Nursing is the career that can literally take you anywhere in the world. Your nursing skills and expertise are highly marketable all over the world. Hospitals need nurses who can think on their toes, snap into immediate action and interact with people regardless of the walls they do it in. Before jumping in, a word of caution. Do not turn to this industry until you are ready. A good, solid nursing foundation is highly recommended before accepting your first assignment. I accepted my first assignment for travel nursing after about eight years of clinical experience. I tell the new nurses I am in contact with to ensure they have a good understanding on the nursing process and the bulk of procedures they will need to carry out. You will be expected to jump in and work within a day or two of arriving to your assignment location. The first tip I must share is finding the correct assignment.
Tip 1 – Find the Correct Assignment: In order to be a successful traveling nurse, you must be aware of what you can and cannot do based on your experience and comfort levels. The travel company I chose for my first assignment required me to perform a self-assessment based on my experiences and skills. You want to arrive on a unit where you are able to perform the functions of the job. Many companies have a minimum requirement for nursing experience. In addition, the job you are applying for will have requirements. You need to be honest and accurate when completing your application. I recall an experience in the intensive care unit where another travel was caring for critical patients, yet had only medical-surgical experiences. This placed the patients and the team at risk. You do not ever want to find yourself in this position. Make sure you ask the travel company’s recruiter exactly what type of patients and skills are required. This initial investment of time will prevent you from taking an assignment you should not.
Tip 2 – Be Willing to Travel: The competition can be high, especially for the nurse with less experience. For this reason, I encourage people to look for opportunities regardless of the location. Do not be afraid to travel far in order to get your first assignment. You will need this to build your resume and become more competitive to the market. Most companies will put you up in housing and take care of the travel expenses. Think of it as a paid vacation to see places you have never seen.
Tip 3 – Be Sociable: You could arrive at your first assignment, be reserved, do your job and then leave. Being sociable is not required, however you may want the hospital to invite you back for another assignment. You want to be known and stand out, work with the team, feel accepted and have support. Working with others is a critical component of the team concept. As healthcare facilities feel the stress created by short-staffing and lacking resources, you will be arriving when times may be difficult. I recall my first assignment where I was one of many travel nurses. We quickly became sociable and then expanded this out to the staff.
Tip 4 – Enjoy the Experience: Wherever you land, remember that you are there to help. You are receiving higher pay to help the staff during a tough period. Morale may be low, administration may be stressed and patient volumes could be higher than expected. This is why you chose to travel: For the experiences, to help and the feeling of being needed. Regardless of the site, it is only temporary and will end. Most assignments are eight to thirteen weeks. If you do not like the area, you can leave. It is that simple. Reach out to the travel company if there are serious concerns. You know what you can, can’t, should and should not do as a nurse. My advice is to just do that and do not worry about the politics. Use this experience to help you grow as a professional and show the industry you are valuable.
Tip 5 – Networking: You will meet many people along your journeys. These people may be temporary, however, I encourage you to network as much as possible. You never know when you may need to contact a prior director, case manager or charge nurse. Being connected will keep you in the know for the latest assignments being offered at a site you love or traveling back to a location that you made a difference at. Personal and professional relationships form and you may want to keep them. My tip is to have a business card made that you can readily provide to those you meet along the way.
The joys of travel nursing, coupled with the experiences and financial gain, makes this a highly sought out career. I have met many career traveling nurses along the way. They often tell me they love the places they have seen, people they have met and the time they can take off. I encourage you to keep building that resume and become competitive as you enjoy a great career traveling the country, meeting people and getting paid.