Preparing for Your First Travel Nurse Assignment

It’s natural to get a case of nerves when starting your first travel nurse assignment. These tips will help you be ready for a strong start as a first time travel nurse.

Topics Covered

What to expect on your first travel nurse assignment

Knowing what to expect can ease any anxiety you might feel. Your onboarding to the first of your travel nurse contracts will involve orientation and possibly additional training. You might meet fellow travel nurses, which can help you quickly find your comfort zone.

How long are standard travel nurse contracts?

One question that comes up when new is how long are travel nurse contracts. Some last as little as two weeks and some go for 26. The standard is 13 weeks.

Can you get out of a travel nurse contract?

A travel nurse contract is a binding agreement that protects you and the organization hiring you, making sure you both understand the details of travel nurse terms. However, it is possible to cancel a contract.

The process for getting out of a travel nurse contract varies. You may have a personal illness or family emergency, for example. In general, unless you have a serious reason, you should try to resolve the issue before canceling. Your agency can help you work out issues to protect your reputation and not risk your nursing license.

6 tips to prepare for your first travel nurse contract

Preparing for Your First Travel Nurse Assignment.

Taking on your first travel nurse assignment is both exciting and stressful. Working as a travel nurse is ideal if you like new challenges and are comfortable with change. These tips for a first time travel nurse will get you off to a good start. Being ready is one way to overcome nurse anxiety on your first travel nurse job.

1. Understand your travel nurse contract

Of all your travel nurse docs, travel nurse contracts are the most important. You’ll find details like how long are travel nurse contracts, what does it mean to buy out a travel nursing contract or cancel it, what your specific duties will be, and more. Verify your compensation and take a good look at the tax benefits around travel, housing, per diems, and other allowances when working away on a temporary basis. Watch out for the one year rule. If you work in a location for more than a year, all the tax breaks of a temporary assignment go away.

2. Read your travel nurse assignment terms

Everyone, not just a first time travel nurse, should read the travel nurse terms on your contract. Make sure you understand your pay rate and the agency fee that comes out of that number. Sometimes, you will see a number that has taxes already taken out and in others, you’ll see non-taxable reimbursements added in. You should know what things are reimbursed and what benefits, from meals, to housing, to stipends, and even scrubs, might be included.

3. Bring the required documents for travel nursing

Being organized is a great way to make a good travel nurse first impression. Here are some organization tips for a travel nurse. Whether you are a seasoned hand or on your first travel nurse assignment, you need to organize and keep handy these travel nurse docs.

  • Valid nursing license
  • Travel nurse paperwork
  • Basic life support certification
  • Passport and other forms of identification
  • Driver’s license/photo identification
  • Immunization records and other medical records
  • Educational transcripts
  • Drug screenings
  • Fingerprint card
  • Current and past travel nurse contracts with travel nurse terms for this assignment

4. Schedule a physical exam beforehand

Many healthcare organizations, particularly since COVID-19, require you to have an updated physical exam before starting your assignment. You’ll need to be up-to-date on all immunizations and be willing to share any medical conditions you have and medications you may be taking.

Request a copy of your medical records

Talk to your recruiter or speak to the primary contact at your upcoming assignment about what medical records are required. Take care of this task right away. Collecting records or scheduling a physical exam can take some time and you don’t want to jeopardize your contract.

5. Create a skills checklist

Your travel nursing agency may require a skills checklist outlining tasks you are comfortable performing. From your first travel nurse assignment onward, you will continue to build this list to enhance your attractiveness to potential employers. Take every opportunity to acquire specialty skills and highlight them when looking for your next assignment. They are sometimes the key to getting a higher rate of pay.

6. Pack efficiently for your travel nurse assignment

Travel means packing. While you can buy things at your new assignment, you can save money by bringing the things you really need with you. Think about clothes you need for work as well as for your free time. Consider the climate and the things you would like to do in your temporary location. Include toiletries, medications, and day-to-day necessities. The key is to bring what you need, but not overpack and create a burden for yourself.

