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Travel Nursing Interview Tips

In this blog post, we’ll offer some recommendations for questions to ask and topics to cover during your travel nursing job interview. We’ll also discuss the importance of communicating with your recruiter after your interview is complete.

Like a permanent job interview, your travel nursing job interview is your chance to interview the hospital. As we mentioned in our previous blog post, this is only possible if you’re able to interview directly with the hospital as opposed to interviewing with an MSP or VMS. However, you should always be prepared with your hospital-related questions. Moreover, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask your questions even if you’re interviewing with an MSP or VMS. While they may not be able to answer your questions directly, they may request the information and forward it along to your travel nursing agency when received.

There are several topic areas you should consider covering during your travel nursing interview. First, you should ask questions pertaining to your actual working conditions. You should inquire about topics such as floating requirements, support staffing levels, typical patient ratios, computer charting systems, patient demographics and other topics related to the unit.

Second, you should address all issues pertaining to your work schedule. This includes issues pertaining to shift times and weekend scheduling policies. You should also discuss any and all time-off you need to schedule during the contract. You should always seek to attain the interviewer’s approval for any time off during the interview. Of course, you’ll only be able to accomplish this if you’re interviewing directly with the hospital.

Third, you should ask questions pertaining to facility accessibility. You’ll want to find out if the facility has parking available for their employees and if there are any costs involved. Many big-city hospitals don’t have adequate on-site parking and some charge for the privilege. You can also inquire about regional transit and hospital shuttle buses as alternative options.

Many people recommend that travel nurses refrain from asking questions pertaining housing during their interview. This is good advice in the vast majority of situations. However, if you’re able to interview directly with a small rural hospital or a resort town hospital, then you may consider inquiring about housing options in the area, especially if you’re going to provide your own housing. It can be very difficult to find housing in these areas so hospital employees are sometimes used to answering these questions from travel nurses.

The one issue you should definitely not discuss is compensation. This includes your pay rate, travel reimbursements, stipends, benefits, etc. The interviewer has no control over these issues and usually doesn’t even know the bill rate associated with the utilization of travel nurses. Compensation related issues are handled by the travel nurse and travel nursing agency.

It’s important to note that all of the recommended topics described above should be discussed during the interview even if they’ve previously been covered somewhere else. For example, if a travel nursing assignment was advertised as having a 7am-7pm shift, then you should still inquire about the shift time during the interview. It’s always possible that a mistake was made, or something changed. So it’s always best to be safe.

Below is a list of questions for you to consider asking during your travel nursing interview:

Questions/topics regarding working conditions:

  1. What is the floating policy and how are travel nurses factored in?
  2. What is the typical nurse-to-patient ratio on the unit?
  3. What type of support staff is available for the unit?
  4. How many beds are on the unit?
  5. What type of charting system do you use?
  6. What types of patients does the unit typically get (Each unit is different in this regard. For example, for MedSurg, you might want to know if they get a lot of Rehab patients, PSYCH patients, geriatric patients, etc. For ICU, you might want to know if they get a lot of cardio patients, neuro patients, medical patients, etc. For OR, you might want to know what types of operations they’re performing frequently.)

Questions/topics regarding scheduling:

  1. What is the shift for the assignment?
  2. Do travel nurses work the same shift times as permanent nurses at the hospital?
  3. How many weeks is the assignment?
  4. How is the schedule determined (ie…some hospitals have a “self-scheduling” system while others have the staffing office set the schedule.)
  5. How are weekend shifts scheduled?
  6. How often does the schedule come out?
  7. Cover your time-off requests and seek approval for them.

Facility specific questions:

  1. Is there plenty of parking for staff at the hospital?
  2. Is parking free, if not, how much does it cost?
  3. Is the facility located near a major highway?
  4. How are the commute times in the area?
  5. Is the facility conveniently accessed by public transportation?
  6. Does the facility run its own shuttle buses, if so, can they be utilized by staff?

Housing related questions (should only be asked on rare occasions when interviewing with small rural or resort town hospital):

  1. Are you aware of any housing options in the area?
  2. How have previous travelers handled their housing needs?
  3. Does the facility manage any of its own housing options?

General travel nursing assignment questions:

  1. What does the travel nursing orientation consist of?
  2. Are there any examinations during orientation including PBDS, BKAT, or EKG exams? If the traveler does not pass the exams is there a remediation process or is the travel contract canceled?
  3. Why is there a need for a traveler?
  4. Do you foresee the possibility of an ongoing need for a travel nurse after this assignment…ie, is an extension possible?

The list above provides a general idea of what to ask during your travel nursing interview. You may decide some of these topics aren’t important to you. You may also determine that there are important topics that aren’t listed above. So feel free to subtract or add to this list as you see fit.

Finally, there are some miscellaneous issues pertaining to travel nursing interviews that we should point out. First, don’t get discouraged if you don’t receive a call for an interview every time you’re submitted for an assignment. It’s a competitive and fluid job market. Often times, the first qualified candidate to be submitted gets the job, rather than the most qualified candidate. Also, don’t get discouraged if you don’t receive a call for an interview at the scheduled time. Nurse managers and other interviewers are typically very busy people and are sometimes pulled off schedule. In such cases, contact your recruiter when the call for an interview is 15 minutes late. Your recruiter can attempt to make that call happen or find out what the problem is and relay the information to you.

As always, please let know about your questions, comments, and experiences with this topic in the comments section below.

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