How To: Succeed As A Travel Nurse
It was my first night on the job at this new facility which I felt was out in the “middle of nowhere New Mexico” from what I had seen so far in the couple days I had been in town. I get to work early and walk into the break room where we will be doing huddle and getting our assignments for the night. There is a pair of nurses already there chatting. “Oh good, a pair of smiling faces” I think to myself. I introduce myself and learn that they are a couple of travel nurses as well, also on their first assignment as a traveler! “Have you enjoyed this assignment?!” I ask excitedly. They look at each other, and laugh. “Hahaha hell no” they say together. Apparently the nurses are worked pretty hard here and the unit is understaffed I learn.
I’ve only been working as a “traveler” for a month now. But already, I have a lot of insight into how it’s going to work and I’m going to share my tips for success. For some reason, I have not had nearly as bad of an experience as I was lead to believe I would by some of the staff here.
You’re here for a reason.
The hospital hired travel nurses because they are short staffed. Expecting to never be short staffed and for everything to be easy all of the time is foolish. You’re paid the big bucks to leave your friends and family to come work at this hospital for a reason. Unfortunately, it may be less than ideal conditions at times.
Meet and talk with as many of your coworkers as possible as often as possible.
Nursing can be “cliquey” at times. Socializing both with other travelers and other staff nurses on the floor can go a long way.
Help out whenever you can.
I don’t necessarily mean work a lot of over time. That’s not for everyone. But when you’re working, if you have a moment or your patients are easier to deal with than the nurse next to you volunteer to help. Ask if there is anything you can do to help them catch up. They will often return the favor when it’s you in need of help
Learn to adapt.
If you don’t already adapt to new ways of doing things easily, you better learn fast! Each Hospital and each unit has slightly different guidelines, expectations, and routines. Not to mention different methods of documentation and record keeping / computer systems. Patient care will always be the priority no matter where you go and what someone says, but every place has their
Assimilate as quickly as possible while maintaining your standards for care.
Figuring out things such as how much information the nurses expect to get in report or how much they will be choosing to give you in report is vital. I’ve found that if they get aggravated with you asking for more information about the patient and it is something that you may be able to attain relatively easily without asking them (such as looking over the H&P) it may not be worth it to pressure a nurse for such information. It might not be worth getting on their bad side over. A staff nurse could make your life hell if they set their mind to it. The staff will always choose each other over you if it comes down to it. After all, they only rely on you to be there for 3 months at a time. Their fellow staff nurse could be there for, or have been there for years. Quality patient care will always be the priority wherever you go. But sometimes it may not be worth sweating the little things. Just make sure you maintain your personal high standards and things will work out in your favor.
Bring your good attitude, every day. Really, every day.
Each morning or each night when you’re walking into the hospital put on your happy face. Turn that frown upside down, and get ready for a good shift. No matter how hard your last shift was. No matter how little sleep you got. No matter how much you would refer to be in bed right now. Start every shift with a good attitude. If you start the shift grumpy and upset or frustrated, the shift will only get worse from there. It makes me think of being back in nursing school. Every day before clinical (nursing practice in the hospital for those of you not in the medical field) I would be nervous as all hell, especially senior year during our preceptorship. I’d be nervous that I would screw up or do poorly. Every day though as I walked through those hospital doors in the wee hours of the morning I would “snap into nursing mode” as I called it. My nerves and fears would disappear and I would just perform to the best of my ability no matter what. It’s like that now too. If you just start your day with a positive outlook and a set of fresh eyes you will do fine. It’s only 12 hours.
Worst case scenario, it’s only for three months.
No matter how bad your assignment is, no matter how over worked you are, you can handle it for three months. As long as they are not truly unsafe conditions, you can make it work for a little longer. You chose to travel for a reason, keep that I mind. Whether it was the better pay, the chance to see the world, flexible scheduling, or some combination of the three keep that in mind. Take joy from the little things and enjoy your days off every way you can.
If you’re a traveler and having a hard time at your current hospital keep these things in mind, it just might make your life a little easier and more enjoyable.
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