10 Tips for First-Time Travel Nurses

by Premier Medical Staffing Services on August 2, 2016 in Travel Nursing


After you finish reading our tips for first-time travel nurses, be sure to check out our travel nursing opportunities. We promise you’ll be glad you did!

10 tips for first-time travel nursesTravel nursing is a terrific way to advance your career while helping communities that need medical professionals the most. Additionally, it’s a fantastic way to explore the country and build a robust professional network. However, for those who have never done it, travel nursing can be intimidating. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of 10 tips for first-time travel nurses to make the experience a pleasurable one.

Tips for First-Time Travel Nurses

1. Pick a Recruiter, Not an Agency

You’ve read all about the benefits of a travel nursing career and you’re ready to take the plunge. You just have one question…how do I get started?

When it comes to travel nursing, you’ll need to partner with an agency. Travel nursing agencies (generally) have access to nationwide opportunities. Furthermore, they have insight into what facilities are really looking for in candidates.

So, how do you pick the right travel nursing agency?

You don’t.

Instead, you find a recruiter that you mesh well with.

Your recruiter will be your point of contact throughout the entire process. Find one that takes the time to get to know you. You should feel comfortable having honest conversations with them.

The healthcare recruiters at Premier Medical Staffing Services are second to none. We pride ourselves on taking the time to get to know the individual. Click here to learn more about the talented professionals on our team.

2. Do Your Research

Chances are you’ve seen more than a few advertisements offering exceptional rates for travel nurses.

“Work for us and earn $5,500 per week as a med-surg nurse in Atlanta, Georgia.”

It seems too good to be true.

While COVID-19 ushered in a temporary era of enhanced crisis rates (for certain specialties in certain areas), this trend is in sharp decline. In fact, most healthcare facilities are back to offering their pre-COVID rates.

When you see advertisements with these exceptionally high pay rates, take the time to do some research. Google the going hourly rate for a (insert specialty) nurse in a specific area.

This simple practice will help you spot agencies that are relying on dishonest tactics to recruit nurses (i.e., the old bait and switch). It will also give you a better frame of reference for negotiating when you find an honest agency to work with.

3. Get Organized

Organization is the key to a successful travel nursing career. But what do we mean when we say “get organized”?

First and foremost, we mean get your essential nursing paperwork in order. Your travel nursing agency will request up-to-date copies of all your licensing information, certifications and health/immunization records. Agencies need all these documents before they can submit you as a candidate for a potential contract. Make sure there are no delays in providing this information.

Second, you are going to want to have the name, phone number and email address for 2-3 professional references readily available. Be sure to let your professional references know that they can expect a call from your travel nursing agency.

Lastly, take the time to prepare yourself for a phone interview. Be ready to explain your work history (the good, the bad and the ugly) in detail.

For more information on how to prepare yourself for a phone interview, check out this blog post: 10 Exceptional Phone Interview Tips.

4. Be Flexible

The internet is full of opinions on how to get the most from your travel nursing experience. While you may find these viewpoints true or useful in time, we highly recommend you ignore them as a first-time travel nurse.

“Why is that?” you ask.

Travel nursing is a unique and personal experience. What works for one nurse may not work for you. Your willingness to keep an open mind about location, setting, facility, pay grade, etc. will open up more job opportunities to you.

In time, you will discover your own non-negotiables. When that happens, they will be a true reflection of what’s important to you (and not what you’ve been told is important). Ultimately, this will make for a more successful travel nursing experience.

5. Pick a Place You Know

Picking up and moving to a new location can be overwhelming.

Where will you live? How will you get to work? Who will you hang out with?

As a first-time travel nurse, we highly recommend that you pick a familiar location for your first assignment. This could be a location where you’ve vacationed before, a place where family/friends live or your own backyard. (Seriously! You can work as a travel nurse in your own community.)

