tour the Facility You’ll Be Working At
If possible, arrange a tour of the facility before your start date. While you’ll likely undergo some form of orientation during your first few hours on shift, gathering some basic details in advance can help you hit the ground running.
Be a Team Player, Express Gratitude, and Stay Positive
When you arrive for your first day on assignment, be cognizant of the fact that full-time staff and other travelers may already be stressed and at capacity. Be a team player and let your coworkers know you’re there to do whatever you can to help.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions when you need to, and when your teammates are helpful, openly express your gratitude. Make a genuine effort to get to know your coworkers and do your best to get along with everyone.
As a nurse, you’ve no doubt encountered your share of difficulties on the job and learned it’s best to be flexible and ready to handle anything that comes your way. Gearing up for and working your first travel nursing assignment will be no different. Prepare as well as you can, be open and willing to help, build experience, and do your best to forge positive relationships along the way.
Author bio: Garrett Norman is Vice President of Operations at SkyBridge Healthcare. With over a decade of experience in the staffing and recruiting industry, Norman has developed a passion for building successful teams, facilitating connections between healthcare clients and candidates, and driving revenue growth at SkyBridge Healthcare. While overseeing day-to-day operations is his primary job function, Norman also enjoys golfing, reading and spending quality time with his family.
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