Travel nursing is a great adventure! You get to travel to new places and meet amazing nurses and patients. On the other hand, it means you are have to go to unfamiliar locations and work with new people, which can be intimidating and even hard at times. To help make your nursing experience easier, we talked to two experienced travel nurses, Angela Oberster and Synthia Kimble, who have worked in nursing for more than 20 years and been travel nursing for the past five years. Here are their travel nursing tips to make your travel experience the best it can be.
1. Work with the right recruiter
In travel nursing, your recruiter is your best friend and advocate. They’re the ones who find you the jobs, help you with all your paperwork, organize lodging, and manage other details of your assignment. And they should be your go-to person when things get rough.
Angela Oberster, who is an ER nurse, works with two recruiters, Rachel and Claudia. She says they’re always available, and when she asks questions, she knows she’ll always get an honest answer. Angela says they feel like sisters. She even has photos from Rachel’s wedding.
“If you can’t trust your recruiter or feel like they’re even on your side, then it’s just a bad experience altogether,” Angela says. Finding a recruiter who is the right fit is critical to a good travel nursing experience.
2. Find an agency that cares
Angela explained that this close relationship with her recruiters hasn’t always been the case in working with other travel nursing agencies. She prefers smaller agencies like RNnetwork because they often pay higher rates, plus you have a closer relationship with your recruiter.
Synthia Kimble, who is also an ER nurse, explains that she loves how much RNnetwork takes care of her. When she’s working long shifts back-to-back, she’ll sometimes forget to submit something like a paysheet. A large agency might penalize her, but at RNnetwork, her recruiter just patiently calls to remind her.
“From my credentialing to the payroll to insurance to everything, RNnetwork hasn’t let me down,” says Synthia.
3. Embrace the adventure
Both nurses agree that one of the coolest things about travel nursing is the travel part. Angela has been to Vermont, North Carolina, and Missouri. Once her husband retires, she’s planning on heading all the way west to Alaska, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. Synthia started travel nursing because she loves adventure, and now she has been all over, including Alaska and even to the Virgin Islands.
Synthia asserts that travel nursing is all about positive thinking. “Any of us have the choice in any circumstance that comes up to look at it one way or the other,” she says. “We can look at it as a problem or we can look at it as a challenge and adventure.”
Travel nursing has the potential to take you to many of the places on your bucket list, as well help you to discover hidden gems you would never have thought to visit.
4. Expect things to be different
If traveling isn’t enough of an adventure, working in a new hospital is just as adventurous. Each hospital has its own culture you’ll need to adapt to, unique medical conditions you may encounter, and new technology to learn.
Angela tells how she learned about a wild bush in Vermont that’s worse than poison ivy, while snakes in North Carolina posed a completely different threat. Learning about and adjusting to all these changes will help make you a better nurse.
5. Be true to yourself
Synthia prefers working in smaller hospitals because the emergency room operates at a slower pace, which helps her get to the core of why she’s a nurse: caring for the patient. In her career as a nurse, she has been pressured by leadership in the past for taking “too much time” with patients. While it’s true that triage is important to hospitals, she has often had patients tell her she’s the first nurse who has truly listened to them, which she feels is very important.
“You listen, you ask questions and you find what’s really on the patient’s mind,” said Synthia. Just because you’re traveling, don’t be afraid to maintain your own style of nursing.
6. Remember why you’re a nurse
Synthia took a long path to become a nurse. She went to nursing school right after high school, but after a doctor criticized her for focusing on a patient, she left nursing and worked a variety of other jobs. But she always felt drawn to nursing. When she went finally went back, someone at a high school reunion told her, “You’ve always been a nurse.” Even in high school, she had always taken care of everyone.
Meanwhile, Angela started her career as a dietician. When one of her patients had a seizure, she felt helpless that couldn’t do much to help. That one moment convinced her to become a nurse, and she started nursing school just a year after the incident.
When nursing gets rough, it’s important to step back and remember the importance of what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it in the first place.