From my first blog post, you'd know that I took my leap of faith into travel nursing last year around this time. Being a shy, small town girl with big dreams and aspirations made it difficult for me to take a plunge into a new career as a travel nurse. One day I woke up with a new found confidence and made the final decision to step out of my comfort zone and start living my life for me. I knew that travel nursing would give me the opportunity to work with different patient populations and cases, as well as, be exposed to cutting edge technology and procedures.
With the current nursing shortage, experienced nurses are able to make their dream come true while remaining employed as a travel nurse for facilities with staffing shortages. I would also be able to manage my own career by planning my assignments around my professional goals and personal agenda. Once I was positive about the change, I took a year to figure everything out using my 10 preparation tips I am sharing with you. If you're considering a new career path in travel nursing, I am certain these tips will assist you in making your final decision.
10 Tips to Prepare for a Career in Travel Nursing
Social media such as Instagram or Facebook, are great sources to use to see current travel nurses in action. You can easily reach out to them and ask about their experience as well as, ask for advice. I am currently in several Travel Nurse groups on Facebook including a popular group, The Gypsy Nurse. I was able to find so many tips and reach out to the large community of nurses within the group. We all know that traveling and blogging seem like the most common duo these days. Travel nurse blogs also give you access to valuable information from nurses that are currently traveling or have done so in the past.
The top 3 Travel Nurses that inspired me to start my journey into travel nursing include:
Alexis Howard, better known as @nurse.howard on IG. What better person to get advice from than someone from home who's used her career to travel, see the world and be the free spirited woman she is. She also hooked your girl up with nursing textbooks after she graduated, so grateful for that! Alexis has turned her IG into a visual blog to inspire others to experience all the beauty in this world by traveling and living life to the fullest. Like she says, "The memories you make and the people you meet will leave an ever lasting impression on you." Being able to see someone from our small hometown out here living her best life was super motivating!
Monique Doughty, better known as @iamnursemo on IG, was another huge inspiration to me as well. I had gone back and forth for a while when considering applying for an FNP program. Deep down inside I knew that was not what I truly wanted to do at this time but the pressure from family members and co-workers made me consider it. Nurse Mo always encourages her listeners to choose faith over fear. Although I may have been afraid to step out of my comfort zone at first, I had faith that God would see me through this transition into travel nursing and he did just that. Through travel nursing, creating The Resilient Nurse, LLC, mission trips and public speaking, Nurse Mo has inspired thousands of nurses. I hope to be able to have a similar impact on others, especially in my hometown, to show them that the possibilities in this field are endless regardless of where you come from!
Meisha Woolford, also known as @thebrandingnurse on IG, caught my attention especially with my business background. While she is a travel nurse, she is also an author, branding expert, entrepreneur and amazing speaker. My first thoughts when coming across her IG was “What does this woman not do??” She does it all! Her posts and videos are super motivating and she is constantly dropping gems regarding finding your purpose as a nurse. She is one of the curator's of the Nurse Power Network and fortunately I will get to attend their Nurse Power Brunch this summer in New Orleans where they explore opportunities to help you grow at the bedside and beyond, tips for starting your own healthcare business and much more. Super excited about the opportunity!
#2 NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
Networking is so important when trying to change career paths. What better way to hear honest stories or receive advice than conversing with others who are currently in the field. Attend nursing events or even conferences to meet others that may be starting their transition into travel nursing as well. This year I will be attending a travel nurse conference for educational purposes as well as networking opportunities. Although I've learned a lot through trial and error when I started, I look forward to learning more about travel nursing and meeting others from all over.
#3 USE PROPER & ADEQUATE RESEARCH WHEN PICKING AN AGENCY
After exploring travel nursing, and networking with others, it's time for the tough job-- picking an agency. Do not make a commitment to one agency quickly. Keep your options open until you find the right agency and recruiter. Developing a good relationship with your recruiter is also important. Agencies vary when it comes to rules, benefits, assignment quality and pay. Be honest and stand your ground with pushy recruiters who may want you to commit from the beginning. Explain to them that you are looking out for your own interests and stand firm in your decision. My advice would be to go with a recruiter who listens to you, takes time out to make sure your questions are answered and one who works timelessly to honor your requests.
#4 KEEP YOUR CURRENT JOB IN YOUR BACK POCKET
Think ahead. If you are planning a career as a travel nurse, do not burn your bridges at your current place of employment. For example, I chose to go PRN at my jobs back at home prior to leaving for my first assignment. You have to remember that when your travel nurse assignment is complete, you are jobless unless you (A) already signed another contract or extended your current one or (B) you have a PRN position. While staying PRN, I am able to make extra money during assignments and pretty much work full time hours when off an assignment by making my own schedule.
#5 JOIN YOUR FACILITIES FLOAT POOL
Travel nursing requires that a nurse be comfortable in multiple hospital settings while performing their job with great skill. Remember when you begin your assignment, you will be in an new facility. Everything will most likely differ, from the flow of parking to the computer system. If you do not comfortably float in your own facility, you may want to reconsider travel nursing at the time until you can build your confidence. Do you hate to float because you are not familiar with the supply room? Don't recognize your co-workers? Are you anxious because the patient’s rooms are not in a familiar layout? Or, are you able to view these issues as a test instead of being frustrated? If you answered yes to the first three questions, joining a float pool may give you the boost of confidence you need!
#6 SAVE YOUR COINS
Secure the bag & stay out of it! Let's be real, getting ready for an assignment can be expensive. If you need new certifications, those can be pricey upfront although you may get reimbursed by the agency later. For housing, most agencies offer an allowance and you are responsible for finding your own place to stay. I had a bad experience with housing during my first assignment and ended up losing money. Thankfully I had a decent savings account to cover other expenses during that time. Typically you will not receive your paycheck during your first week so having money saved provided cushion until your first paycheck is dispersed.
#7 FIND A MENTOR
As preparation, I had several mentors consisting of friends, co-workers, as well as those that inspired me who were active travel nurses. They were there to answer all of my questions, give me advice and guidance, and also continue pushing me through this transition even when I thought I was not ready.
If you’re looking for a mentor, I’m one click a way and would love to help make your transition as easy as mine was! Just shoot me an email to hear about the mentor packages I will soon be offering.
#8 MENTALLY PREPARE YOURSELF
Prayer, meditation, and reading did it for me. You have to realize that you’re about to leave your work family to go to another facility where you know no one. Will they like me? Will they assist me if I am drowning? Will they treat me differently because I am agency? All kinds of thoughts took over my mind but with prayer, I knew God would see me through this. I can do anything for 13 weeks is what I kept repeating. Reading inspiring books and using my daily prayer & meditation journal encouraged me along with my huge support system.
# 9 ARE YOUR CERTIFICATIONS UP TO DATE??
Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) are needed by all nurses in order to work in most facilities. Also, be sure and obtain basic certifications that are required for nurses working in a specialty areas. For example, in pediatrics you will need Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification.
#10 CREATE A TRAVEL NURSE BINDER
Different travel agencies have different ways of handling medical records that are required for the nurse’s assignment sites. So be sure and keep a portfolio of immunizations, flu shots, TB skin tests, etc. Having these items easily accessible makes your process a breeze! Look out for my next blog post with instructions on how to create your Travel Nurse Binder and importance of staying organized.
I know this one is a bit long (forgive me lol) but I hope you enjoyed it and find this information useful. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me!
The Fabuleux Nurse