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Travel Nurse Perspective: Things to know your first week on assignment

April 3, 2013

For travel nurses, there are a lot of “first week’s on the job” that, even for some of the most experienced nurses, are hard to get through. That being said, Fastaff Travel Nursing asked a travel nursing educator named Candy Treft, also known to many as the Gypsy Nurse, RN how she has handled countless amount of week ones during her nearly nine years as a travel nurse.

What work environment should a travel nurse expect their first week?

A travel nurse should always expect the unexpected! The first week can vary from a full week of orientation to being put on the floor with a full patient load the first day. I've experienced both of these extreme's myself. No matter what you are told in an interview, always keep an open mind and be ready for anything.

What types of questions should a travel nurse ask their first week?

This is a great question. Here is a 'short-list' of things you will need to know ASAP:

  • Where is the crash cart and how do I call a code?

  • Where do I find policies and procedures?

  • Does overtime need to be pre-approved?

  • Who is authorized to sign my timesheet?

  • Make certain that you have access to 'needed' equipment/programs. (i.e. Accucheck, computer, pyxis, supply, any door codes, etc.)

  • What the process is for notifying physicians after hours (especially important if you work nights).

  • I generally make myself a cheat-sheet with frequently used numbers: Pharmacy, Lab, ER, House Supervisor, etc.

  • What forms/paperwork need filled out every shift? Assessment, care-plans, rounds reports, etc.

I'm sure that there are more, but these are the questions that come immediately to mind. There are three basic categories that you should cover in the first week.

  • Patient safety

  • Required paperwork

  • Getting paid

What’s a good way to “break the ice” with nurses on staff?

First, make sure that you introduce yourself! I make a special effort to remember the staff members’ names. This can be difficult (especially for me as I find it very difficult to remember names so I have to make extra special effort). I also try to 'treat' the staff on the second week. I will bring in muffins, cookies, cupcakes, or buy pizza for the group. I present it as a 'thank-you' for welcoming me to their unit/hospital.

Other good first week tips?

  • Accept that the first week is going to be very chaotic. You will be learning new faces, new processes, finding equipment, figuring out the charting, finding supplies, and adjusting to being away from home. Go into it knowing that it's going to be exhausting and you are going to feel a bit frazzled. If you do those things, you'll accept it a bit better.

  • Bring 'quick-eats' to work with you. You never know if you will actually get a lunch and having something quick to snack on during a hectic shift can help maintain a healthy attitude and body. I recommend peanuts, granola bars, etc. These can be thrown into your nursing bag and aren't going to need refrigeration or go bad if forgotten in your bag.

  • Stay pleasant and positive no matter what they throw at you. Many times, the staff is already overworked and feeling burnt out and if you exhibit negativity or degrade the issues at the hospital, it's only going to create animosity.

As a travel nursing educator, Candy Treft aka Gypsy Nurse, RN has worked in healthcare for nearly 20 years. During that time, she has worked up the ranks from CNA to LPN to RN. For nearly nine years, she’s worked as a travel nurse, allowing her to practice and live in 15 states throughout the U.S., and even one year in Germany for the Department of Defense. She regularly shares advice for those interested in travel nurse jobs on her website at:

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