Tips for Preparing for a Travel Nurse Assignment
Have you just accepted your first travel nurse assignment and are thinking, “Now what?!” or have you been at it a while and thinking there has to be a better way to prepare for a new assignment? We have been at this for five years now and have about got it down to a science. That being said, we are always tweaking the way we prepare for an assignment to be as efficient as possible. And we have learned over the years that every traveler has their own way of doing things. My advice is to use my tips as a guideline and make your own personal tweaks along the way.
Know and respect your deadlines
Once you verbally accept a travel nurse assignment things start moving fast, and you have to keep pace! Your recruiter might put you in touch with customer service and housing, depending on the company, and you will have a list a mile long of things they need you to complete. Just keep in constant communication with them and get them everything they need asap. This will range from licenses, ID, miscellaneous paperwork, tax forms, and testing…lots. of. testing. Each position/facility/agency has different requirements, but do not procrastinate. If you don’t have your stuff done on time, you will be sent home (or won’t even be deployed), so just get it done in a timely fashion.
Tips on how to ensure you have the Must Haves
- Create a “Travel Binder” with all of your documents you need for assignments. It’s so much easier to have all of your important papers in one spot each time.
- Communicate with your agency representative helping you prepare for the assignment. Skyler will often tell them something to the effect, “I am emailing all of my licenses/immunization records/certs/etc today, I work the next two days but will get my testing done on Friday, and will make it to my scheduled drug testing Monday morning. What else do you need?”
- At the end of each day leading up to the assignment, ask whoever you are working with at your agency what you still lack to have your file in compliance for the contract. They appreciate you staying on top of things and keeping in communication with them.
- Make sure to read your contract thoroughly so you know what you are agreeing to. If something doesn’t sound like what you had verbally agreed to, discuss it with your recruiter immediately.
Important questions to ask yourself before you leave for assignment
While you are working on making your file compliant, it is also important to get things at home in order for while you are gone. This is going to mean something different for everybody, depending on your specific circumstances. We always try to spend time with all of our close friends and family when home (and eat at our favorite restaurants – haha). Some things to keep in mind regarding your permanent residence when preparing for a travel assignment include:
- Do you have pets? Are you taking them with you or leaving them at home? If leaving at home, do you have reliable care lined up for them? If taking them with you, have you discussed this with your recruiter?
- How are you planning to handle your mail?
- If leaving a house, do you have somebody to keep an eye on things for you? Keep in mind the season and what you need to prepare your home if leaving vacant (i.e. winterize it, keep yard mowed, etc.).
Save the headache – know the difference between needing and wanting
Once your affairs are in order and your file is in compliance it is time to start thinking about what/how to pack for a travel assignment. As I described above, every traveler I have met has their own unique way of doing things and it involves a lot of trial and error. But in general, LESS IS MORE! As you pack, think to yourself, “Do I like this item so much that I am willing to unpack and re-pack it 4-6 times a year?” You will be surprised with how little you really need. Before we had a baby, we finally got our travel items down to what would fit in the back of our Suburban, which was perfect. Moving was quick and easy. We got to take enough items to feel comfortable, but not so much we were stuck un/packing for a week at the beginning and end of each assignment (like we do now). Trust me, it gets old fast if you take too much junk! I love shoes, so I tried to bring all of my shoes in the beginning. But I soon realized that it just wasn’t worth it to me to lug around a huge box full of shoes when I might wear most of them maybe once a year. So now I travel with a few favorite, versatile pairs. On the flip side, our Keurig and Crock Pot have definitely earned their keep on our travel list, whereas somebody who prefers to just eat out probably wouldn’t need those items. Below is a list of items I recommend taking. You will notice a lot of stuff not on the list that you might think are must haves. But for us, we rebuy things (at the dollar store) for each assignment (like plates, trash can, etc.) in order to keep our packing load a bit lighter.
- Bedding & Pillows – think bed in a bag or something similarly compact.
- Clothes & Scrubs – appropriate clothes/shoes for the weather where you are going and what you plan to be doing. This is something we whittled down a lot over the years.
- Toiletry & Beauty Items – blow dryer, straighteners, hair brush, etc. I would recommend buying as many toiletry items once you are there though. They are heavy and can be messy.
- Kitchen Items – we bought a kit that has all the staples in one box – then you have to decide what else you would use enough to justify bringing (coffee pot, blender, crock pot, etc).
- Vacuum & Swiffer
- TV if your agency doesn’t provide one (or if they do and you like to have 2 TV’s).
- Laptop & Printer – these are essential for us, but I suppose you could use the apartment complex business center if it’s not a big deal for you.
- Medications & Prescriptions (including contacts and glasses, etc.) – we actually keep a small medicine box that we travel with.
- 1-2 Hobby/Entertainment Items – Skyler brings golf clubs and I bring my photography gear and we take a deck of cards.
- Important Documents & Nursing Binder/File.
- Things to get you started until you make a trip to the store. I like to always pack 1-2 rolls of toilet paper, some Clorox wipes, bottled water, travel packs of laundry and dishwasher soap, etc. Just a few essentials to get you started.
The power of the the list
I have an initial shopping list saved to my computer that I print before each move. I usually try to make it to a Target or Wal-Mart and a grocery store within the first couple of days. And for us, this shopping trip is costly and usually takes a while. You have to essentially restock a house each time, so budget accordingly. These lists are just a start to get you to thinking about what specific things you need to take care of as you prepare for a travel nurse assignment. But of course, everybody’s situation is different. My advice is to start your own “to do” list and as you think of something new, add it to the list! And try to pack as minimal and compact as possible! It will make your experience as a traveler much more enjoyable, I promise!