Sophia Khawly
Sophia Khawly
March 10, 2017 - 4 min read

7 Most Common Mistakes Made by New Travel Nurses

Beginning a career as a travel nurse can be both exciting and frightening. Hearing about some of the mistakes seasoned travelers commit when first starting out, you realize that plenty of us have made the same ones.

Here are 7 mistakes that seem to happen to nearly every new travel nurse.

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1. Charting Errors

All nurses have made a charting error at one time or another and travel nurses can be even more likely to make this mistake because they’re always having to learn new record systems. Depending on the facility, it seems like the initial orientation to the electronic medical record system is only as long as one class.

With only have a few hours to learn a foreign charting system, some nurses chart in the wrong section, failing to document the completion of a task appropriately. If this occurs with medications, the next shift will not be aware which could cause some serious problems.

Do whatever you can to make the most of your orientation by taking notes or repeating what you learn out loud. Remember, it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.

2. Making Assumptions About Policies and Procedures

Assuming that certain policies and procedures are universal is an easy mistake. When there is a critical lab value, does protocol say to contact the physician or does protocol allow you to act?

Not knowing the protocols by the time you are on your own can be detrimental. No one likes having to call the doctor in the middle of the night, especially to be yelled at.

While you may not be able to memorize all of them immediately, it’s important that you know how to find protocols quickly. Which brings us to the next mistake new travel nurses tend to make.

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3. Not Asking For Help

A big mistake new travel nurses make is not asking coworkers for help. Since travelers are expected to be experts in our field, we do not want to seem inexperienced by asking for help.

New travel nurses should find a mentor on their unit that they can go to for questions. It is better to ask for help than to make a medical error and endanger a patient’s life.

New travel nurses will be surprised to find that many of the permanent nurses can be helpful and kind.

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4. Procrastinating On Housing Search

As travel nurses, we often have two options for housing. We can either have the agency book our apartment and furnish it for us; or we can opt for a stipend to find our own housing.

Many times, travel nurses opt to find their own housing because they can find something reasonably priced, and keep the remaining funds.

However, some new travel nurses make the mistake of underestimating how long it actually takes to find housing on their own.

I know plenty of new travel nurses that ended up having to live on a friend’s couch for the first couple of weeks because they couldn’t find housing as quickly as they thought they would.

Make sure you start your housing search well in advance or just take agency housing for your first assignment and get to know the housing options for the next time you’re assigned there.

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5. Paying For More Space Than You Need

Another mistake regarding housing is getting more space than you need.

I know a new travel nurse that rented a two-bedroom apartment during her first assignment. She quickly regretted spending all that extra money when she realized she did not need all of that space.

Make sure you factor in your lifestyle before deciding how much room you need.

Are you the the type of person that likes to come home and unwind after a long day at work by curling up with takeout and Netflix? If so, you might appreciate a little extra room to spread out.

Or do you use your apartment more like a crash pad, only spending time there to shower and sleep because you’re always out exploring your city? If that’s the case, you might not mind a small apartment for a few weeks in lieu of spending that money on things you’re actually doing.

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6. Settling On Whatever Housing The Agency Offers

New travel nurses often do not realize that they can turn down a housing option if they do not like it or if it is in a bad area.

If do you opt for the agency to find you housing, make sure you do not settle for housing that you would feel uncomfortable in. You can also ask for an upgrade in furniture such as a king bed vs a queen; or a pull out sofa vs a regular one.

7. Not Asking For More Money

The transition from working permanently to becoming a travel nurse often comes with better pay. Since the pay is usually more than their current salary, a lot of new travel nurses just accept the first offer provided to them.

They don’t realize they can negotiate and ask for more money. New travel nurses should do their research. If you’re heading to California from Florida, you should be aware that the pay should almost double.

Often new travel nurses will compare their pay and benefits when starting a new assignment with other travel nurses on their floor. It is quite disappointing to learn that you’re doing the same work for less money. Don’t let that happen to you.

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These mistakes are pretty common amongst new travel nurses. While you may be able to avoid the ones mentioned here, many travel nurses can agree that these experiences are part of the learning process of becoming a travel nurse.

In the end, they are only small ripples in an adventurous and stimulating life of being a travel nurse! Luckily, the travel nurse pool continues to grow, and new travel nurses can easily find peers to help guide them through the process.

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