First Day: Travel Nurse Guide Step #21 · The Gypsy Nurse

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By The Gypsy Nurse Staff

August 8, 2018



Step # 21 The Countdown Begins: Your Travel Nurse Assignment Day One

first day

Today is the day!  You’re starting your new Travel Nurse Contract.  You have settled into the new apartment and done the shopping.  The first-day nerves have probably got a hold of you…don’t worry. Check the 1st Day Tips below, and you’ll be on your way to a Successful Contract start.

The one thing that I consistently remind myself when starting a new travel nurse assignment is that Day One is simply the start to my countdown to further adventures.  Some contracts will be good and some not-so-good, and no matter how much you researched and questioned your recruiter about the position, you won’t know what any contract will hold until you get there.

To help your first day of your new travel nurse contract run a little smoother, we offer these tips:

Do a Test Run

After the shopping and un-packing is finished, make a Hospital run.  Time yourself from the time you walk out the door to the time that you arrive on the unit.  A test run should allow you to figure out where the parking is, how to navigate to your unit and give you an idea on the amount of time needed to arrive for your first shift of your travel nurse assignment on time.  Don’t forget to account for traffic.




I like actually to go to the unit and introduce myself.  Choosing a time that you think will be less busy is a good idea. I try to do my test run in the evening between what I ‘think’ are the unit’s busy times.  At most facilities, I’ve had a good reception from the staff (even more so if you drop off cookies or some other goodie). Be friendly but not intrusive; let the staff know that you are looking forward to helping them out.  If the staff isn’t busy, you might ask if anyone can give you a hint on what to expect from traffic on your 1st day.  Don’t linger.  5-10 minutes is enough time to make a quick introduction, ask a question or two, and make a graceful exit.

Pre-pack your Nursing Bag

Being prepared is a sure sign of success.  Although the hospital should have received all of your paperwork from the agency, don’t take this for granted.  It’s not uncommon to find out that there is missing paperwork for your new travel nurse contract. Put together a file folder with any ‘additional’ paperwork that the hospital required you to complete and toss it into your nursing bag.  I also recommend carting along with your portfolio the first day.  There have been multiple occasions that mine came in handy on the first day because HR was missing something from my agency file.




Pack as if you are actually going to work the floor.  You might!  Every nurse has a different list for their nursing bag; pack what you would normally pack for a shift, and you’ll be ready for anything.

Toss a snack and a bottle of water in your bag.  Finding the cafeteria might be more of a task than you’re up to (or have time for). Make sure to have something that will get you through the day.

Get a Good Nights Sleep

I can’t stress this enough.  Sleep is important, and your past few days have most likely been hectic, exciting, and full of chaos.  Take some time to relax (after you have your bag packed for work), have a glass of wine, soak in the tub, curl up on the couch, or whatever it is you do to help you relax.

Arm yourself with Optimism

The best thing you can take with you on the first day of the new travel nurse contract is optimism!  Know that there will be bumps along the way and that you will struggle to find supplies, be confused with the computer system, get lost on campus, and a myriad of other problems along the way.  Accept it.  Know that you are armed with the ability to carry on and get through it.

Expect the Unexpected

What should I expect? This is a question that I receive from many new Travel Nurses heading out for their first travel nurse assignment.  What should you expect?  The unexpected!  The first day on the job is never the same from one facility to another.  You could experience any of the following:

  • Full-Day General Orientation
  • Part/Full Day Testing (bring a calculator for those dosage calculations)
  • Computer Training
  • Formal outlined orientation or full-blown chaos
  • A brief overview of the unit and a Patient Assignment (yes, this has happened to me).
  • Sitting in an office with no one knowing what to do with you.

The above list looks like I’m joking…I’m not.  The best advice I can give you on what to expect is to “Expect the Unexpected”!!

Is there something that you as an experienced travel nurse have on your ‘Day 1’ list?  Is there an item that you always forget?  I’d love to hear your thoughts…we can all learn from each other.

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Since just recently joining the gypsy nurse, I have had so many questions answered about the world of travel nursing. This has been an excellent resource!
—Meagan L. | Cath Lab