What Is a Day in the Life of a Travel Nurse Like? - TNS 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

You’re ready for a change. 

Although you love what you do, it’s time for something new — a little adventure to shake up your nursing career. 

You’ve worked with travel nurses, and while their tales of travel and variety sound tempting, you want to make absolutely sure travel nursing is for you before you start packing your bags.

What does a day in the life of a travel nurse look like? What are their responsibilities, and is it really as exciting as it sounds?

If you’re curious about a travel nurse’s daily routine, keep reading. We’ll take an up-close look at a day in the life of a travel nurse to help you decide if it’s the right move for you.


Table of Contents


a day in the life of a travel nurse


What Does a Travel Nurse Do During a Typical Day?

If you’ve been nursing for more than a minute, you know there is no such thing as a “typical” day. 

A travel nurse’s day looks much like that of a permanent nurse, with duties that can include: 

  • General patient care
  • Conducting physical exams
  • Encouraging and counseling patients
  • Communicating with family members
  • Coordinating care with other healthcare providers
  • Taking and monitoring vital signs
  • Administering medications

All while staying up-to-date on current advances in health care, medications, and treatment plans.



Travel Nurse Daily Routines Depend on Nursing Specialties

Though all nurses do many of the same things no matter their specialty, nurses working in specialty units will have different duties than a general RN. 

For example: 

  • An ICU nurse normally only looks after 1-2 patients and may need to deal with special equipment and communicate with multiple doctors. 
  • An ER nurse will likely have numerous patients in a day and treat a variety of illnesses and injuries.




What Is a Day in the Life of a Travel Nurse Like?

If you’re just getting started as a travel nurse, here are some tips that will help get you off on the right foot.


Arrive Early

A new city, new housing, new climate — there won’t be much that’s not new!

That’s why, when you’re taking a new travel nursing position, you’ll want to arrive at your destination early. We recommend giving yourself two to three days to settle into your new space.

That gives you plenty of time to work through any hiccups that may pop up during the move. It also gives you time to explore your new neighborhood, discover the nearest grocery store, scope out the best restaurants, and get an overall feel for the lay of the land.

And if you’ve moved to a new time zone, that can be its own challenge, so having a few extra days to get acclimated will be a huge help.


Be Prepared for the First Day

You can never be too prepared, and that certainly goes for your first day on a new travel nursing assignment. 

Make sure you know the fastest route to your new health care facility and don’t forget to investigate the traffic patterns for the times of the day you’ll be en route. You wouldn’t want to get stuck in traffic your first day on the job. 

Check out the parking situation and decide where you’ll park and how long it takes to walk to your floor.

You’ll also want to have all your nursing necessities packed up and ready to go for the first day, such as your: 

  • Scrubs (double-check color and style requirements)
  • Comfy shoes
  • Stethoscope; and
  • Any documents you may need, including your:
    • Licenses
    • Certifications; and 
    • Vaccination records


Navigate the Health Care Facility

Whether your new assignment is in a local doctor’s office or a huge, metro hospital, you’ll want to try to know your way around before the first day.

Consider getting a map of the facility to study so you’ll know where you’re going. Or try visiting a day or two before you start to get familiar with the layout. 

And be sure you know where to check in for your first day of orientation. Occasionally, a hospital’s orientation isn’t on the hospital campus. Learning this information ahead of time can help alleviate any unwanted surprises on your first day.



The first day of your travel nurse job will consist of orientation. A typical travel nurse orientation is usually one to two days long and may include one-on-one shadowing.

The length and details of orientation will vary by healthcare facility and nursing profession (ICU nurse, ER nurse, pediatric nurse, etc). Each hospital operates under different protocols, so it’s important to pay close attention at orientation to properly acclimate yourself to your new travel nurse daily routine and procedures. 

Don’t be shy about asking questions during orientation sessions. Be sure you understand things such as how to look up providers when you need to get in touch with them, the hospital’s standards for patient care, and anything else that comes to mind.


travel nurse daily routine


Relating to Your New Coworkers 

A new travel nurse assignment means you’re the new kid on the block. 

