Kelli Leach
Kelli Leach
March 19, 2021 - 5 min read

Easing Anxiety for First-Time Travel Nurses

Travel nursing is a great opportunity for increased pay, adventure, and professional development but it’s a big lifestyle change.

Here’s why it’s totally normal to feel a little nervous about your first travel nursing experience — and some tips to make the transition to travel nursing a little bit easier.

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Longtime Dream

My husband Skylar and I have both always had a passion for travel. As our relationship developed, travel nursing was always our goal. People sometimes ask us: “Why do you have to travel?” But the truth is we don’t have to, we want to! We love the excitement!

We worked toward this nursing career goal very hard in the early years of our relationship. So when the time finally came to take the leap we were ecstatic! No hesitation whatsoever. We couldn’t pack our bags and hit the ground running.

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Panic Sets In

When we arrived in Los Angeles for our first travel nursing assignment, we both had a moment of panic. Fast forward to our first night arriving at our first travel assignment in Los Angeles, California.

We arrived in the city, checked in to our apartment, and went to grab a bite to eat at nearby Universal CityWalk. While sitting at dinner we both called our moms to let them know we had made it and all of a sudden we both broke down crying.

It’s funny to consider that now. But we had been so excited to finally be living our dream that we never once stopped to think about the fact that we were moving from a small rural town in Missouri to the second-largest city in the US.

We panicked — though in hindsight, that seems like a normal part of the process.

We had visited L.A. a couple times on vacations, but all of a sudden the thought of living there on our own was terrifying. We didn’t know where the grocery store was, or Target — or which neighborhoods were safe and which ones we should avoid.

At that moment, our excitement turned to terror. What had we done?! What were we thinking?! Why didn’t we just take an assignment in Kansas City or even Dallas before we ventured halfway across the country on our own?!

We cried through most of our dinner but by the end of it, we had decided to stop worrying. We would go to our new home, make the bed, and get some rest. We vowed that we would wake up in the morning with new attitudes and start exploring our new city so that everything wouldn’t be so scary or unknown anymore.

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New Day, New Outlook

In truth, we were exhausted. We’d been traveling for a week, and before that, we had been packing, sorting our belongings, and saying goodbye to friends and family. We were physically and emotionally drained and all of that was compounded by the realization that we were (for the first time ever) truly on our own and far away from home. But after a good night’s sleep, we both woke up excited again and ready to venture out and do some exploring.

We got very lucky on that first travel assignment and made new friends quickly. It was great to connect with nursing co-workers who shared our interest in adventure.

We literally spent nearly every single non-working day of that four-month contract doing some sort of new activity. We stayed busy and we had a blast. That first assignment was all we had dreamed travel nursing would be and we were officially hooked! It took some time to adjust but once we got over the shock, we realized it was a lifestyle we love!

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How To Make Your First Travel Nursing Experience Easier

Here are some tips to help you with any first-time travel nursing jitters — and hopefully they’ll help you avoid the panic we felt.

What are some universal experiences all first-time travelers go through?

I believe everybody’s experience is unique to their own personal situation and background. But I would imagine that most first-time travelers experience some sort of anxiety on some level similar to what we did. It’s just a new experience and there are a lot of unknowns until you are actually there, living it. Do your homework ahead of time, try to go into it open-minded, and just enjoy the incredible opportunity.

What are common fears of first-time travelers and how do you combat them?

A common source of anxiety for rookie travelers (or veterans for that matter) is the new hospital and its staff. Are they traveler friendly? Will I catch on and fit in fast? How much training will I receive? Will I be good at this? Will I like being a travel nurse?

When you’re doing your job search, it’s good to ask plenty of questions during the interview process, including:

  • Does the hospital have travel nurses often?
  • How have staff nurses responded to travelers in the past?
  • What will orientation be like?

Asking these questions can help you get a sense of what the new assignment might be light before you commit to it — and ease any anxiety about your travel nursing job.

What are some tips for fitting in at a new hospital?

Even while you’re still interviewing, it pays to be friendly.

Once you start your job, it helps to be flexible and a team player. You can’t walk into a hospital and say “Well at so-and-so hospital we did it this way.” That’s a sure-fire way to annoy the staff. Embrace new ways of doing things at different hospitals. Make it clear that you are there to help and learn, and staffing nurses will usually embrace that and be very welcoming.

Logistics to consider as a first-time travel nurse:

  • Travel nursing jobs will generally require that you have at least two years of experience.
  • Make sure you have your licensing and any required paperwork complete before you leave for your assignment. Double and triple check with your travel nursing agency that your file is squared away, your licensure is up to date, and you are ready to begin your assignment.
  • Have in writing the date, time, and location you are supposed to show up to work. Often times the first day isn’t at the hospital, so make sure you know where you’re supposed to be, when you’re supposed to be there — and what the dress code is.
  • Be aware of how long it should take you to get from your home town to your assignment and allow extra time for possible mishaps along the way (including wrong turns, bad weather, or a flat tire). Scouting the commute beforehand will reduce day-of stress and help get you there on time. You want to make a good first impression!
  • If you are taking company-provided housing, make sure you know when you can move in and when you have to be out (typically 2 days on each end).
  • Working with a travel nursing agency will give you the evaluate several different travel nursing assignments. Different assignments will mean different housing stipends, compensation packages, and types of healthcare facilities so a recruiter can help you compare plenty of choices at once.

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Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Adventure

Travel nursing is a lot of fun. That first assignment can feel like a leap-of-faith.

But if you prepare yourself ahead of time as best as you possibly can, you’ll be better able to enjoy the adventure.

Before you know it, travel nursing will feel like second nature — and you’ll be enjoying the adventure!

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