This article provided by Travel Nurse Across America.
As the country struggles to find some reprieve from this pandemic, travel nurses everywhere are trekking to hot spots to help. Like most aspects of coronavirus life, there’s an air of uncertainty around getting to your new assignment. Will hotels be open? How are property owners preparing for exposed residents? There’s a lot of uncertainty and with crisis assignments starting — and sometimes ending — abruptly, being prepared can make navigating this confusing time a lot easier.
Housing Tips & What to Expect
Before COVID-19 (remember those times?), there was a subtle art to finding travel nurse housing. Whether you used Furnished Finders, Airbnb, or Facebook groups, it was all about staying under your subsidy. Things are a little different these days. Most agencies are continually reassessing how to help their nurses find safe lodging. We’ve seen hotels refuse to house nurses. We’ve also seen hotels step up to ensure our front-line heroes have the best accommodations. From property managers to nurses’ first-hand experience, we’ve compiled some tips for nurses hitting the road.
● Consider minimizing your travel restrictions: We’re talking about pets and people here. When it comes to large or unusual pets, it may be more challenging to find housing. With limited options available, you may find property managers are more lenient, or extremely strict. As for traveling with family, there is some amount of risk for exposure that travelers should think about.
● Prepare for unexpected accommodations: Most properties are limiting maintenance, physical access to staff, and new cleaning procedures. If it’s not a leak or potentially property damaging, plan for it to move to the back burner. Consider preparing for minimal furnishings or longer wait times with your sheets, basic cleaning supplies, and paper products.
● Utilize your resources: With everything you need to accomplish to start your assignment, navigating temporary housing is an additional hassle. Utilizing your agency’s housing specialists doesn’t necessarily mean using agency-housing. Given the short nature of crisis assignments, think short term and don’t be afraid to ask your recruiter to connect you with housing resources.
Road Trips During a Time of COVID-19
There is no savvier group of road warriors than travel nurses. Crossing state lines during this pandemic is a little tricky, and of course, with shelter-in-place orders and curfews, there can be some confusion. Here’s how to protect yourself so you can start your assignment safely.
● Carry digital and print copies of essential documents: Even though restrictions seem to be lifting in some states, it’s still a good idea to carry crucial documents. Think about keeping a copy of your contract, nursing license, and a hospital ID badge on-hand to prove you should be traveling.
● Map and confirm your stops: If you’re an Enneagram 6, ICU nurse, or highly detailed planner, you likely look up your route ahead of time. If not, download the GasBuddy app and confirm any of your stops are open. We’ve seen gas stations, grocery stores, and hotels close temporarily. Don’t put yourself in a bind, before you go, download a few apps or Google search.
● Prepare to be self-sufficient: Grab a cooler and pack your drinks and snacks. Preventing unnecessary stops is a top priority to keep you safe from exposure. Another good tip? Grab any extra plastic bags (you know the stash tucked in your kitchen) to use as you grab the gas handle.
Navigating Mandatory Quarantines
Some states have issued mandates that persons traveling into their state complete a mandatory quarantine, specifically if they’ve been in a hot spot. It’s essential to consider this in your personal, professional, and financial plans before you accept an assignment. Can you be in lock-down for 14 days when you return? Will that impact childcare, work, or any other obligations?
- Check: Look up restrictions with your destination’s local and state health departments.
- Confirm: We know things can change, but during your interview (or before returning to a perm or PRN job), confirm any waiting period with your charge nurse or HR contact.
- Communicate: Keep lines of communication open with your agency, stay connected with online nursing communities for updates, and ensure people in your life (friends, family, and partners) understand your circumstances.
5 Questions Every Travel Nurse Should Ask Their Agency
More than every communication and support are paramount. An agency’s top priority is keeping their nurses safe. Whether you’re a first-time traveler or you’re a veteran gypsy nurse, it’s vital to ask your agency how they’re supporting their nurses. From recruiters to payroll, here are our top 5 questions you should ask:
- What resources do you have to support me clinically? Your agency should have real RNs on staff whose focus is on protecting your license, advocating on your behalf with your facility, and providing a listening ear should you need to talk, nurse-to-nurse.
- How are you protecting my health? Keeping you safe should be the top priority. Look for an agency that walks the walk. Do they offer day-one insurance coverage to protect you the moment you step foot on the unit, or will there be a waiting period? Ask about mental and emotional health benefits like an Employee Assistance Program or Chaplain.
- How are you protecting my pay? With many traveler nurses reporting call-offs due to a drop in hospital census, it’s crucial to consider your paycheck. Ask about weekly pay, low-census protection programs, and the accessibility of payroll teams.
- How will you help me get to my assignment? Most crisis assignments have ASAP start dates. Ask if your agency will cover costs for any onboarding requirements and travel requirements. Travel reimbursement is a must-have during these uncertain times. Also, inquire about any housing support. Your agency should have a robust team prepared to help you navigate short-team lease options, vetted options, and after-hours help if needed.
- How can my recruiter help me if my contract is canceled? You need to work; there’s no getting around that. Your recruiter is your best asset in getting you on the floor working as soon as possible. A good agency should have the tools, technology, and industry-connections to provide insight for you. Ask how they’ve supported their nurses during cancelations to see just how much they care (and how hard they work) for their nurses.
More than ever, nurses should keep clear and open communication with their agency, recruiter, and network to protect themselves. Nurses are superheroes, but they’re not invincible and need to take the necessary time to assemble the very best team to keep them safe. The best way for agencies to thank the nurses stepping forward to care for our family members, friends, and coworkers, is to ensure they have standout benefits, support, and protections.
We hope you found this article proactive tips for travel nursing crisis assignments helpful. Do you have any tips for travel nursing crisis assignments that we didn’t mention? Please feel free to share your travel nursing crisis assignments tips in the comments below.