Although you may like to travel lightly, there are some must have items every travel should consider bringing on their next assignment:

  • Journal: Working as a traveler is sure to bring lots of different experiences meeting new people and seeing interesting places. Recording your experiences and writing down your thoughts is a great way to persevere the experience.
  • iPad or Laptop: The Internet has become such a staple in most people’s lives that it would be hard to get along without it. Bringing a laptop or iPad will also allow you to Skype with family and friends back home.
  • Camera: Even if your cell phone has a camera and video recorder, bringing a camera on your next travel assignment is a good idea. It may allow for better quality photos than a cell phone.
  • GPS or Navigation App: If your car does not have a GPS system, be sure to download a navigation app to your cell phone. Keep in mind that you will likely be driving in an area you are unfamiliar with. A navigation system or app will save you the headache of getting lost.
  • Address Book: Keep all your family members’ and friends’ addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses in one book to bring along with you. You may feel like dropping a postcard or note.
  • Emergency Car Kit: It’s always good to have an emergency kit in the trunk of your car. This is especially a good idea if you will be driving to your new travel assignment. Consider making a kit containing items, such as jumper cables, motor oil, antifreeze, flares, and a flashlight.
  • Important Documents: Make copies of documents, such as medical license, CPR card, and immunization record. Be sure you have your social security card, insurance card and passport if you will be working in a location where you may take a trip over the border.
  • Family Photos: It’s normal to get a bit homesick when you are on a travel assignment. Make your new place a bit more like home, with photos of family and friends.
  • Roadside Assistance Service: Roadside assistance can be a big help if your car breaks down. It is always a valuable service. But if you are living in a new area and don’t have a lot of people you could call for help with care emergencies, it is even more vital. Roadside service plans vary and are available through motor clubs and car insurance companies. Many plans also offer discounts on attractions and travel, which is also a plus.
  • Tour Books: Even if you want to travel off the beaten path while you are on a travel assignment, a tour book will highlight the places which are a must see while you are in the area.

10 ways to make a great first impression as a first-time travel nurse

Many regular staff members will welcome a nurse traveler and be grateful to have the help. But a few permanent employees may still have a few preconceived ideas about travelers. For example, some regular employees may believe travelers are making a lot more money than a regular staff member, so they should work harder. Another misconception may be that travelers don’t take the position as seriously as permanent staff since they are only temporary.

A great first impression helps overcome any misconceptions or stereotypes. It also helps decrease any resentment or resistance from permanent staff members. Consider the suggestions below.

  1. Always be professional. Just as you would with any type of job, it’s essential to always be professional. That means always being on time, dressing professionally, and being respectful of your coworkers and patients.
  2. Pitch in where you can. A great way to make a good first impression is by going the extra mile. Do a little more than is expected. Your new coworkers will appreciate it and may return the favor when you need it.
  3. Be friendly. As a travel nurse, you will be the new kid on the block. You may have to make the first move and introduce yourself to coworkers and staff.
  4. Don’t be a pushover. While you want to do your share and maybe even a bit more, don’t let permanent staff treat you any differently than anyone else gets treated. Be assertive when you need to be. Keep in mind assertive and aggressive are two different things.
  5. Be flexible. When you make a first impression it’s important to show your coworkers and supervisors you can be flexible. For example, if you are asked to float to another unit or work a different shift, being flexible is a helpful trait.
  6. Welcome challenges. Being a nurse traveler may present you with a great opportunity for new challenges. Being at a new healthcare facility may allow you to use new equipment and learn new procedures and protocols.
  7. Maintain strong clinical skills. Keep working towards being the best nurse you can. Use the clinical skills you have and don’t shy away from learning new skills.
  8. Don’t take things personally. It is not always easy, but try not to take any attitude from permanent staff personally. Some staff members may have had a bad experience with a nurse traveler in the past. Bad experiences sometimes stay with people longer than good ones.
  9. Accept responsibility. If you make a mistake, don’t try to cover it up in fear you will look bad. Keep in mind, everyone makes mistakes occasionally. If you mess up on the job, take responsibility and try to learn from the mistake.
  10.  Stay positive. One of the best ways to make a good first impression is with a positive attitude. While everyone has bad days and gets in a bad mood, try to limit complaining and negativity.

Land your next travel nurse contract

A career as a travel nurse can be exciting. You’ll be able to explore new places as you build your skills. Is it really for you? Explore the truth about being a travel nurse to see if this role might be a fit.

With these tips, you’ll be more than ready as a first time travel nurse and will soon be wondering about your next travel nurse contracts. You might wonder: Do you get breaks between travel nurse contracts? The answer is up to you. You might find an opportunity that you want to jump on right away or you might want to take some time to recharge before starting a new contract.

Either way, we invite you to apply for a travel nursing job through Sunbelt. We are committed to bringing you the best opportunities and benefits and to setting you up for success.

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