Are you a nurse who is considering dipping your toe into the field of travel nursing? If so, you probably have a lot of questions.
Travel nursing is an exciting field, but it comes with its share of challenges — and there can be a big learning curve.
If you’re an RN wanting to become a travel nurse, check out our comprehensive list of first-time travel nurse tips. We’ll cover everything from what you should know before signing your contract to how to approach your first day.
Table of Contents
- 6 First-Time Travel Nursing Must-Dos: What Every Travel Nurse Should Know Before Signing a Contract
- How To Prepare for Your First Assignment as a First-Time Travel Nurse
- Great Expectations: Stepping Up For Your First-Time Travel Nurse Assignment
- Trusted Nurse Staffing: Ready To Help You Take on Your First-Time Travel Nursing Assignment
6 First-Time Travel Nursing Must-Dos: What Every Travel Nurse Should Know Before Signing a Contract
If you’ve decided to transition from being a staff nurse to trying out the world of travel nursing, there are some things you should know.
Sure, the basics of the job are the same — but plenty of things will feel completely different. If you know what these are and prepare yourself ahead of time, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
Here are some of our favorite tips for first-time travel nurses.
#1: Decide If You’re Going To Get a Compact License
Licensing for nurses may be different in every state, which can make things tricky for a travel nurse.
Fortunately, many states are part of the Nurse Licensure Compact. If you live in a compact state, you can apply for a multistate license that allows you to travel as a nurse in many different areas without having to get a new license each time.
Having a multistate license isn’t mandatory for travel nurses, but it certainly makes things easier when you’re taking jobs all around the country.
#2: Have all of Your Necessary Documents Organized
Staying organized is one of the keys to success when you’re preparing to travel. The agency you work with and the healthcare facility where your potential job is located will have many required documents.
These may include:
- License information
- Employment records
- Health and immunization records
- Certifications; and
- Any other relevant documents
It’s a good idea to have everything in order and at hand before your phone interview in case any questions come up about these documents. You may also want to have them with you for reference when you’re reading over your new contract.
#3: Do Your Research
You have your reasons for wanting to try travel nursing, but that doesn’t mean you already know everything you should about all aspects of the job. Fortunately, there are tons of travel nurse resources out there to help you learn about the job before you accept your first assignment.
Some of the things you’ll want to research may include:
- Which company you want to partner with
- Where you want to work (this applies to both facilities and parts of the country)
- What fields/specialties you’d like to try
- What experienced travelers have to say about the job
- And more
#4: Choose a Reputable Travel Nursing Agency
There are many different travel nursing agencies out there, so choosing the right one for you can be a big job. We may be biased, but we’re pretty sure Trusted Nurse Staffing has everything you’ll need and more.
With excellent pay/benefits packages, bonuses and stipends, and 24/7 access to your recruiter, you’ll feel both supported and rewarded in your new field.
Our Pronto job search makes it easier than ever to find the perfect travel nursing gig. Pronto empowers you to take control of your career by helping you find great opportunities right when you need them.
At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we love guiding first-time travel nurses through this experience — and we want to help you, too.
#5: Update Your Resume
If you have been working as a staff nurse for a while, make sure your current resume is up-to-date and that all your skills and expertise are on display!
You may especially want to highlight any special talents or experience that will benefit you in the world of travel nursing.
#6: Understand the Ins and Outs of the Contract You’re Considering
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Your contract is one of the most important components of your job, and you should make sure you understand it thoroughly.
Read and reread your contract before signing it, and make sure you know things like:
- Your pay rate
- Opportunities for overtime and per diems
- What benefits package you’ll be receiving
- Cancelation requirements
- Details of insurance packages
- And more
How To Prepare for Your First Assignment as a First-Time Travel Nurse
Once you sign up with a travel nurse staffing agency and have accepted your first job, here are some things you can do to make sure you’re successful when you arrive.
Review Your Assignment/Contract Information
When you have signed on the dotted line, make sure you know your contract inside and out so you’re aware of what’s expected of you.
Focus on important things like:
- The length of the contract
- Whether you will be floating or staying in the same department
- If you have the option to extend your stay
The more you know about the specifics, the more you’ll be able to focus on your orientation and training when you arrive at your new travel nursing job.
Coordinate With Your Staffing Agency About Any Travel and Housing Details
One of the great things about working with a travel nurse staffing agency is that they can help you find accommodations for your new gig.
If you’re unfamiliar with the area and want them to completely take care of your housing, they can do that. If you’d rather find your own place and plan how to get there, they should offer stipends to cover travel expenses and housing.