By sticking to what you already know, you eliminate some of the stress and anxiety that accompanies this new adventure. Additionally, you’ll be better able to decide if travel nursing is the right long-term career choice for you.

6. Pack Smart

Packing for a 13-week travel nursing assignment can initially feel like an overwhelming task. What do you take with you? What do you leave at home?

The first thing you’re going to want to find out is what amenities your new housing provides. For instance, if you’re renting a furnished apartment, there’s no need to pack up furniture and basic household supplies.

Next, you’ll want to determine what the climate is like at your new destination. If you’re going to be there through two or more seasons, pack clothes that can be easily layered or un-layered.

Finally, figure out what items you can buy when you get to your new location. For example, many stores sell travel size personal hygiene items (e.g., arm deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo). Consider stocking up on these items once you arrive to save room in you bags for more important items.

Seasoned travel nurses know that the key to successful packing is going light. It makes traveling to and from your destination so much easier.

7. Ask Questions

Each travel nursing assignment will begin with an orientation. During this time, you’ll be given a tour of the facility, review policies and procedures, meet your new colleagues, etc.

Don’t hesitate to ask your trainer any and all questions that come to your mind. The purpose of the orientation is to get you up and running on the floor. Your trainer will want to see that you are both comfortable and confident with the information presented.

Furthermore, don’t hold back from asking questions once you’re on the floor. Your colleagues understand that you’re only there temporarily. They will not expect perfection. In fact, you may find that the facility’s staff goes out of their way to help you. They want to see you succeed.

8. Be Confident

It can be intimidating being the new kid on the block. However, you’re an experienced nurse and the facility chose you for your skill set. You have a valuable contribution to make.

One way you can build your confidence as a first-time travel nurse is by sharing ideas and recommendations with your new colleagues. If you know of a more efficient or better way to do something, politely share that information with your coworkers.

You can also bolster your on-the-job confidence by:

  • Practicing positive self-talk,
  • Being kind and generous with yourself and others;
  • Standing up straight;
  • Setting a small goal and achieving it;
  • Focusing on solutions (not problems) and
  • Volunteering for new opportunities.

When consistently implemented, these small actions can give you the confidence you need to rock you first travel nursing assignment.

9. Make Friends with Co-Workers

One of the easiest ways to get settled into a new travel nursing assignment is to make friends with the nurses, doctors and technicians that you work with.

“What’s the best way to do that?” you ask.

Consider bringing bagels and/or coffee for everyone on your shift during your first week. Your colleagues are bound to come up and thank you for the nice gesture. This gives you the perfect opportunity to break the ice.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your coworkers about their favorite local hangout spots. You’ll be surprised how many people will offer to meet you there during their time off.

Most important, be sure to treat all your new colleagues with respect and kindness. A friendly smile and a willingness to say “hello” first can go a long way in making your first travel nursing assignment an enjoyable one.

10. Think About Your Next Assignment

No list of tips for first-time travel nurses would be complete without a reminder to start thinking about your next assignment.

As a rule of thumb, we strongly encourage our travel nurses to consider what they want to do next at the four-week mark of their current contract (if not earlier).

The more time you can give your recruiter to find your next contract, the more likely you are to land a position that meets your needs and wants.

Furthermore, if you’re planning on traveling to another state, you’ll want to make sure you have enough time to secure your nursing license (if applicable).

Be sure to stay actively engaged with your recruiter as they secure your next contract. With their help, you can make finding your next assignment a seamless process.

While travel nursing may initially seem daunting, we promise that it becomes more familiar with time and experience. By following these tips for first-time travel nurses, we guarantee that you’ll build a solid foundation for your career, a career that will be both successful and rewarding.

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Explore additional resources from Premier Medical Staffing Services:

The Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing
Travel Nurse Resume Tips
Travel Nursing Trends: What You Need to Know
Your Guide to Travel Nurse Housing
Your Travel Nurse Tax Guide

Last Modified: [last-modified] by Katy Konkel

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