Six Tips for Day One of Your Travel Nursing Job


By Aaron Moore, MSN, RN-BC, travel nurse expert

We’ve all been there. We’re not sure what the first day of a new travel nurse assignment, or any new RN job, will be like. It can bring about anxiety, sleeplessness and loss of appetite. And for travel nurses, this “first day syndrome” can happen every 13 weeks or so.

But there are some simple tips that can help. Here are some things I learned from multiple travel nursing jobs that can calm your nerves and have you looking good on your first day:

1. Take a dry run before Day One. One of the things that really helped me on the first day of a new travel nursing job was doing a “dry run” the day before. Google Maps and GPS are nice, but nothing truly makes you feel at ease like doing something for real. Knowing exactly where to go, where to park and how traffic actually affects your commute is critical (and Siri sometimes lies, but don’t tell her I said so).

2. Come rested and prepped. Prepare everything you need the night before your first shift, and do your best to get a solid 7-9 hours of sleep. Make sure and bring all your paperwork you’ve ever filed or sent to the facility, along with all licenses, certificates and pocket cards. I learned from the military to always make three copies: one for them, one for you and one for when they lose their copy.

3. Arrive early. This is key and ties into the “dry run” recommendation. Being on time or even a little early is very impressive on the first day--and being late is not. Then, if you can carry your timeliness forward every day of your contract, it will look good on your résumé and help your recruiter expound on your merits to future employers.

4. Get oriented with the right questions. Travel nursing jobs will start off with some sort of orientation to the facility and the unit, but all orientations are not equal. During your interview you can ask what kinds of things will be covered, but you’ll never know the details until you get there. So I suggest writing out a few questions that you really want to know, and make sure to get satisfactory answers from educators, preceptors or fellow nurses.

5. Put on your game face and team attitude. Believe it or not, every nurse doesn’t come in with a positive attitude on his or her first day. But you should! Wear a smile, be willing to learn and be ready to help out. One of my first day stories happened at the Nebraska Medical Center’s emergency department.  I was on my tour of the facility and the educator asked me to wait at the triage station while she took a call. The triage nurse came running by me with a seizing child in his arms. I ran behind him and followed him into the triage room where I opened the airway and gave a few BVM breaths. As more people flooded the small room and things calmed down, the triage nurse looked up at me and said in a shocked voice, “Who the hell are you?” Needless to say, it was a great first impression.

6. Introduce yourself and take names. I’ll admit it: I’m horrible with names. I can remember a face for decades, but honestly my kids are lucky if I can get their names right. As someone who moved often for travel nurse assignments, this was a challenge for me. I tried writing names down and other stuff, but was always grateful that name tags were my backup. But I did learn one trick: if I introduced myself and asked my new co-workers for their names and something about themselves, it helped me remember. Tying a name to a hobby or something personal always helped, and many of these people became friends.

So are you ready to try traveling for yourself? These simple tips can help relieve your anxiety, get you started on the right foot and even endear you to your new co-workers and nurse managers. Travel nursing isn’t as scary as it seems, and, honestly, you get used to change quicker than you would think. Take it from me; I’ve had my fair share of first days, and plenty of adventures to go with each new job and location!

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Aaron Moore: Travel Nursing Expert

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