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8 tips for new travel nurses

Girl standing on the beach near the water

If you’re just starting out as travel nurse, there are so many things to think about it can be a little overwhelming. Your recruiter can help you with a lot, but you’ll have to figure out other things for yourself. Here are my top eight tips to get you started out on the right foot.

1. Have an emergency plan or contact that is close by

If you can. Even if it’s just your landlord. Someoneeeeee. There can be scenarios that come up that we don’t plan for. For example, after heading back from a trip, a delayed flight and train got me dropped off at a train station miles from my house at 3 a.m. I was originally supposed to get in at 10 p.m. when Ubers would have been plentiful, so I had no reason to plan ahead for delays. After the train pulled off, I was left in the dark, in a bad area of town, with no way home. I was able to call an Uber but it would be 40 minutes until it got there. I called every taxi company and got no answer. The only phone numbers I had were my landlord, the roommate of a friend (the friend was out of town), and the hospital. This area was known for criminal activity and waiting 40 minutes for an Uber wasn’t something I was willing to risk. In the end, I called the police! People laugh when I first tell this story, but then it turns into “Wait, I really don’t know what I would have done either.” Have the contact number of someone. No, my landlord didn’t answer that time, but yours might! The police ended up coming and after continuously apologizing for having to call them for a taxi service, I got home safe and sound.

2. Don’t overshare what you did at your last hospital

As travelers, we are often able to quickly figure out what is and is not working at our new hospital. We have to remember that our job is to go in and quickly integrate with their team and the way they do things. You will absolutely be tempted to share experiences or processes that worked more efficiently at other places you’ve been. Just be careful about what you’re sharing and how you are sharing it. There is a good chance that your new coworkers won’t care or that they may even feel like you are pointing out what is being done wrong. Unless it is super constructive or something they might actually change, try to keep it to yourself!

3. Recognize that making friends takes time

I moved to Colorado for my first travel assignment with plans to make all these new friends and do all the cool hikes that I had researched prior to starting. But on my first few days off I found myself asking “So ummmm, who am I going to do all this stuff with?” I naively thought I would start working at this new hospital and that my new coworkers would immediately start inviting me out. Wrong! Travelers should go into new assignments willing to put themselves out there and also willing to do things alone. We should keep in mind that making friends takes time. First you start working, then you start getting comfortable with your coworkers and vice versa, and then they usually start inviting you out. Sometimes, it can take the duration of your whole contract, which I found happened often!

4. Put yourself out there if you want to make friends quicker

new travel nurse tips - making friends

Over the course of all my contracts, I get more and more comfortable with asking people to hang out and suggesting trying new activities. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out. Other times, we just hang out once or twice. But most times — especially with other travelers — I found many people who were in the same boat as I was and wanted to take advantage of exploring a new place. As far as making friends with core staff, we have to remember we are the newbies and are joining a team of people who already have their lives and relationships in that particular place established. So, they may not think to invite us out and include us in their activities. It’s nothing personal! The thought may not cross their minds until you show that you have similar interests.

5. Join a gym

When I first get to a new city, one of the first things I do is look for the nearest shopping centers, grocery stores, and gyms. I do my research and spend an afternoon visiting all of them. These gym reps want you to join and can sometimes tailor your membership fees to fit you. I always ask about joining and cancellation fees, because these can get expensive when you’re moving every three months. Sometimes they are able to give you a discount or to waive the joining and cancellation fees, and sometimes they can’t. If you can, find a gym that has multiple locations, like Planet Fitness or YMCA. Also, try and make sure they have locations in areas you are interested in. For example, in Phoenix I joined LA Fitness because I loved it and because they had many locations. My next contract was in San Luis Obispo, which had no LA Fitness close by, even though it was in California. After running into this problem multiple times, I ended up joining an online fitness stream that gave me access to tons of different workout programs to do from home. I thought I wouldn’t like it, but I ended up loving it and it cuts out the battle of getting to a gym and dealing with the nervousness of working out at a new gym. Do whatever works best for you to keep moving! It’s easy to stay cooped up in the house when you don’t know anyone yet.

6. Use vacuum seal bags for packing

These are huge space savers for packing your car, moving things into your new space, and for storage. There are tons of vacuum seal knock-off brands on Amazon.

7. Plan for primping

When it comes to finding a PCP, nail technician, hair stylist, etc., I either ask locals or do some research via Yelp. Coworkers or random locals you get in light conversations with often have recommendations.

8. See “alone time” as an opportunity to grow

I refused to wait until I had friends to eat with before trying local spots in town. And even though my fiancé travels with me now, I still take the opportunities I have to get a nice lunch by myself. I love it. Certain activities can be a little challenging or even unsafe to do alone. Before I made friends to hike with in Colorado, I would go by myself. Even though my family was across the country, I would still let my sister know where I was going in case she needed to call a rescue crew. I would tell her the specific trail, how long it should take, and what I was wearing. Just in case! That way, I wasn’t missing out on all the fun Colorado had to offer me.

These are just a few of my tips but there are tons more. I’d love to hear your travel nurse tips too! Please post them in the comments below.

RELATED: 5 reasons travel nursing could be your dream career

About the author

Jennifer Vu

Jennifer Vu is a passionate travel nurse whose goal is to experience as many new cities and cultures as she can while growing her skillset as a nurse. When she’s not taking care of patients, you can find her outdoors hiking, hanging out at the beach, or searching for the best pastries in her new town.

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