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Congratulations, you’ve earned a job in one of the hottest industries out there today!  Traveling nurses are in demand. By choosing travel nursing, you’re helping patients in need across the country, all while meeting new people, exploring new communities, and earning a desirable salary.

Traveling nurses are a unique healthcare professionals who provide quality care to patients on the move. As a first time traveler, you might be unsure of what to pack, how to stay connected with co-workers or your agency.  You might face some challenges as you transition into this lifestyle.  Fortunately, there are several tips and tricks that can help make your journey easier and more successful. In this article, we will discuss the most important tips for first time traveling nurses, helping you hit the road with confidence.

1. Get Organized

Organization is key in the fast-paced travel nursing environment.  Jobs move quickly, so agencies expect you to have your licensure and compliance in hand, ready to submit.  Consider getting a compact nursing license and keeping it up to date.  Compact nursing licenses are a great way for first time traveling nurses to get the most out of their experience. They provide flexibility and make you eligible for employment in many states, all with one license.

A compact nursing license is an agreement between two or more states that allows nurses to practice in any participating state without having to apply for separate licensure in each area. This can be especially helpful if you are looking to take travel contracts in multiple states or explore opportunities with remote employers located outside your home state. The Compact Nursing Licensure Simplification Act (CNLSA) was put into effect by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) in 2017 and currently includes 39 participating states.

It is important for first-time travelers to research the compact license application process to be sure that they meet all the requirements.  Nurses should ensure their current nursing license is up-to-date and active before applying for a compact nursing license. It’s crucial that traveling nurses keep their compact nursing license current by renewing it every two years to maintain eligibility for work.

Other common compliance requirements include, COVID vaccination card, MMR vaccination, Varicella vaccination, flu vaccination, Hep B vaccination or declination form, BLS card, ACLS card, current TB test, current physical, and a valid driver’s license.

Create a medical records portfolio and keep it up to date.

Traveling nurses often face unique challenges when it comes to keeping their medical records organized and up to date. For those just starting out, having a well-maintained portfolio of their medical records is essential. Taking time to create an organized system for these documents can help traveling nurses stay on top of their career.

Medical records portfolio should include details such as license information, certifications, immunization records and recent health screenings – anything that might be necessary for the nurse’s next job. Storing this information in one easily accessible location is key for staying organized and prepared for potential employers or other inquiries about their professional qualifications.

Regularly updating this portfolio is also important for any traveling nurse looking to make sure they are meeting all necessary requirements and staying current with industry standards.

Update Your Resume

As a first-time traveling nurse, your resume should be up-to-date to reflect your qualifications.  This helps you stand out from competition.  Be sure to list any certifications of specializations you possess, where you’ve worked most recently, the type of facility it was, and any special commendations or skills you learned there. Consider adding any awards received as well as volunteer work done in order to demonstrate additional competencies and dedication. Always make sure the information is accurate, current, and contains titles and appropriate dates.

Have Excellent Letters of Professional Reference

Traveling nurses are an essential part of the medical profession, providing much-needed healthcare services anywhere in the world. Letters of recommendation/reference are a crucial part of the hiring process.  They provide potential employers with valuable insights into your skillset, character, and work ethic.

To ensure that you get great references for your applications, here are some tips to consider.  Make sure that you have established positive relationships with supervisors throughout your career. Talk to them about what they can say specifically in their letter so they know exactly what type of information would be beneficial to include. Also reach out to colleagues who have worked closely with you and could speak highly of your knowledge and ability as a nurse.

2. Be Flexible and Adaptable

Some travel nurse companies will boast that they can place you in your desired location as a new travel nurse. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. If you are open to new locations and settings, you’ll be more sought after, and it will be much easier to get started as a travel nurse. After you gain experience, you may be more selective when it comes to the places you work. 

3. Choose a Comfortable Location

Traveling nurses often move around the country to take advantage of the opportunities in their field. Whether it’s your first time as a traveling nurse or you’re an experienced professional, it’s important to choose a comfortable location for first time traveling nursing job that suits your lifestyle and needs.