Agency recruiters may even be able to connect you to someone who needs a roommate or wants someone to take over their lease.
Having a staffing agency handle all the details is a great way to ease the stress of a first-time travel nurse’s transition.
Get To Know the Area You’ll Be Working In
For your first travel nursing assignment, you may want to pick an area you’re already somewhat familiar with so everything won’t feel quite so new.
If you take the plunge and sign a contract for a place you know nothing about, you should have some time to research it. You’ll want to find out things like:
- The safest parts of town/if there are any places you wouldn’t want to live
- What housing is close to your healthcare facility
- The area’s public transportation
- If ride shares are a good option
- What you’d like to do on your days off
To help you feel comfortable transitioning from your home to a new city or state, get as much information as you can on things that will apply to your new life there.
Pack — But Don’t Overdo It
Most travel nursing contracts are 13 weeks long, although yours may be shorter or longer depending on what you negotiate. So you’ll need more than a weekend bag, but you definitely only want to pack the basics.
That means you can leave your French horn at home — unless, of course, you just can’t go to sleep at night until you’ve played it.
When you’re preparing to pack, consider:
- What you’ll need to do your job successfully
- What you’ll need to live comfortably
- What will be provided for you where you’re staying
- What sentimental items you just can’t live without
- What season(s) it will be during your stay
- How easily you can get anything you left at home (Amazon delivery is your friend!)
When packing, a strategy of “less is more” usually works well. Consider using a packing app to help you get started.
Set Up a Budget
Every area is different, and you need to be prepared for how you’ll pay your bills and spend money. Try to get an idea of what the cost of living is like in the area where you’ll be working. (If it’s on the higher side, your pay and benefits should reflect this!)
Set a budget for everyday expenses — but don’t forget to give yourself some wiggle room to go out and explore the area. After all, that’s part of what travel nursing is all about.
Prepare Your Pets
If you’re a first-time travel nurse with pets, don’t forget to consider them when you’re planning your departure. Call your vet and make sure their immunizations are up-to-date, and make any appointments they may need before you hit the road.
You can also ask your vet if they have any recommendations for emergency care in your new city — just in case. You want to be prepared for anything that could come up while you’re on assignment.
Great Expectations: Stepping Up For Your First-Time Travel Nurse Assignment
If you’ve followed our recommendations thus far, you should be ready to walk through the door of your new healthcare facility and get to work. Here are some additional first-time travel nurse tips to help you experience those first few days with no problems.
Go In With a Good Attitude
You’re the newbie on the unit, so you want to make a great first impression with staff and patients. It’s okay to anticipate that there may be some chaos or overwhelming moments as you learn the ins and outs of a new facility and routines, but keep a positive attitude.
Show Off Your Skills — Respectfully, Of Course
You’re not there to show up other nurses — but don’t be afraid to get in there and help when it’s needed. You became a nurse because you care about helping people.
When appropriate, step up and demonstrate your skills while ensuring your new coworkers know you’re there to be a team player.
Arrive Early On Your First Day
Being late makes a bad first impression, so you should plan to arrive extra early for your first day of a new job. Remember that this area is unfamiliar to you, and you want to allow plenty of time for any traffic issues, parking, and navigating a new building.
You may even want to do a trial run of your route to work a day or two before your first shift if possible. This will help ensure that you can handle any hiccups that may arise.
It’s fun to dream about all the places you’d love to work as a travel nurse, but you may not always get your first or even second choice of location. If you can be flexible about the places, specialties, and facilities you agree to work in, you may be able to find travel nurse jobs more quickly.
Once you build up your level of experience, you can usually be a little more selective about where you’d like to work.
Get To Know Your Coworkers
Take time to get to know your coworkers. They don’t have to be your besties, but they will be an important part of your life while you’re away from friends and family. Be friendly and try to find out what you may have in common.
Don’t burn bridges and never ghost on an assignment — the travel nursing community is small, and you don’t know when you’ll reconnect with someone in the future or want to use them as a job reference someday.
Travel nursing can help you make friends while building your community and your connections!
Trusted Nurse Staffing: Ready To Help You Take on Your First-Time Travel Nursing Assignment
There’s a lot to learn for first-time travel nurses, and Trusted Nurse Staffing wants to help you every step of the way.
Our recruiters have loads of experience guiding nurses who are new to the field and helping them make the most of the traveling life.
The Pronto job search helps you easily search for available jobs by location, discipline, or specialty. You can also get important information, including weekly pay, assignment length, and shifts up front.
Contact us today to get started.