Being a Staff Nurse vs. Being a Travel Nurse

Posted on January 8, 2013

The rumors are true. Many travel nursing jobs will land you in high profile destinations with a nice apartment and benefits. You may find yourself kicking back in a lounge chair on the Florida coast, hiking the snow-capped mountains of Colorado, exploring the natural wonders of California or hitting the nightlife of New York City. So, it’s time to give notice and start packing, right?

Before you get too far, consider the many differences from being a staff nurse.

Phone Interviews

Unlike a permanent position, your odds of getting a face-to-face interview for a travel nursing position are similar to those of winning the lottery without a ticket. So, what should you do?

A good recruiter will provide you with an interview checklist so you can ask all the questions you might otherwise forget in the phone interview. Questions like, “What shift will I work?”, “Will I float to other units?”, and “What is the nurse to patient ratio?”, are just a few of the more important ones you’ll want to ask, but ask all you can.

Finding Your Way

Do you know where you’re going? The only thing that feels worse than being completely lost on your first day at work is being lost and late! Scout out the hospital the day before you are supposed to report. Being late is one of the cardinal sins of the travel nursing industry. Don’t show up late on your first day. As a matter of fact, don’t show up late on any day if you can avoid it, because it will come back to haunt you when it’s time to get your end of assignment reference, which is what future hospitals will be looking at to decide if you are a good fit for them. And, no matter what the reason, call your manager and let him or her know if you are going to be late or cannot make it in.

Being Flexible

As a traveler, you have to be flexible. If the unit is slow, you may be asked to float to another unit where you are qualified to work. Just like being on time, your flexibility will be a strong determining factor in your end of assignment reference. Be sure you communicate your willingness to float and what areas you are qualified to float to.

There are also bound to be some hospital politics wherever you go. Your every goal should be to remain neutral. However, if you do somehow find yourself caught in the crossfire, take a deep breath and do all you are able to avoid conflict. When the dust settles, call your staffing agency ASAP! They can often help with conflict resolution.

The bottom line is, travel nursing offers some great rewards, but you have to do your part to meet the challenges. You’re not a staff nurse anymore!

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