When searching for a place to work, consider climate, cost of living and proximity to family and friends. Although many locations may have desirable working environments, be sure to look at other factors like weather and affordability when making your decision. You should also research the area before signing any contracts; make sure there is public transportation available if needed and read up on local attractions that appeal to you.

4. Your Travel Nurse Contract is Your Lifeline

As a first time traveling nurse, you may be feeling nervous and excited. You have the unique opportunity to explore different cities, states and even countries while gaining valuable experience on the job. While your new journey will no doubt bring great rewards and experiences, it is important to remember that you will only get access to facilities which are included in your contract. Your contract is your standard.  If it’s not included in your contract, it’s not part of your employment agreement.

It is essential that you read over every aspect of your contact and employment agreement before signing it.  This helps prevent any misunderstandings or unrealistic expectations on both sides, you and your new employer. Not all contracts are created equal, so make sure you understand what benefits come with yours! If there is anything unclear, or something you think should be included, go ahead and discuss this with your recruiter before committing to anything.

5. Pack Light, but Smart 

You want to pack light (you’re travelling after all), but smart. If you have friends or family that are traveling nurses and have seen them overstuff their SUV or minivans full of boxes and bags, that’s not the way to go. Most nurses’ biggest regret is that they over pack and don’t use half the items that they ended their upbringing.  It’s heavy and expensive to lug around extra items.

Most assignments for traveling nurses are around 13 weeks.  You want to think about every item you want to bring and why, and also think about what you can live without. You want to pack versatile clothing and shoes, which you can wear repeatedly for different situations.

When you check-in to your housing, go grocery shopping. Do not bring the food with you; it’s a hassle. Remember to check ahead of time to find out if your housing has a kitchen or not.  This will help you understand what types of meals you can plan.  Necessary things like shower curtains, cleaning supplies, trash cans, etc., can be bought when you get there. Try to keep your bags to mostly clothes, shoes, toiletries, and electronics.

6. Connect With Other Travel Nurses

Living on the road can be lonely, especially when you are in an unfamiliar place; try to make friends before getting to the area. You can find other traveling nurses who will be working in the same area on Facebook, Instagram, or Linkedin. There are plenty of social networking sites and groups to join. When you join these groups, you can ask seasoned nurses for advice and recommendations on local sights and restaurants.

7. Get to Know Your Co-Workers

The best way to settle into your assignment is to get to know the nurses and doctors you’ll be working with for the duration of your stay. It might be a nice idea to leave a thank you note on a nurse’s locker who has helped you get into the swing of things in your new facility. These gestures go a long way.

You can also ask them about their favorite local spots, or invite them to coffee after your shift. Don’t worry if you don’t get along with everyone, but do try to connect with a few people, it helps make your stay more comfortable.

8. Arrive Early on Day One

It’s important to plan ahead before taking on a travel nurse assignment. One of the most crucial steps for first-time travelers is arriving early on day one.

Setting aside extra time to arrive at your destination can make a world of difference.  This will help you feel relaxed and prepared for your assignment. Aim to get there at least a day before you officially start work so that you can ease into your new environment and adjust to any changes in climate, culture, or lifestyle. This will also give you the chance to research transportation options, locate nearby groceries stores, or just take some time for yourself to relax after a long journey.  Planning ahead and making sure you arrive early on day one, will set you up for success and certainly make a good impression with your supervisor.

9. Prepare For Your Pets

As a traveler, there are many things you will need to consider before you leave home. One thing that tends to be overlooked is preparing for your pets.  Having an action plan in case of an emergency can save them from unnecessary stress and anxiety while you’re away. Here are some tips on how best to prepare for the furry members of your family during the time that you’re gone:

Plan ahead by arranging for someone you know and trust – like a family member, or close friend – to look after your pet in case of an emergency. Discuss their feeding schedule, medications, and habits with this person beforehand so they are prepared when the time comes.  Do trial runs.  If your pet has never been away from you, take an afternoon away, do a few short day trips, help them understand that this is normal, so they don’t panic when you leave.

