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Tips For a First-Time Travel Nurse

Blog/Tips For a First-Time Travel Nurse

February 22, 2024

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a shift in the nursing workforce across the United States. Before 2020, less than 2% of the total nursing workforce consisted of travel nurses. Since then, more registered nurses have considered pursuing this path, whether for career enhancement or personal fulfillment and flexibility.

Did you just land your first travel nurse assignment or are you thinking about exploring this possibility in your nursing career? In this post, we put together some tips for new travel nurses so you can get organized and feel excited about discovering new places and meeting new people.

Before You Start

Preparation is key if you want to start your journey as a travel nurse. Consider the below factors so you can lay the groundwork for future successful assignments.

Choosing the Right Agency

One of the most important first-time travel nurse tips that will benefit your experience is choosing the right agency. The role of travel nursing agencies is to link registered nurses to healthcare facilities that are looking for extra help over a short period. These agencies provide a wide range of services to help travel nurses, including:

  • Recruitment and screening

  • Selection of jobs

  • Travel and housing arrangements

  • Licensing and credential administration

In turn, nurses get access to assignments in areas that traditional recruitment agencies may not have available. However, when selecting an agency to work with, make sure to do your research. What do their salary and benefit packages look like? How extensive is their selection of jobs? How much support do they provide for travel nurses? And most importantly — are they approved by the Joint Commission? This compliance makes an agency extra credible in the health industry and ensures the safety of your personal information.

Licensing and Credentialing

Another piece of advice for travel nurses is to stay organized and updated with all required paperwork. It's a good idea to have a portfolio with your nursing license, credentials, resume and references on you on your first day at a new job, in case you need to complete some paperwork. 

Since you will cross state borders frequently, you will need to navigate each one's licensing requirements. But, if you work with a travel nurse agency, they can help you with a nursing license, including those outside the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) states.

Location and Assignment Selection

Although travel nurses choose their careers for the flexibility of location, it can be daunting for first-timers. Before looking for your first assignment, think about places you would love to see, as well as destinations you're not so keen on. You could consider:

  • The weather

  • Commuting time

  • Safety

  • Cost of living

  • Places of interest

  • Family or friends living close by

In addition, consider the type of facility where you would want to work and gain experience. When you work with a travel nursing agency, you will have access to all locations and facilities that need the most support.

Networking and Support

Since travel nurses move regularly, it can get lonely and isolating without a solid support network. Other than keeping in touch with your agency and your friends and family back home, here are other tips for connecting with other travel nurses and healthcare professionals.

  • Expand your knowledge and skills with every new assignment

  • Get to know your co-workers by spending time with them and staying in touch

  • Tap into online or social media community networks

  • Join local professional groups and participate in events

  • Share and engage in hobbies

  • Attend courses, workshops and seminars

  • Find a senior staff member or fellow travel nurse willing to mentor you

Financial Management and Budgeting

Working with an agency comes with many perks and benefits, but it's still necessary to develop a budget, especially with this unpredictable and exciting lifestyle. Here's how you can better manage your finances:

  • Track your daily, weekly and monthly expenses

  • Ask your travel nurse agency for resources and tools

  • Save on rent and utility costs by using free housing or incentives

  • Set up automated savings deposits

  • Use online tools

  • Plan for the time between assignments

  • Use

    perks and discounts

    offered by your agency

During Your Travel Nurse Assignment

One of the simplest travel nursing tips for your first day is to arrive early and make the most of orientation. From there, make the most out of your assignment.

Adapting to New Work Environments

Nurses need to be flexible and adaptable to new things. As a travel nurse, you will work with different patient populations, medical technology and healthcare systems. On top of it all, you will have the added challenge of building rapport with colleagues and fitting into new teams.

Here is some advice on navigating new work environments:

  • Keep an open mind:

    You may be used to doing things a certain way, but take the opportunity to learn from others and expand your skills

  • Be helpful:

    Once you have learned the facility's protocols and processes, use your training to help your team and patients

  • Be positive:

    Stress is a natural part of a nursing career, so make sure you have a stress management ritual to fall back on and be patient with yourself and others

  • Ask questions:

    Don't be shy to ask for help, clarity or more information — that's what orientation and your colleagues are for

  • Embrace challenges:

    By adopting a growth mindset, you will see any hurdle as a learning opportunity and continue to deliver quality patient care in future assignments

Staying Safe and Healthy on the Road

Being on the go the whole time can pose challenges for staying safe and healthy during and between assignments. Make sure you keep your family and friends in the loop about your whereabouts and make copies of all your important documents, in case you lose your originals while traveling.

Also, it's especially vital for you as a travel nurse to prioritize your health with habits like:

  • Healthy eating:

    As tempting as it may be not to turn on the stove after a stressful shift, you'll feel better if you can find some time to prep and pack meals or find a healthy meal delivery service when you have limited time

  • Fitness:

    Staying active will give you more energy, reduce stress and improve your own health

  • Enough sleep and rest:

    With long shifts, don't forget to get enough sleep every night or take a nap during the day if you can

  • Mental health:

    Find activities and make connections in your area to keep your mind and body active — remember to take time for yourself

  • Staying connected:

    Remain in touch with your family and friends while you're away to feel more supported and connect with other travelers

Start Your First Travel Nurse Assignment With Trustaff

Getting ready for your first travel nurse assignment can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. However, with an open mind, the right attitude and the right support system, it could be an exciting long-term career full of amazing growing and learning opportunities. Find your next travel job with Trustaff.


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