6 Essential Tips for First-Time Travel Nurses
Embarking on a career as a travel nurse is an exciting journey filled with new experiences, challenges, and opportunities for personal and professional growth. It’s also a fast-moving field, which makes adaptability, preparation, and communication key for success. If you’re thinking about taking up roots and becoming a traveler — or getting ready to hit the road on your first assignment — a few tips can help you start off on the right foot and make the most of a career in travel nursing.
1. Understanding contracts and pay structures
Travel nurses are in a unique position to earn competitive pay, but taking advantage of this opportunity means first understanding travel nursing contracts. While every contract’s details will differ, it’s essential to have a grasp of certain clauses, like:
- Compensation and pay: Hourly wages, overtime pay, and any bonuses or stipends
- Scheduling: Work hours, shift lengths, and requirements for weekends or holidays
- Housing: If housing is provided and what type, or what the housing stipend is
- Travel reimbursement: How and when you’re reimbursed for travel costs
- Insurance and benefits: Details about health and liability insurance as well as other benefits
2. Preparing for assignments
As you gain more experience as a travel nurse, you’ll realize preparation is a key part of your career. Before each assignment, research your destination, focusing on the cost of living and local amenities to budget and adapt to the new environment. Proper packing will be critical. Keep in mind any seasonal changes. You’ll also want to take care of any mail forwarding, prescription refills or transfers, and anything else that will need your attention over the next 13 weeks.
3. Integrating into new facilities
As you begin new assignments, make it a point to learn facility policies as quickly as possible so you can understand the full scope of expectations from the start. Some travel nurses keep a notebook to quickly reference specific procedures and protocols. Embracing each unique setting and team can lead to a rewarding experience.
4. Networking and building relationships
Travel nursing can seem like a solitary occupation, but it doesn’t need to be. Don’t be afraid to make friends at your next assignment or lean on groups and associations for community support. You never know what contacts you’ll make, and you’ll stay up to date on the latest practices and legislation. Even Facebook or Reddit groups can provide a sense of community for those who have trouble meeting face-to-face. Remember, you’re not an island.
5. Prioritizing self-care and work-life balance
Practice self-care and maintain a healthy work-life balance. During downtime, explore the local area and pursue hobbies to unwind and relax. Prioritizing sleep, nutrition, and regular exercise is imperative for good health. Some simple self-care steps can improve your overall well-being, ultimately enhancing the quality of care you provide to your patients.
6. Dealing with unexpected challenges
Experienced travel nurses will tell you they’ve encountered their fair share of unexpected challenges. From last-minute schedule changes to complex medical situations, there’s always something that requires your attention. While it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, developing problem-solving skills is crucial to addressing these issues professionally or seeking help when necessary.
Starting your travel nursing career with confidence
The transition to travel nursing comes with many unique considerations and a host of changing variables. Success requires not only choosing the right contract but also making the most of the journey. The more assignments you take, the more acclimated you’ll become as a travel nurse. As you get started, keep these tips in mind to help you get your footing — and valuable experience to take your career wherever you want it to go.