Without a doubt, becoming a travel nurse has a strong learning curve and no guidebook! Everyone's path is sure to be different, but in this article I'll cover a few lessons I learned the hard way, and hopefully make your path a little easier.
Be Confident in Yourself
Since you will be in unfamiliar environments every couple of months, confidence is key. This is important in the hospital and your personal life. Since you're a travel nurse, or becoming one, chances are you already have the confidence you need to succeed, but it's still easy to be overwhelmed by all this life entails. I don't mind admitting one of my biggest “break-down” moments happened after getting one of my patients resuscitated when I discovered them code blue. The short story goes, I was on my second shift at a new hospital and couldn't recall their procedure to call in the code blue so I just started yelling for help. The outcome was just fine and the patient recovered fully, but it shook me up a lot that day. One particular nurse was very supportive and reminded me that, in the moment, I always have my instincts no matter the place I'm working. Give yourself a pep-talk and know that you are awesome! You're growing in your career when travel nursing, but you arrive at every job with basically what you need. Even when situations feel uncomfortable (and they will), you got this!
Flexibility is Key
Travel nursing comes with a lot of unexpected circumstances — start dates get moved, orientations are sometimes chaotic, flights get delayed/canceled, and more. Words to live by: expect the unexpected and don't let it affect your good vibes! This career is all over the charts and the more flexible you are, the less stress you'll have. When I first started travel nursing, one of my first assignments still ranks the most chaotic one to date. Though I've grown accustomed to sudden changes, back then it seemed so heavy, it actually had me wondering if I was even in the right field of work. Be as fluid and flexible as possible, then be even more fluid and flexible. Don't forget that even when things aren't going well, it's just one assignment and there's a totally different set of circumstances waiting at your next contract.
Recognize Self Care is Important
Traveling itself can be exhausting, but then adding 12-hour shifts to it can be brutal! It's important to set time aside to do things to nurture your health. Not only do your patients need you functioning at your best, but you need to feel energized for work and your days off. I admit that being in a new place is overwhelming and I tend to run myself down. There are so many new things to see and bucket list items to check off, that I want to do it all during week one! Take it from someone who's done this for four-plus years, don't spread yourself too thin because your health will take a turn. Take your time and control your impulses. Plan a healthy routine for your days off and tend to yourself first and foremost!
Fellow Travel Nurses are your Best Friends
Sometimes we get unlucky and the unit we work in doesn't have the friendliest staff members. Don't get me wrong, they need the staff help, but don't always expect them to be welcoming. Sometimes you'll be using systems that will be new to you. If you were constantly being asked questions like “Where is the supply room?”, and “How do I chart this?”, you may get a bit annoyed too. My rule is always to ask fellow travelers first. There's a good chance they've been there long enough to know your answers. They were once in your shoes and are typically more understanding. If you make friends with a staff nurse, definitely use your resources, but don't overuse them!
Organization is Everything
As you know, each assignment requires a tremendous amount of documentation such as references, medical records, work history, etc. It's best to keep all of these documents in one place so they are easy to locate when applying for a job. This was the biggest stress for me at first, but I quickly got organized and this process was a breeze! I keep copies of everything in one file on my laptop so they’re easy to access.
Follow your Heart
As you look for new assignments, don't be overwhelmed by all of your options. From personal experience, it's normal to feel stress from choosing your next location. I mean, there's 50 states to choose from and endless cities! Take your time and weigh in all the details. You may feel pressure from your recruiter or friends to take a certain assignment, but always let your heart guide you and go with whatever feels right.
Above all else, enjoy the ride!