How to Prepare for Your First Travel Nursing Assignment

How to Prepare for Your First Travel Nursing Assignment

Mystery. Incentive. Wealth. Purpose. Travel nursing is an exciting career path that is brimming with elements guaranteed to spawn personal and professional growth.

Are you still browsing travel nursing contracts, deciding on whether or not to take the plunge? Maybe you’ve already passed this stage and have accepted an assignment. No matter where you fall on the continuum, these seven tips will help you prepare for your first travel nursing job.

7 Tips for a First-Time Travel Nurse


1. Get organized – Stay organized

Whether you are simply exploring the job opportunities and submitting your resume or preparing to start your first travel nurse assignment – impeccable organization will help you keep track of your contacts and itinerary! Do all of the following preferably before you even start to look at jobs so that you are ready to put in for the ones you want the most.

  • Make sure your nurse licensure is up-to-date.
  • Obtain any additional licensing needed for the area in which you want to work (in advance when possible).
  • Be sure your health certificates for your physical exam, PPD test, and immunization records/exemptions are current (the physical exam and PPD test must be within one year of the contract date).
  • Have current cards that are good for at least another six months for BLS, ALS, PALS or other additional certifications ready to go.
  • Have contact information for two clinical references who were supervisors or managers. Your options include:
    • a performance evaluation;
    • a written letter; or
    • contact details.
  • Have a high-resolution current image with a white background on file.


2. Be Open-Minded

Some travel nursing companies will market the lie that a first-time travel nurse can be placed on any assignment they want. Opportunities abound – do not get me wrong. However, for your first job as a travel nurse, you might have to choose a second or third-choice assignment. Stay calm. Be flexible. Location. Setting. Facility. Pay. Keep your mind open to negotiations and hear out your options. Once you have some experience under your belt, you can be pickier about the travel nursing jobs you choose.


3. Consider seeking an assignment in a location familiar to you

Starting out in a whole new work setting with a new set of coworkers, policies, and situations comes with its own stressors. You might want to pick a location of comfort. A destination you’ve visited before. Or perhaps there are places you could choose where you have friends or family members. Being a bit familiar or having a “home base” in a new location is a great way to calm your nerves and help you prepare for your first day as a travel nurse.


4. Try not to take anything personally

Travel nursing is a stressful job that is fast-paced and filled with impactful and often critical decisions regarding the health of others. If you encounter any negative feedback from a patient you care for or a family member, listen to them. But. Do not. I repeat, do not take it personally. Be sure that you report anything said to your supervisor in order to find out what, if anything, there is that you need to do.


5. Arrive early on day one and know where you are going

Many factors contribute to the length and ease of a commute to work. Furthermore, depending on what the facility is like, just finding out where to park and how to get to your respected setting in the building may pose other potential challenges. If possible, conduct a practice run the day before you start your travel nursing assignment. Drive to the facility at the respected time of your shift and find how to get to your floor. Use this “test run” to help you determine if you are going to need more or less time to make it to work early (at least by 15 minutes) on your first day at your travel nursing job.

6. Ensure your home maintenance needs are covered.

Going away for a travel nursing position when you already have a home base (which is common for many travelers) poses a unique set of circumstances. How will you handle your mail? Is it going to be forwarded to your new address? Will you put the mail on hold altogether? How about your home heating and cooling? Cancel it? Many big questions need to be considered and you need a road map as to how you’re going to manage your home affairs from a different location.

7. Don’t bring everything, including the kitchen sink, with you!

Most travel nursing assignments are only 13 weeks in length. When packing for this time, really try to narrow it down to the essentials. Do you really need to bring all those shoes? Many small non-essential items can be bought at your new location.


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