As a travel nurse, you may be brand new to nursing, travel, or both. Even if you’re a seasoned veteran in the nursing field, there is always something new to be learned in this challenging and exciting field. Read on for some common rookie mistakes and how to avoid them, plus advice for any travel nurse, travel LPN, or travel CNA on how to best prepare for your next assignment.

Not knowing policies and procedures

When you assume that policies and procedures are the same across the board, you’re making a common mistake. For example, if you see a critical lab value, do you need to contact the physician first or does the protocol let you act immediately? No one expects you to memorize all policies and procedures right away, but it’s important for you to know how to find the information quickly.

It’s also a good idea to spend some time going over protocols when you begin a new assignment, which is why quality, thorough training is so important.

Not reading your contract

Contracts are a vital piece of your career as a travel nurse, travel LPN or travel CNA. While they can be long and involved, it’s in your best interest to read carefully before signing. Here are some things to check for:

  • Completeness and accuracy
  • Your assignment dates
  • Training details
  • Pay rate and schedule
  • Travel reimbursement
  • Shift hours
  • Bonus requirements
  • Requested time off
  • Any special agreements, such as housing for pets

Your recruiter or travel nursing agency should be able to answer any questions you have, and correct your contract if necessary.

Not asking for help

As a travel nurse, you’ll often be looked at as an expert in your field. As such, you may not want to appear inexperienced or weak by asking for assistance. While most people don’t like asking for help because it can feel like a challenge to your sense of competence, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so. Oftentimes, it prevents mistakes and oversights and helps build a bond between coworkers.

If you’re new to travel nursing, finding a mentor can be a wonderful way to learn, grow, and receive help when you need it. Often, permanent nurses are happy to help and are more than willing to take a new nurse under their wing.

Putting off searching for housing

If you’re working with a travel nursing agency, you may not need to go through the headache of finding your own housing (unless you choose to do so, of course). But if you’re an independent travel nurse, putting off the housing search for your next assignment for too long could mean that you end up in a less than ideal situation.

It’s easy to put off the search when you’re busy with your nursing career and exploring the surrounding area, but starting the search early means that you won’t risk sleeping on a friend’s couch or scrambling for a hotel at the last minute.

If you’re working with a travel nursing agency, they can assist you with finding housing for your next assignment. Another benefit of working with an agency is that if you’re assigned to the same location again, you’ll be more familiar with your options.

Packing too much stuff

New travel nurses can be prone to over-packing. After all, it’s tough to know what to bring on your first assignment, so many assume that it’s better to have too much than too little. Living a minimalist lifestyle has definite benefits when you’re moving from place to place as often as every few weeks, however. Here are some tips to help you travel light:

  • Find out what’s included in your furnished housing. There’s no point in bringing something that will be provided for you.
  • Think about your wardrobe. Pack items that you can layer and that can serve a variety of purposes. It’s also a good idea to research the average temperature and weather for your new assignment during the time you’ll be there and pack appropriately.
  • Only bring the essentials, but include a few touches of home, such as photos or loved ones or a few favorite knick knacks.
  • Remember that if you forget something, you can pick it up at your new location.
  • You can find more packing tips here.

Not being flexible

By definition, travel nursing involves travel. This means that some things are going to be different on each assignment. It also means that you’ll need to go with the flow and not get too set in your ways. Just because the last care facility you worked in did things a certain way doesn’t mean that will be the case on your new assignment. Ask questions, ask for help, and remember that a little humility goes a long way. And don’t forget to laugh! It will help you bond with your new coworkers and not take yourself quite so seriously.