It wasn’t until I began working in the hospital setting that being a travel nurse became a goal for me. Prior to that, I had never met a travel nurse, much less knew it was even an option. But working on the floor, I met travel nurses from many different states and a few local nurses as well. They always had some type of ethereal disposition — as if they were superhuman — not committed to any floor, management, or hospital. Just floating from hospital to hospital with no home. It’s safe to say, they were gypsy nurses. They didn’t have to go through any of those yearly competencies or staff meetings or be a part of those mandatory committees that many institutions force their staff to be a part of. They were free. I think I wanted to be free too.
Taking a leap of faith
So one day, I took that leap of faith and left my job to become a travel nurse.
I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t nervous. In fact, I kept second-guessing myself and wondering whether or not this was the right decision. But I decided to just go ahead and do it and become a travel nurse.
I left my home city of Miami, Florida, for Zephyrhills, Florida. Up to that point, I had lived in Miami my entire life. I had never left home for an extended period of time, so I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know that Zephyrhills was a real city. I thought it was just some company that bottled water. I was working four hours away from home, and it felt like being in another country or a different world. Miami is a bustling city and a tourist hotspot. Zephyrhills on the other hand, is a rural town, and the people there have a different accent. Everything there was slow, and I remember cows. There were a lot of cows there.
My 5 tips for new travel nurses
After completing my first assignment, I realized that travel nursing wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. There are different variations in the style of nursing but the basic nursing 101 remains universal. You really do have to think critically and use your best judgment to take care of your patients. And travel nurses also have to be adaptable, resilient, and flexible.
Here are some of the tips that were helpful to me on my first assignment:
1. Research the facility
Find out what the facility specializes in. Is the facility a level-one trauma facility? Is it a teaching hospital? Do you have to pay for parking? How far away is the facility from your living accommodations? What is the nurse-to-patient ratio on the floor that you will be working on? Are you required to float to other units and how often?
2. Have a buddy system
If possible, have a reliable friend or family member accompany you to your first assignment. My dad drove with me on my first two assignments. We took turns driving. I drove the first 30 minutes of the long car ride, and he drove the other 3 hours. He helped me look for things that needed maintenance in my hotel room that I didn’t even realize were an issue.
3. Service your vehicle
If you’re driving to your new assignment, servicing your car before you go is very important. Service stations may not be readily available in many small cities or at least the many towns you may pass through before you reach your destination.
4. Have a valid credit or debit card
This comes in handy if you’re getting your housing through your travel agency. Many hotels and apartment complexes may require a credit card deposit that is usually returned upon departure. Usually this is used to defer costs of damage or incidentals.
5. Give yourself more credit
You may not know everything there is to know about nursing in every situation. But remember, you survived nursing school. You’ve also worked at least one year in the hospital setting as a nurse. So give yourself a little more credit. And if you feel like you’re drowning, ask a lot of questions. And if for whatever reason you absolutely don’t feel comfortable in the assignment that you’re in, let your nurse manager and also your recruiter know. They may be willing to put you in an assignment that is more comfortable, sometimes even within the same facility.
Just go for it!
So I survived my first travel assignment. I was even offered an extension which was really nice. If travel nursing is something that you want to do, do your research. Today there’s a wealth of information out there on travel nursing. Sometimes all this information can be a bit overwhelming, so narrow your searches down to your top five companies. Reviews of different agencies can often be helpful, along with the first-hand experiences of the travel nurses you actually work with. Once you make your decision, just go for it. You won’t regret it!