You’ll have many things to learn about your new coworkers, such as:

  • The right person to ask for clarification on policies or procedures
  • Who the go-getters of the group are; and
  • Who shares your sense of humor 

Don’t stress, this won’t happen overnight. 

Come into your new assignment with a positive, ready-to-learn attitude. Let your new coworkers see that you’re willing to work hard and ready to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

Chances are, you’ve been assigned to a position where you are really needed and your coworkers are happy to welcome you aboard.


Getting in the Groove

Travel nursing assignments are generally three months long, and nurses often work three to four 12-hour shifts per week. 

After the initial orientation and “new” phase is over, you should be able to get into somewhat of a routine — although the details of the routine may change from day to day. 

Don’t be discouraged if it takes a couple of weeks before you start feeling at home. 


Take Time for Adventure

There’s more to travel nursing than just nursing. There’s exploring to be done!

Make the most of your days off. 

You’ll want to plan plenty of time to take in the sights of your new city. Hop online and see what locations are recommended — investigating local favorites along with touristy attractions. 

Wherever your assignment takes you, get out and see everything you can. Take in the history, culture, and people who live in the area. Get your new colleagues’ opinions about interesting places to visit and things to do. This can also be a great way to break the ice and forge a connection with your colleagues. Maybe they’ll even offer to accompany you on your excursions.

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we understand what a travel nurse’s day in the life can look like — and we want to help you make each day amazing.

If you are looking for a company that has your back and is devoted to helping you succeed, Trusted Nurse Staffing is here for you. 

Fill out your profile today to get started. 




A Day in the Life of a Travel Nurse: Meet Jacob and Madelyn

Jacob’s Typical Day in the ICU

Jacob’s latest travel nurse assignment is a 24-bed intensive care unit. In keeping with the state ratio, today he is caring for two patients — one who is unconscious, battling a brain infection, and in need of constant monitoring, and another who is recovering from heart surgery and is fully alert, surrounded by family. 

Without the help of nursing assistants, Jacob is the primary bedside caregiver for his patients. He handles everything, including: 

  • Checking vitals 
  • Turning patients 
  • Bathing
  • Administering medications; and 
  • Educating patients and their families

His role is one of a universal caregiver, and he finds the position gratifying. Jacob enjoys being able to care for the patient 100%, as opposed to having to delegate portions of care to other nurses. And he values being able to get to know the patients more intimately than he would in some other type of nursing position.

After he checks on his unconscious patient’s vitals, he spends a few minutes visiting with the patient’s wife about her husband’s condition. 

Next, he moves on to help the heart surgery patient practice breathing exercises. This patient speaks only Spanish, so the patient’s adult children act as translators. Through them, Jacob explains the proper way to breathe into the monitoring tube. 

He senses his patient is experiencing pain, but the patient and his family refuse his suggestion for pain medication. Jacob sees this as a chance to reassure the family and help them feel comfortable about their loved one’s care.

He discovers the patient is worried about the addiction risk of pain medication, and Jacob has the opportunity to provide a few minutes of patient education. The patient decides to try a dose of pain medication, so Jacob uses the Intensive Care Unit’s electronic medication dispensing system to retrieve the meds. He double-checks the patient’s name and order to prevent medication dispensing errors. 

Once the medication has been properly administered, Jacob continues to closely monitor his patients for signs of progress or complications. 


travel nurse day in the life


Madelyn’s Typical Day in the ER

On the floor above, Madelyn is beginning her shift as an Emergency Room travel nurse.

She spends some time reviewing the charts of the patients in her assigned zone. Today she has four rooms, two of which already contain patients.

Then she does a quick assessment of the empty rooms, noting the linens and supplies that need to be restocked. 

It’s a Monday, the busiest day in the ER, and Madelyn hurries to assess her two patients. She starts IVs, draws blood, and administers medications before restocking the empty rooms. Then it’s on to charting the work she has completed and documenting medical histories and medication information. 

