Handling Unfair Stigmas as a Travel Nurse
It’s not easy being the new kid on the block. You’re an outsider who might not mesh with the established hierarchy or understand the culture and community that predate you. As a travel nurse, you’re walking into a new environment with a predetermined end date for your time there. As a result, many full-time workers might not give you the time of day. They might see you as an intruder or an obstacle. They might even be openly dismissive or hostile toward you.
It’s not your fault — you’re up against stigmas and biases beyond your control. What you can control is how you present yourself. You have the power to present yourself in a way that flips the script and dispels any unfounded notions staff may have about travel nurses.
Detecting unfair stigmas and hostilities
If this is your first assignment or you’ve only had positive experiences so far, you might have a hard time understanding how negative perceptions of travel nurses can manifest in a healthcare team. Many of the hostilities full-time workers develop are a result of a bad experience they’ve had with a travel nurse in the past. It’s human nature to make generalizations. Unfortunately, if the previous travel nurse made a bad impression, the hospital team might cast a negative outlook on you, too.
Thus, when you start your assignment, some hospital staff might not seem interested in getting to know you. Some might be openly cold, refuse to explain things, or not give you new responsibilities because they assume you’re lazy or unskilled. Others might think you’re not there to be part of the team and leave you out of unit or department activities.
One important thing to remember if this happens is that these assumptions and biases are unfounded — these people don’t actually know you. Try not to take these situations personally or read into them. Rather, focus on doing the best job you can.
You have the power to change these notions
By focusing on your work and doing a great job on assignment, you can subtly change your colleague’s perceptions about you and travel nurses in general. Through being a skilled nurse, you have the power to show them their assumptions were wrong.
The key here is to stay positive. While it can be challenging to operate in a difficult environment, try to avoid the mindset of, “It’s only 13 weeks, and then I’m gone.” Instead, reframe your own thinking: “I’m with this team for 13 weeks; we can and should find a way to work together.”
To do this, take an active role in your team or unit. Make an effort to get to know people on a personal level and be there to help whenever you can. Go above and beyond to prove your worth. But above all, be patient — changing perceptions doesn’t happen overnight.
Healthy relationships make a healthcare team stronger
Trust and comradery are important in any team setting, but they are particularly important in healthcare. Nurses need to trust each other and be able to depend on their peers to do the best job they can. Hostility and negative relationships can damage this trust and even reduce patient care.
Actively working to combat travel nursing biases and build positive, healthy relationships with your colleagues can not only improve your day-to-day experience, but also the experience of travel nurses that come after you. Remember to stay positive and put your best foot forward, and you’re sure to make a good, lasting impression. If, however, you find that the environment becomes unbearable or the hostility compromises patient care, you should reach out to your recruiter for guidance on the situation and help with a possible intervention.