10. Decide On Housing

For first time traveling nurses, deciding on a place to live can be one of the most challenging aspects of their new lifestyle. With the flexibility to move often and explore different parts of the country, it’s important to consider all of your housing options before committing. Finding the right home away from home that suits both your needs and budget can be difficult, but with these helpful tips you will have no problem finding a comfortable place to stay as you travel.

When looking for temporary housing options, consider furnished apartments or short-term rentals such as Airbnb or VRBO listings. These types of rentals allow travelers convenience and affordability while giving them access to amenities like kitchens and living spaces which are not available in hotels. Additionally, if you are traveling with family or friends it could be more cost effective than getting multiple hotel rooms.  Check social media sites for traveling nurses, they often have recommendations on accommodations, as well as notes on where not to stay.

11. Do Your Own Research

Traveling nurses are an integral part of the healthcare system, providing vital assistance to hospitals and medical centers. Before taking the leap into travel nursing, it is important to do your own research.

Investing time upfront into research will help make sure you have all the information you need before making any decisions. Find out the different types of travel assignments available and what skills are necessary for each. Research potential destinations and learn about the local culture, attractions, and cost of living. Consider if there might be any language barriers or special requirements needed to work in certain countries.

12. Chat With Other Travel Nurses to Understand Your New Work Environment

Traveling nurses face the challenge of adapting to a new work environment every time they move to a new city or state. This can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Chatting with other travel nurses is one of the most important tips for first-time travel nurses. It’s an excellent way to get advice and to feel prepared for the transition.

Talking with others can provide valuable insight into your job and provide insight into what life is like in that particular location. Other travel nurses may be able to give recommendations on restaurants, attractions, and neighborhoods – all important things to consider when deciding where you want live while on assignment. Speaking with other travelers will allow you the opportunity network and build relationships before ever arriving at your destination.

13. Touch Base with Your Recruiter Frequently

If there is an issue with your assignment, your recruiter should be the first to know. You want to check in with them at least once or twice a week. You can text, call, or email them to keep in contact. You’re going to be busy working lots of shifts, so it’s not always the most convenient to call.  We recommend texting or emailing to start, and setting up a call appointment for anything more serious. If there is an issue with your paycheck, housing, or finding your next assignment, your recruiter is the one who can help you right away.  Remember, recruiters love to know when things are going well too!  They often only hear if there is an issue, so taking a moment to send them a quick text about how much you love your new assignment means a lot and helps build your relationship with them as well!

14. Have A Positive Attitude

New nurses who choose to take on a traveling assignment may be anxious about the experience, but having a positive attitude is essential to getting through it. Remember why you chose to become a traveling nurse in the first place – to serve others and grow your career! Remind yourself that no matter how difficult things may get, you will gain valuable experience while helping those in need. Make sure you provide your body with proper nutrition, exercise, and self-care.

15. Be Ready to Show Your Skills

The nursing industry is full of opportunities for growth and new experiences. Many nurses are now looking to make the jump from local hospital settings to travel opportunities. For first time travel nurses, it’s important to be well prepared in order to make the most of your experience.  Be confident, and ready to step in to help.  Facilities appreciate someone who listens and adapts, but also someone who brings unique skills.

16. Your Assignment is Temporary, But the Feedback You Receive is Permanent

It is important to take all of your assignments seriously and to always do your best work. You want to pitch in wherever there is a need for your services, get to know the hospital or healthcare provider’s leaders, and volunteer when you can to take an extra shift that they are having issues having to fill. This creates the impression that you are a team player and a great nurse. You want as much positive feedback as possible to go back to your agency.  This will help you in your next assignment and allow you to be more selective too!

Final Word to First Time Traveling Nurses

Starting a new job can be stressful, especially when you are away from home.  These tips are meant to help you enjoy the experience and set yourself up for success. If you are thinking about jumping into the world of travel nursing, explore the jobs at TLC Nursing. The team at TLC Nursing is knowledgeable and experienced, and they have great assignments to set you up for success.