What I learned in my first year as a Travel Nurse
When you look back on the years you have spent traveling, what first comes to mind of things you wish you would have known when you were first starting out? Are there things you would have done differently or wish someone would have told you?
Meet Sydney, she is a traveling ER RN with GetMed Staffing! There are so many things she wished she would have known when she started her career as a travel nurse. But she’s here to share with you all the lessons she’s learned, adventures she’s had, packing must-haves, and all the things she wishes she would have known during her first year as a travel nurse.
What was your original thought of “travel nursing”?
I didn’t really have any idea what it was going to be like. If anything, I felt like it was these carefree people that get to go wherever they want and practice nursing. I also thought, what a great way to get to see what parts of the country I like before ever having to commit to it.
How has this changed after your first year of traveling?
It’s so much more than just traveling. You get to travel, yes, but you also get to see things you may not have seen as a staff nurse. Being in the ER, you see a lot of things, but you also tend to see the same things over and over. With traveling, I get to see the same things, yes, but I get to see how others do things that I’ve never seen before or try the things I’ve learned from other hospitals. It also teaches you how to become an independent nurse. It’s either sink or swim, so you have to feel comfortable asking questions. No one expects you to know everything. They want to know that you are competent and that means asking for help when you don’t know something.
How do you prepare for housing? Is there anything to be aware of before starting a new assignment?
I typically like to get an extended stay hotel, especially if you don’t know the area at all. It helps give you a sense of security because there’s always someone there to make sure you’re okay. Another option that I’ve started looking into is an Airbnb or a Vrbo. Some say it’s cheaper and they feel more at home. I like to stay wherever they allow dogs :). The nice thing with hotels is that most places offer discounts for staying longer than a month AND because you’re a travel nurse, they usually discount it on top of that. Definitely, something to look into!
Should you work with multiple agencies?
I think that everyone differs in their opinions here. It’s nice to be able to see what other companies are offering to their staff and to go back to your recruiter and see if they have anything available with that hospital. Do what feels right in your gut. You’ll know you’ve found the right recruiter when you talk to them. Your recruiter is your friend. And it should feel like it. I talked with the largest travel company in the US when I first started and when I hung up the phone, I knew instantly it wasn’t for me. When I spoke with MULTIPLE people at GetMed, every single one of them made me feel like I was their only priority. So, long story short, I personally wouldn’t partner with multiple and have multiple recruiters looking for jobs. Just an easy way to burn bridges. But being on the platform is a good way to keep an eye out for what’s out there.
Are breaks possible? How to schedule time off?
Breaks are definitely possible. You just have to decide when you’re going to do it. I’m not a break type of gal. Once you start getting paid weekly, it’s hard to stop and take a step back, for me anyway. But, after a draining contract, it’s definitely good to step back for a second and do some self-care. Schedule time off as far ahead in advance as you know. If you know before your contract, have your recruiter put it in there. Almost every manager I’ve met or worked with is usually pretty good about getting you the time you want off. They want you there to help, so if they have to switch some things around, they’re usually willing to do it. But you also have to be flexible with them, you don’t want to be a pain in their butt. It’s a give and take for sure.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned on and off assignment?
Take advantage of the call-offs. When they call you and ask if you want to work, do it. It shows them you want to be there, and you want to help. It goes a long way, for sure. Also, go in with an open mind and be willing to learn. If you go in acting like you know everything and you don’t need anyone's help, it shows. Go out of your way to say thank you and that you’re appreciative of all of the help. It makes a huge difference. SAVE MONEY. I know it’s easy to see the money you’re making and want to start spending instead of saving. I promise, if you act as though you’re only getting paid biweekly, you’ll be surprised how quickly it all adds up. Off assignment, enjoy it. Just take time to breathe. Being away from home is hard, so enjoy it while you’re there.
Is there anything you wish you would have done differently?
Off the top of my head, no. I’ve enjoyed everywhere I’ve been and all of the people I’ve had a chance to make friends with. Just take everything in stride, it’ll all work out.
How do you get out of your comfort zone at new locations?
I forced myself to grow and learn and adapt. You have to want to better yourself because if you’re travel nursing for the money, it gets real old real quick. You’re getting to visit all these amazing places and meet all these people, soak up all of the knowledge they’re willing to give you. Ask lots of questions, especially the doctors. I know it sounds scary, but they want to answer questions most time because it shows that you’re interested in learning.
Any advice you’d give a new travel nurse?
Stand up for yourself and what you know. Trust your gut. All these new people are testing you, even if they don’t know it consciously. If something doesn’t feel right, say something. If you’re not sure, say it. Just take the leap. It’s so worth it, and if you hate it, no harm no foul, you can be a staff nurse. But if you’re even considering it, do it. It’s so worth it.
How do you pack and move locations every 13 weeks?
Well, being close to home, I usually chuck it up and don’t pack as much. Being 10 hours away, I way overpacked. All the things you think you’re going to wear, you probably won’t. I would say pack your scrubs and then 5 interchangeable outfits, so you don’t have to pack nearly as much. You have to be okay with living on the road and kind of living out of your car. If you don’t mind that, then you’re golden.
What are your necessities as a traveler?
Comfy scrubs. Hands down. You’re living in them, so you might as well be comfy. I usually like to bring my own pillow and things that remind me of home. You want your space to be as comfy and homey as possible. Otherwise, you get homesick and it’s not as great of an experience. You also need thick skin. Not everyone is going to like you, and that’s okay. But you need to be able to continue to do your job without letting others impact it. Over the last year, I would say there’s maybe only been 1 person that I really didn’t like working with, but overall, everyone has been amazing.
Sydney McLeran, BSN, RN
Looking for your next adventure?
If you’re looking into the life of traveling as a healthcare professional the possibilities are endless! Have questions about getting started? Read your guide to traveling as a healthcare professional now! If you’re a seasoned traveler but are in the market for a new recruiter, GetMed would love to help you!
GetMed Staffing is for YOU!!
Whether you’re a newbie or seasoned traveler, choosing a healthcare staffing agency that puts your needs first is the #1 goal. There are a lot of agencies out there, and knowing you are working with a company you trust and that will have your back is so important! At GetMed Staffing, you aren’t just another traveler on our team, you are what makes us, us! <3 We genuinely care about you achieving success, so we’re here day or night to help you when you need it. If you are interested in joining the GetMed team or learning more about us contact us today!