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Six tips for adjusting to your new travel nurse assignment

Most individuals who get into travel nursing are naturally adventurous, curious and up for a challenge, but it doesn’t make the day-to-day demands of the job and acclimating to a new assignment any easier.

Changing hospitals, getting to know new colleagues, finding a place to live, learning a new community—the whirlwind lifestyle of a travel nurse takes some getting used to. One of our own team members, Brandy Caulwell, who just started her third contract in the past year (moving from Missouri to North Carolina and then to Arizona), shared some tips on how to make the most of always being the newbie.

Explore your new home.

Give yourself some extra time to get to know your surroundings before your assignment officially starts. Be sure to drive your actual commute before your first day, but also make a point to explore what your new home has to offer. Allow yourself the time to unpack, get settled and get to know your town or city and surrounding areas. Visit the local hot spots and attractions. The first day of your new job often includes lots of sitting and paperwork, after all, which is even more reason to get active the day before!

“I go see sites, and most of the time its outdoorsy things, like parks and lakes. I go hiking or run on the trail. I keep active the very first day because that way I can sleep better at night and I wake up refreshed in the morning and ready to go for the first day.”

Ask questions and listen.

Nursing is no place to pretend you know what you’re doing when you’re struggling internally. From day one, don’t be afraid to ask questions or share that you’re unfamiliar with something. Not sure where to find what you need or how to perform a particular task? Just ask!

“The longer you battle in your mind on whether you can do it yourself or not, the longer that patient is struggling. So you’ve got to make a quick decision and just tell the nurses you’re working with that you need help and that you’re not comfortable doing something. In the end, you’re all a team, so you’ve got to be comfortable asking questions.”

Be resourceful and plan.

When you finish a week of 12-hour shifts, you’re spent, and you don’t necessarily want to do much of anything. Rest is crucial, but as you’re adapting to a big life adjustment, it’s also important to keep yourself (and your mind) busy and learning. From planning your next day off to researching local services (e.g., hairstylist, mechanic, nail salon, workout classes, etc.) to organizing a weekend excursion, activities like these are great for a day off. They’re also a good way to keep you invigorated about the adventure you’re on.

“Feeling homesick or missing my family hit me on a day off when it was rainy and I had nothing to do and didn’t have much space to move around in my little hotel room, so my mind just wandered. After that, if I were ever stuck inside, I’d do a bunch of Googling for different things; and if I had two or three days off in a row, I’d plan, ‘OK, I’m going to go here, I’m going to camp here or I’m going to stay in a hotel here and explore this area.’”

Put yourself out there; be willing to laugh at yourself.

A new assignment means a new hospital and, in some cases, new equipment—some of which you maybe have never seen before, especially if you’re moving from a smaller facility to a larger, better-equipped one (or vice versa). Whether it’s the instruments or processes, be prepared for some potential blunders, but be more prepared to make light of those moments and learn from them.

“You have to be willing to look like a fool, to be honest. Sometimes, it’s the only way to get through the day and it helps you build rapport with your team.”

Get to know your team members and support them.

When you’re operating as part of a team every day, it can be challenging to get to know each individual on a personal level, but you’ll have ample opportunity to get to know your co-workers’ strengths and unique capabilities when it comes to nursing. As you observe and work alongside everybody, you’ll discover who excels where, who’s good at what, and where you can best fit in to support the team as a whole.

“Maybe one person’s really good at IVs and this other person’s not great but can help you with something else. It’s just a learning thing to figure out gifts and talents of all of your team, and eventually you’ll just fit right in with them and mold yourself or jump in to help them.”

Stay curious.

This is my favorite piece of advice. As long as you remain eager to learn and grow and you make an effort – whether you’re in the ER or on a hiking trail – you’ll thrive.

“That curiosity and just wanting to travel and see things – even if you had a bad day at work – that mindset helps pull you out of it a little bit when you actually have time to go explore.”

Our team at Ethos Medical Staffing is committed to helping every nurse find their path to explore, and to ensure smooth transitions with every new opportunity. Travel nursing isn’t for everybody, but once you get an assignment or two under your belt, you may not be able to imagine doing life any other way!

Jeff Stoner

Jeff Stoner

Jeff Stoner, RN BSN CCRN, is the founder and CEO of Ethos Medical Staffing and is a former travel nurse. Jeff, along with his wife Lindsey (who is also a travel nurse), is dedicated to empowering medical professionals in their exploration and pursuit of adventure, opportunity and service. You can connect with Jeff on LinkedIn.

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