Courtni Sladek
Courtni Sladek
July 10, 2017 - 3 min read

The First Month In The Life Of A Travel Nurse

This is it! It’s time to get on the road. You turned in the 7,000 single pieces of paperwork and gave your two-week notice. Fingerprints: check. Drug screen: check. Cancel cable and internet: check.

Your entire life is packed snugly in the back of your car and the travel snack bag is sitting in the front seat with you.

Next stop – your first assignment!

Discover your dream travel assignment here.

Move In Day

Move in day is my favorite! I’m a nester. I love getting out the stuff I haven’t seen in a week and putting it in just the right spot in my new home away from home.

For your first assignment, it’s important to spare some room for a few picture frames from home and maybe your favorite wall hanging to make the space yours.

Getting to know your new area is a fun first-day adventure. Drive to the hospital, scope out the parking and your new Starbucks, check out your the grocery store and Target. If you decide to save grocery shopping for day, two you’ll get the opportunity to try out a new restaurant or happy hour – Yelp will be your new best friend.

If you travel with a pet, I’d also suggest you scope out the nearest vet, or at least the nearest 24/7 emergency clinic (I guess you should do that for yourself too, ha!). It never fails that one of my pups gets into something they shouldn’t at the most inopportune moments. Like midnight on the night before my first day on the unit. That’s not exactly when I want to be scrolling through vet reviews on Yelp (See? New best friend).


Before you get to your new hospital, your recruiter will give you First Day Instructions. Reading and knowing this info well beforehand will really help ease first-day anxiety.

They’ll typically include where to park, hospital orientation dates and times, what building on what day, and what to wear (Spoiler Alert: this will always be scrubs – even if it’s not. Unless you enjoy being a fancy pants. Then by all means, bring dress clothes).

First day of hospital orientation varies by hospital. Some require travelers to go through the entire general nursing hospital orientation where the onboarding process is very similar to new grads or new full-time employees and is a week long. Other hospitals just require some online modules, a few hours with HR for paperwork, and then maybe some computer training and/or skills lab.

After the hospital orientation/onboarding hoopla travelers usually get 2-3 days of orientation on the unit with a preceptor. This is the most important part, you learn where stuff is in the supply room and all the codes to the doors, oh, and also how they do nursing care. I like to take over from the very beginning of day one.

Explore the country while getting paid! Find assignments in your dream city here.

Being the Newbie

Starting over in a new unit is hard. You don’t know anyone, how the unit runs, which person is going to share your off-the-wall sense of humor. If you didn’t have social skills before, you’ll definitely be acquiring them travel nursing.

I’ve found that if you come in with a good attitude, willing to work hard and help out your new coworkers will welcome you with open arms. People are usually curious and want to know all about where you’re from, where you’ve worked before, why you wanted to go into travel nursing.

It’s not hard to strike up a conversation and keep it going. Plus, you’ll be running around asking a million questions during your first shifts on your own. That’s a great way to remember everyone’s names and faces. I’ve left almost all of my assignments feeling like a part of the team. When people find out you’re leaving, a lot of times they won’t even know you weren’t permanent staff in the first place.

On the other end of that spectrum though, there are going to be one or two times where you feel like you were just the hired help (Reality Check: you are the hired help). A lot of the units you’ll be going to have nurses that are already tired and overworked. Although they know you’re one cool cat and appreciate your help, they might not always show it.

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun!

It’s mind-boggling how fast years can fly by (those high school reunions sure have a way of reminding you don’t they?).

Three months goes by at lightning speed. At the beginning of the assignment, the end seems forever away. Yet, one minute you’re getting ready for your first day of orientation and the next it’s your last shift on the unit. All the faces that were once strangers are now friends and you can finally find the tape measures in the supply closet.

When I think about my very first assignment it feels like yesterday, yet here I am five years and 13 assignments later, getting ready for my next new adventure. 

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