One patient is ready for discharge. Madelyn removes the IV, takes an outgoing set of vital signs, and thoroughly educates the patient with:

  • Instructions about her follow-up visit for chest pain
  • Warning signs that warrant a return to the ER; and 
  • How to properly take her prescription meds at home

There’s a slight lull in activity, the calm before the storm. Madelyn has just enough time to refill her coffee, clean the rooms and prepare for the typical Monday morning onslaught of patients. 

She checks in on her one existing patient. The young woman has abdominal pain, so Madelyn gives her a contrast dye to drink and sends her off for a CT scan. Then she administers medication for pain and nausea along with IV fluids to assist in rehydration.

A new patient arrives via ambulance complaining of leg pain. The patent has a history of blood clots and takes blood thinners. While his leg isn’t red or swollen, Madelyn provides a quick assessment to rule out  deep vein thrombosis.

Next, she looks over imaging results for the patient with abdominal pain. The CT scan is completely normal, so she prepares the patient for discharge.

Two more rooms fill with new patient arrivals. One, a 91-year-old female complaining of respiratory distress and shortness of breath, comes via ambulance. The patient’s normal oxygen saturation of 100% is down to 84%, so Madelyn immediately places a nasal cannula on her nose and positions her for optimal oxygenation. Concerned she may be suffering from possible congestive heart failure exacerbation or pneumonia, Madelyn starts an IV, draws the necessary lab work, and prepares the patient for a chest x-ray.

Madelyn’s other new patient is a 28-year-old male complaining of fever coupled with facial swelling in his face and neck. It presents as a typical case of the mumps and Madelyn administers IV fluids, draws blood work, and screens for strep throat and mono.

The lab results for the 91-year-old are in, revealing heart failure exacerbation. Madelyn gives her a diuretic to help remove fluid from her lungs and improve her oxygenation. The medications will cause the patient to begin urinating every 15 minutes. And since she’s 91 years old and not ambulatory, Madelyn will need to help her to the toilet each time she calls.

The possible mumps patient is sent to imaging for a CT of his neck. They’ll be checking for masses or soft tissue swelling. 

A new elderly patient needs to be assessed for weakness and hypotension. Madelyn rules out dehydration, urine infection, and other infectious processes. She then draws labs, collects a urine sample, and checks the patient’s orthostatic vital signs before administering fluids.

Next, Madelyn applies a complex wound dressing to a patient who just received stitches on his elbow. 

She checks on the possible mumps patient, assists the elderly woman to the restroom, and rechecks her vital signs. Madelyn is happy to note that the woman appears to be feeling much better.

The mumps patient is confirmed with an amylase level and is ready to be discharged. 

A new patient arrives, a female in her 60s who recently underwent ablation surgery for cardiac arrhythmia. She presents with shortness of breath and tightness in her chest, especially on exertion. Madelyn does an EKG, draws her labs, and provides an assessment. She then orders a chest X-ray and echocardiogram to rule out atrial fibrillation. Although the patient is stable, Madelyn opts to keep her on the monitors for now. 

It’s just past noon, and Madelyn finally has a chance to grab a quick snack as she braces herself for the afternoon. 


Ready for a Travel Nurse Adventure? Trusted Nurse Staffing Will Help You Find the Perfect Assignment and Support You Each Step of the Way

If you’re ready to experience a day in the life of a travel nurse for yourself, Trusted Nurse Staffing would love to help.

As a travel nurse with TNS, you get the best of all benefits, including:

  • The highest pay rates in the industry 
  • 24/7 access to a real person who can answer questions or address concerns
  • Housing, meal, and travel stipends on top of your regular wages (and usually tax-free) 
  • Sign-on, completion, and referral bonuses
  • Great insurance benefits
  • A 4% match 401(k)
  • And much more

Getting started is as easy as creating a profile. Get started today and begin building the life you’ve been dreaming of.