Crystal Gustafson
Crystal Gustafson
February 6, 2017 - 4 min read

Traveling Nurse Orientation – What to Expect

When it came to travel nursing orientation, my biggest concern was usually trying to figure out how I was going to get up early and stay awake all day. Travel nursing orientation isn’t something to be worried about. Most hospitals run their orientations very similar. If you have experienced one nursing orientation in your life, than you should have a general idea of what to expect.

What to expect from your hospital orientation

In most cases, hospital orientation lasts approximately 4 days from 0800-1630. The first two days usually consist of your typical “learn our mission” stuff with general introductions to the administrative staff. During this time you will most likely cover JAHCO required material such as HIPAA, ethics, infection control, and ergonomics (body mechanics). You will most likely receive your badge during this time, so make sure you’re lookin’ good that day. During this time you will be combined with all of the other travelers and newly hired permanent staff. My favorite part of nursing orientation is listening to introductions. I like to hear where people are from and a little part of their story. This is an excellent time to meet other travelers and exchange info; I met some of my closest friends in travel nursing orientation.

On days 3 and 4 of hospital orientation, you will most likely learn how to use certain medical equipment such as IV pumps, glucometers, beds and lifts. Make sure that you have glucometer access before you start your first unit based orientation. There is nothing worse than having a DKA patient with no glucometer access. It is also during this time that you will probably go over the hospital’s computer charting system. This is probably the most important part of hospital orientation. Make sure your username and password are working before your first shift. Most places will hand out cheat sheets for you to bring with you to your unit to help you with charting. It is important that during this time you ask questions if you don’t understand. Make notes on your cheat sheets to help you navigate the system. I also like to write down what the minimum requirements for charting are and how to chart specifically on care plans. Many times the regular staff on the floor doesn’t know the proper way to chart care plans, so make sure you ask in orientation.

At some point during hospital orientation you will have a chance to tour your unit and meet your manager. This is a good time to ask about your  schedule. You should have already discussed time off prior to starting your contract, but your manager may have filled you in, so make sure your requested time off is honored.

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Get the most out of your unit based orientation

After you are all finished with hospital orientation, it is now time for unit based orientation, which is typically your first shift of the week. I recommend arriving to your first orientation day at least 30 minutes early toTravel nurse orientation make sure your badge, computer access, and pyxis access are all working properly.  Most hospitals only give you one day with a preceptor and then you are on your own. Your preceptor will show you the ropes; they will give you the codes to the doors, show you where the linen is, teach you about the flow of the unit, go over protocols, teach you how to get a hold of doctors etc… I recommend keeping a notecard with your passwords, door codes and physician phone numbers in your pocket until you remember them to save you a little time. Separate all of the papers and cheat sheets you got from hospital orientation and only bring the ones that are useful in a folder with you to work; also, make sure you have the name of your manager and the phone number of your unit programmed into your phone just in case you are late or have to call in.

If you have a good recruiter, than you should be well prepared for orientation. They will usually email you an itinerary of general orientation a week before your start date with the name, phone number and address of the hospital. I recommend driving to the actual place of orientation sometime before the first day to get an idea of the parking and traffic situation. There are certain documents that are always required at each orientation. Make sure you have the following with you at all times:

  • Driver’s License
  • ACLS and BLS cards
  • Nursing License

Be prepared – Questions to ask your recruiter before starting orientation

Not all travel nursing orientations are exactly the same. Some states, such as California have certain requirements, like a fire card that requires a special class that you have to attend within 30 days of hire. Other places will allow you to bring a TB mask fit test card from a previous employer, others will require you to have it done on your own time, and others will do it for you during hospital orientation. There are some instances when a hospital requires that you complete certain online tests or competencies prior to your start date. I have even had a hospital require me to learn their computer charting system prior to arriving. You will be paid for your time, but you will be expected to do it on your own. Here is a list of questions to ask your recruiter prior to starting orientation:

  • How do I get paid? Do I clock in or fill out a time sheet?
  • Where will my TB mask fit test be done?
  • Are there additional classes or certifications I will have to take after orientation is complete?
  • Do I have to wear specific colored scrubs?
  • Are there online learning modules that have to be completed prior to starting?

Your recruiter should be able to answer some questions about orientation but it is ultimately up to you to get the information you need. One thing to keep in mind when considering your next move, is that if you extend your current contract, you do not have to go through orientation again and often times you will get an extension bonus. Starting a new contract can be both exciting and stressful at the same time. Take the time in nursing orientation to organize yourself so you can enjoy the rest of your contract stress free.

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