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5 tips for the first day of a travel nursing assignment

Congratulations on your new assignment! Whether you’re on your first assignment or you’re a seasoned traveler, the orientations at all facilities are typically similar. To be exact, that means an extremely short orientation — usually 1 – 2 days — and then you’re thrown from the nest to spread your wings and fly! The nursing care you have down pat, but there are many other components that impact the flow of your day that you should know. Here are five important tips for the first day of your travel nursing assignment to help you get settled.

1. Ask for important numbers and store them on your badge

You wear your badge for every shift, which makes it the perfect place to store quick reference info. Ask for important numbers such as the unit phone number and codes to medication and nutrition rooms and store it on the back of your badge. Write the numbers on a small piece of sticky note and secure with transparent tape.

2. Find out how to get in touch with the doctors

Does your hospital use a traditional paging system, or do they utilize secure messaging? Is the directory found on the intranet or is there a rolodex or folder stored somewhere on the unit? There are days when you’ll need to page the doctor very early on in your shift, and that may be the case on your first day on your own. Go ahead and ask your preceptor about the paging system so you know how it works before the end of orientation.

3. Find out what your aides are responsible for

This is particularly important for vital signs and blood-sugar checks. Some facilities around the country require RNs to obtain the first set of vitals to ensure they are completed prior to the first med pass. CNAs can also check blood sugars at some facilities but not all of them. Other tasks such as discontinuing foley catheters and IVs are skills that CNAs have privileges to complete. Find out what is permitted at your facility as this gives you an idea of how you need to structure your day. Heavy emphasis on the vital signs and blood sugars!

4. If you have a brain that works, stick to it

Travel nurse on first day of assignment talking with woman and child

Yes, we’re talking about the one in your head, but also about your report sheet. If you have a tried and true report or organization sheet that you use to plan your shift, stick to that. Your department may have copies of a universal report sheet that is used by the nurses on that floor. But for the first week, it could make your transition more efficient if you use what you’re already familiar with. Create one less thing to learn during orientation by eliminating having to adjust to a new report system. Of course, revise your report paper to fit your patient population as time goes on, if necessary, but don’t fix what’s not broken.

5. Do a practice round

If you happen to arrive to your new city early, go ahead and map out or drive the route to work. Or, at the end of your hospital orientation day, walk the route from the parking lot to your specific floor. Alleviate some “first day on the floor” jitters by having an idea of where you’re going. Keep in mind, the hospital’s address won’t necessarily take you to the employee parking lot, especially if it’s a large campus. Pro tip: Once you find designated employee parking, drop a pin and save the exact location on your phone.

There you have it! As time goes on, and with more contracts under your belt, the adjustment period when starting a new assignment will likely get shorter. Remember these five tips and you’ll be acclimating like a seasoned traveler in no time.

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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