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Just Like the Boy Scouts, Travel Nurses are Always Prepared

Sometimes it may seem like it’s just you and your stethoscope out there in the travel nursing wilderness.

Here are some tips to help you MacGyver your way through your next assignment.

1. Have some experience under your belt

“Go into travel nursing with some experience under your belt. Though you may only need a year or two, the more experience you have, the more confident you’ll be. If you’re confident, it’s going to benefit your patients.” — Saynab Omer

“You have to have a really strong foundation in nursing first — I was a nurse for 13 years before I started, and I still find myself learning new skills at every assignment.” — Nancy Koopmeiners

Nursing is a tough job. And travel nursing is like nursing on steroids. It’s harder to adapt at new hospitals with different systems and to always be the new nurse on the block. So, it’s crucial that, before you start traveling, you have your clinical skills down and the confidence that comes with experience.

Check out this blog to see if you’re ready to take on your first travel nursing adventure.  

2. Research your new job and your new hospital

“Be prepared. Read Google and Yelp reviews of hospitals so you know the kind of environment that you’re headed into.” — Megan Nash

“Ask your recruiter questions that help you figure out just what the assignment will be like. And if the answers don’t work for what you want, don’t take the assignment.” — Nancy Koopmeiners

Your recruiter probably gave you the lowdown on your new workplace, but you should still do some research on your own. Look at the hospital’s website. Is it known for research or innovation in a particular field of medicine? How many beds are in the facility? What is the dress code?

See if you can connect with a current nurse on staff or at least someone in administration that can give you some background and inside information. Also, check sites like GlassDoor to see what current and former employees say about working there.  

3. Research your new town

“I love that every area you go, it’s always a little bit different. Nursing is, in a lot of ways, the same everywhere. But when you’re traveling, you get to experience different cultures, learn about different diseases, and become proficient in different health processes. I really enjoy meeting different people.” — Jennifer Klein

Get the skinny on your new hometown before you arrive. Do an online search of the most popular spots, activities, and restaurants. Also, websites like Groupon or Gold Star have plenty of ideas for what to do and where to eat — and at a discount, too.  

Most towns big enough to have a hospital will have a visitors bureau or similar center for tourism. Check them out.

4. Get your docs in a row

“First, make sure you have all your documents on your phone. So many times, people will say, I didn’t receive those papers, and you can just forward them on from your phone. It’s so important. And, if you don’t have a smartphone, get one. That’s like your lifeline.” — Nancy Koopmeiners

Rule #1 in Travel Nursing: Always keep a copy of your contract with you when you’re on assignment.

Other important items to have at the ready are:

  • Current licenses
  • Government IDs
  • Vaccination records
  • Time sheets
  • First day instructions  

And because things happen — computers crash, hard copies get lost, power cords get shredded by your cat — protect yourself by backing up all your computer documents to another location, like your phone, a thumb drive, or the cloud.

Want more info on being super organized and planning ahead? Check out our blog that delves into organizational techniques and tips.

5. Bring only what you need

“Only bring along what you really need. I see these travelers packed to the gill, and I think, do you really need that stuff? I just bring two trunks, and everything I need fits in there. If it doesn’t fit, I don’t bring it.” — Nancy Koopmeiners

There are two schools of thought on this

1) Pack the things you need for your entire trip, or

2) Pack enough to last you a few days, and buy the rest when you get there.

Whichever camp you fall into, let’s talk about the definition of “need.” Remember: it’s 13 weeks, not forever. What do you need to get by comfortably? You probably need a week’s worth of scrubs, your electronic devices, and some dress clothes. Do you really need a suitcase just for shoes? Your skis? Five hairsprays?

Even if you’re going light, packing can be a chore. Rely on checklists like these that you can reuse each new assignment so you don’t forget anything important. Once you’ve gotten your load down to the bare essentials, make the most of your luggage space.

Life and travel nursing are unpredictable, but there are many things you can do to be prepared for this most rewarding challenge. Are you ready?

What do you do to stay on top of your game? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check out our interview series on travel nurses.

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