Assignment Issues: I Hate My Assignment, Now What?

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By Brandy Pinkerton

July 29, 2022

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I Hate My Assignment, Now What?

If you have been a travel nurse for a while, you have undoubtedly experienced an assignment you didn’t love. Hate is a strong word, but if I’m being 100% honest, I have had an assignment along the way that, in my mind, I hated. There is nothing worse than getting your hopes up about a new travel assignment than getting the “rug pulled out from you” when it doesn’t quite meet your expectations. If you have read any of my blogs or listened to any of my live events, then you know I am one of those people who speak from the heart. So, I’m going to help you get to the root of the problem, and unfortunately, it may require you to ask yourself some tough questions. If this is your first assignment, I encourage you to give yourself some grace and not give up because not all assignments will be this way, trust me!!

Why do you not like it?

#1 Is it Unsafe?

Know the difference between unsafe practices and simply not agreeing with how something is done or not liking how something is done. I have been a nurse for nearly 20 years and have learned there is more than one “right” way to do things. As long as you are providing safe patient care and achieving the same goal, do things how that facility wants you to do it. They, unfortunately, don’t want to hear how you did it at your last job! Every facility likely does things just a little differently than you are used to. Know how to use your resources and how to access their policy and procedures on day 1 of orientation. Now, if patient safety or safe staffing ratios is a concern, that is a whole other issue that I could write an entire blog post about, so for time purposes will briefly go over what to do if you are put into an undesirable situation. What exactly is making you feel unsafe? Do you have poor patient ratios?  Do you feel like you’re not well prepared to handle your assignment?  If it’s something small, I encourage you to go to the charge nurse or management and discuss it with them. Talking with management may not change anything, but if you approach the subject positively, then maybe you’ll get some great feedback out of it and have an immediate plan of action. If not, know your chain of command and how to use it. Call and speak to your recruiter and a member of your company clinical team asap for guidance.

Mentor PRO Tip: Choosing a company that offers  24/7 Clinical coverage is important in the early stages of preparing to become a travel nurse. You never know when you will need them, and although I highly encourage you to keep your recruiter in the loop at all times, at the end of the day, they are not usually a clinician, so you want to have as many resources to help you if the need arises. Travel Nurse Company: Basics to Choosing the Right One (thegypsynurse.com)

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#2 Is the Staff Unwelcoming?

I’ve had my fair share of catty and click-ish nurses over the years, and unfortunately, I wish I had a magic answer for this. Poor leadership can also fall into this category. Understand, their behavior is a reflection of themselves, and their unhappiness really likely has nothing to do with you. Misery loves company, so just let them be. My philosophy is just to kill them with kindness and take the higher road. Easier said than done, I know!! I try to just find common ground with them and be my happy, helpful self and usually win them over!!

#3 Is it just not What you Expected? 

The expectation is the root of all heartache when it comes to life lessons, and this also applies to travel nursing. I don’t know about you, but this has been something I have struggled with personally and professionally. The Children’s Hospital that grew me as a nurse really set the bar high when it comes to being a stellar facility. So much so that I spent 15 years there before traveling. It was just a great place to work, and I will always be partial to them. Other facilities I have traveled to came with their own uniqueness and helped me grow in my career. The great thing about traveling is you get to “try on” other facilities, so to speak, to see if they are a good fit for you; if they aren’t, then you are only committed to 13 weeks. If so, maybe you will consider extending or coming back one day! It’s all about your perspective, so I encourage you to stay optimistic; there will be good takeaways no matter what!!

#4 Is it you? (Don’t hate me here)

Have you had this issue more than one time?  Did you leave your home hospital because you weren’t getting along with anyone and needed to start over? This is a tough one to consider-gulp! But sometimes, as I have gotten older and wiser (LOL) and able to self-reflect more, I will admit that sometimes the problem has been me. For example, I struggled with an assignment right after I left flight nursing. As a flight nurse, you have A LOT of autonomy, and I earned respect and trust at the hospital I worked out with the staff and especially the physicians from the type of relationship I had with them. Then, when I went back to a bedside travel job at a brand new facility, they gave me an ego check very quickly. It was a hard transition back to being a bedside nurse; I am not going to lie. It was a facility where the physicians did not, unfortunately, seem to trust their core staff nor gave them much autonomy.

Several physicians were known to “talk down” to staff, and later the nurses told me that it was a losing battle, that managers knew, and unfortunately, they just learned to keep their mouth quiet and take the disrespect, which makes me so sad! So, it took a couple of shifts of me being on my own to run into the experience where the physician treated me like, well, quite frankly, I was stupid. I really enjoyed my co-workers and the facility, so I had to learn to just bite my tongue to make it through the assignment. Unless patient safety was a concern, then, of course, I would speak up. Plus, I really only ran into that doctor every couple of weeks.  Despite all of that, if asked, I would go back to the facility in a heartbeat. So, is it you?? Take time to reflect on yourself and ask yourself the hard questions.  If it is you, I’d recommend sticking it out, making the most of it, and then doing some work on yourself so that you don’t have these same issues in the future.  Please know that I say this all with love and your best interest at heart. 

What to do about it:

– Keep the line of communication open with your recruiter at all times so they can intervene early if necessary.

-Seek advice from a clinical team member with your agency

-Speak with the charge nurse and unit manager. Try to follow the proper chain of command (make sure you ask what that is during your first week of orientation)

 -Always CYA!! Keep a paper/email trail of all conversations. Make sure to save emails and texts and also take a pic with your phone. To avoid forgetting details, physically write down specific events, convos, names, dates, and times to have so you remember exactly what happened. 

***At the end of the day, I will ALWAYS tell you that your mental health comes first!!

Unless it is unsafe, I encourage you to Stick it Out.

You can do anything for 13 weeks. Remember your goals and your “why” (Preparing for a Career as a Travel Nurse – TRAVEL NURSE 101) and that you’re there for a reason. Your patients count on you to show up, be present, and do your best. I don’t encourage you to be taken advantage of, so know your boundaries but also take responsibility for your commitments. You will grow both professionally and personally, too!

Our job board is a great place to search for your next travel nurse assignment. We have you covered with our housing page if housing is an issue. You can search for what you are looking for.

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