Sarah Gaines
Sarah Gaines
April 23, 2019 - 3 min read

How to Ramp Up Quickly on a New Travel Nurse Assignment

Starting a new job is stressful and with travel nursing it may be more so — the hospital or facility more than likely needed you yesterday and your training is often condensed into a short time frame.

As a new traveler, adjusting to a new hospital every three months was challenging, but now it’s become my favorite part of the job. Over the years, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that ensure my first days on a new assignment run smoothly.

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You don’t have to get ready if you stay ready.

In other words, come prepared. Bring hard copies of all of your important documents in a binder on your first day of orientation. The travel nurse agency you’re employed with and the hospital you’re contracted at both require specific documents like your nursing license, certifications, and health records. On occasion, travelers were prevented from starting because [insert important document] is missing and the nurse is unable to work until the document is received. Save yourself time and undo stress by having your documents readily available if needed. CamScanner is a free app that I use to upload all of my important documents to my phone — problem solved!

Also, bring a lock for your locker — most hospitals won’t provide one for you. And, bring a lunch. Don’t assume that you’ll have ample time to run down to the cafeteria to grab food.

Pro tip: Bring coffee and baked goods to break the ice with your new co-workers. Write a brief note on the box introducing yourself and expressing your excitement. Nurses appreciate the gesture!

Ask for the preceptor you want.

Arrive early your first day and speak with the charge nurse (or whoever makes the assignments) and be assertive about who you want as your preceptor. As a traveler, your orientation is usually 1 to 3 days max, so it’s important that you maximize the time you have — securing a preceptor that’s the right fit for you is a good start.

For example, the charge nurse may assign you with nurse Betty who’s been working at the hospital for 30 years. Nurse Betty may be awesome at patient care, but as an experienced nurse who’s ready to hit the ground running, you’re not there to “learn to be a nurse.” You have a couple of days to learn the computer charting, so if nurse Betty isn’t comfortable using the computer, then you should speak up and request a “super user” on the unit.

Also, let the charge nurse know what you need to feel comfortable by yourself on the unit, so you’re able to have assistance from your preceptor the first-time around like for a full admission and/or discharge. As a labor and delivery nurse, I always ask to see at least one cesarean and one vaginal delivery during my orientation.

Take good notes.

It’s impossible to learn every single thing in 1 to 3 days, so bring a notebook and write down all of the important things that you’ll need. Make sure you know how to call the charge nurse, nurse manager, and code team during an emergency. Also, make sure you know where the code button is in every room! Write down all of the codes to the locker room, bathroom, pyxis, storage room, etc. Print out important policies and procedures you may need to refer to in the future. And, don’t be afraid to ask questions — every hospital runs differently, so it’s not a good idea to assume anything. If you’re unsure, ASK. Don’t put patient safety at risk because you don’t want to ask too many questions.

Keep an open mind.

Most importantly, always keep a positive attitude. No place is perfect and it’s not your job to point out everything you see wrong or try to “fix” anything either. Keep an open mind and remember that most things can be done more than one way.

Focus on your patients and concentrate on providing the best care for them. No matter where you’re working or what your experience is, it’s all about perspective. A difficult assignment can be a learning opportunity. Being floated can add new skills to your resume. If the hospital isn’t “traveler friendly,” that’s okay — you can do anything for three months.

Ready to start your next assignment? Connect with a recruiter today!

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