First Time Traveler: Advice, Tips and Strategies to Get You Started

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By The Gypsy Nurse Staff

August 5, 2020



Haves, Have Nots, and Should Haves: Advice, Tips, and Strategies for First Time Travelers

Guest Post By: Kelly Korb

I began my travel nurse journey as a first-time traveler in September 2016 and am currently 6 weeks away from completing my first assignment! It has been a whirlwind of emotions, experiences, and memories that will stick with me throughout my life. I have learned so much along the way, and as nurses, we are required to share our knowledge with others; I mean, let’s face it, it’s what we do, right?

Prepare your space:

If able, get in touch with your landlord or hotel staff (if you’re staying at an extended stay hotel) and ask what is allowed, not allowed, or already at your place you’ll be living at. I could get in touch with my landlord before I moved into my apartment and come to find out it was already furnished! When I arrived, there was so much already in the kitchen, such as silverware, cookware, and a Keurig, that I had to send so many things back with my sister (who traveled with me to help me move). It definitely helps to know ahead of time!

Learn your area:

The day before I started my job, I drove around the city I lived in and explored. I made a list in my head of specifics I was looking for: where I was working, where I needed to get food, and where I could go for fun. So I found the job, the mall, a Kroger, and a local coffee shop!

Learn your rules:

A few weeks before I moved, I interviewed my nurse manager and had the opportunity to learn about the unit I was going to be working on. My nurse recruiter emailed me a list of questions to ask for the interview, and one of them was uniform colors. Some units/facilities are switching over to color-coded, so how much of a disaster would it be to walk in on day one of your new job in your funky scrub prints when everyone else is wearing black? Definitely not a good first impression!

Ask for feedback:

When you’re a travel nurse (especially a first-time traveler), you’re basically expected to take off and hit the ground running when you work. I only had 2 days of orientation with a preceptor and after that, I was on my own. There was NO WAY I could learn all I needed to in those 2 days. When I got my first admission, I grabbed a nurse and asked “Hey, can you sit with me and make sure I’m doing all this documentation correctly?” It was super helpful and they were willing to help me out! If you feel like you need more time on orientation though, talk to your manager and supervisor and see if they’d be willing to work with you.

Meal prep ahead of time:

I think this is my biggest time saver/stress reliever I am going to share! Ever come home after working a long day and wonder “Oh crap, what am I going to fix for dinner?!” Doesn’t the thought just add additional stress to you? I mostly work 3 days in a row, so the day before usually I spend it cooking and preparing meals for the next 3 days; that way when I get home, all I have to do is pop something in the microwave or oven and voila! Dinner is done!

Be flexible:

You may not have a say in what your schedule looks like, or you may. It just depends on who makes your schedule and that sort of thing. Some of your days may be all in a row, or you may have a day or two breaks in between. One time I worked 2, was off one, worked one more day, then was off for 3 days. It may seem like a headache, but be flexible and keep in mind you’re only there for a short time.

Know your audience:

Anyone who knows me knows I have a LOT of energy, even at 6 in the morning when my shift starts. Some people…don’t. And that’s ok. Something I’ve had to remind myself continuously is to be aware of who is around you. I’m not saying entirely change yourself for the duration of your assignment, but keep in mind your personality may not mesh with everyone else’s, and you have to learn to adapt to those around you, so everyone is on the same page.

Jump in:

Be approachable. Don’t give off the impression that you’re too good to help out just because you’re only there temporarily. Help your techs out on the floor if they’re busy, even if that means helping hand out coffee to the patients. If your other nurse is swamped with patients, offer to help them pass their meds or pick up their admission or discharge. If you’re willing to lend a hand, your team will be willing to help you out so much more when you need it.

Speak up: 

Just because you’re a first-time traveler doesn’t mean you’ll get the glamorous assignments. There will be days where quite honestly, you’ll be put where you are just needed, and it may not be fun or ideal. It won’t do any good to whine and complain, but don’t be a pushover. If you need a break from the not fun, ask your charge nurse or supervisor if maybe the next day you can switch to a different assignment. If you voice your questions and concerns, chances are you’ll get listened to.

Make friends…with everyone:

My best work buddy friends are one of the techs and social workers/therapists on the unit I work at. Get to know your staff and your team; they’re going to be right there alongside you for the next 13 weeks.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Most importantly, make the best of your assignment, have fun, and take care of yourself too! 13 weeks will fly by if you make the most of being a first-time traveler!

Author: Kelly is a BSN graduate of Berea College who has spent her entire career working in psychiatric/mental health nursing. She spent the last 3 years working in a private facility working with all age groups and transitioned into travel nursing in September of 2016. She is currently on assignment in Ashland Kentucky and is working with her recruiter to find the next adventure! When not working, she enjoys reading and visiting her twin sister and two cats.

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