How Travel Nurses Can Fit In and Thrive in New Assignments
Travel nursing is an attractive career option for many nurses. It provides the opportunity to work in a variety of environments and explore different cities, all while building skills and experience. Given that the nursing shortage isn’t showing any signs of ending soon, travel nursing is a means for nurses to work where they are needed the most, filling the gaps until facilities can hire permanent staff to handle patient demand. Not to mention, travel nurses usually earn a competitive salary along with benefits, including assistance in furthering their education to qualify for more advanced positions.
For all of the benefits of travel nursing, it isn’t without its challenges. Moving to a new city every few months can be straining, and because travel nurses only fill roles temporarily, they may not always be welcomed with open arms by permanent hospital staff. In some cases, staff is reluctant to build relationships with someone they know will be leaving in a few months. Resentment stems from labor issues - travel nurses are often called in during hospital staff strikes - or the perception that the travel nurses take jobs from local people or make more money than staff.
Regardless of the reason for conflict, travel nurses can help ease the transition for themselves and build effective working relationships with their fellow team members.
You may not have much time to do research before you arrive at a facility, but try to learn at least the basics about where you will be working. Your recruiter should provide you with information about your imminent place of work; review it before you arrive. Know where you should park, where you need to report and some basic facts about the department.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and get the real scoop from your new co-workers. Asking about the best places to eat, get a haircut or work out can open the door to building relationships with your co-workers.
When you begin a travel nursing assignment, you might be tempted to share all of your experience with the rest of the staff. After all, if you have worked at a large hospital that delivers dozens of babies each day or is a leader in cardiac care, you’re bringing valuable experience to your assignment. However, if you immediately launch into a rehash of your resume, your co-workers may view it as bragging and instead of appreciating your experience, resent or dislike you. Be confident and let your abilities speak for themselves. Only bring up previous assignments or experience if asked about it.
Above all, be friendly and reach out to your fellow nurses. Introduce yourself and engage in natural conversation. In time, you will learn the dynamics of the department and build relationships. Above all, be polite and professional, and never get involved in departmental issues that do not involve you.
Travel nursing requires flexibility, in terms of where you work as well as which assignments and shifts you take. Understand that you won’t always get your first choice of shifts or even departments. Flexibility allows you to show your competency and willingness to be a team player. Not only will you gain the respect of your co-workers, you could open up the door to more — and better — assignments in the future.
Deal With Issues
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things go wrong. The assignment just isn’t a good fit, and you can’t develop good working relationships with the other staff. It’s important to handle conflict with professionalism. More specifically:
- Handle interpersonal conflict quickly and directly. If you have an issue with someone, discuss it privately and try to reach a solution. Do not talk behind his or her back, but use your conflict resolution and communication skills to reach a healthy resolution.
- Contact your recruiter for help with problems. Because you are an employee of your placement agency, not the hospital, your recruiter or support specialist will be responsible for addressing problems. Contact him or her early on, before problems escalate.
- Understand your contract terms. If you simply cannot work out the issues at your assignment, know what you need to do in order to terminate the contract and what it means for your pay and future opportunities. Remember that assignments are generally short term, and consider whether the consequences of early termination outweigh the stress of dealing with the position for a few more weeks.
Travel nursing is a great way to build experience, try a variety of positions and see new places. If you enter each assignment with a positive attitude and the goal of being cooperative and well-liked, you’ll thrive wherever you end up.