you’d wish you knew before becoming a travel nurse

12 Things you’d wish you knew before becoming a travel nurse

Travel nursing can be the ideal job for individuals who like to explore new places while making money. The life-changing pay, work/life flexibility, and the ability to learn new ways of doing the same thing are some of the perks you can expect from this line of work. Due to its numerous benefits, most staff nurses plan to shift from their fixed-hour dead-end jobs to become travel nurses. However, much like any other job, starting out is never easy. 


As much as this profession is exciting and worth considering, there are things that you’d wish you knew sooner. We’ve put together a list of 12 things you should know in advance, so your decision is well-assessed. These bits would truly make a difference in creating a cherishable experience. Without further ado, let’s get to it. 


Starting Out as a Travel Nurse? Here’s What You Should Know: 2022


You can ask for a reimbursement


The first thing you’d wish you knew before working as a travel nurse is that it’s OK to ask the recruiter for things. Hopefully, you will develop a relationship with your recruiter, but even in the beginning, when you’re starting out, you have to understand that it’s OK to ask for things such as scrubs. Even if it’s not in the contract, you most likely would be covered because there are agencies that have budgets for stuff like this. So you could say something along the lines.

‘I had to buy these scrubs, which are getting crazy expensive. I want two sets to be reimbursed. Is it possible? ‘You’ll most likely hear an affirmative answer.


Not all travel nurses make the same amount of money


12 Things you’d wish you knew before becoming a travel nurse

Now, if you’ve been doing this for a while or done one or two travel assignments already, you’d probably know that every nurse will get paid differently for their travel assignment. Two nurses can be working side by side, in the same hospital, during the same thing, working on the same floor, and one could easily be making $200- $300 more a week than the other. It’s not as cut and dry as most hospitals. It’s mainly based on what your agency is willing to negotiate with the hospital. So that’s just another thing you would want to keep in mind because that way, you’d be able to negotiate better. 


Be Prepared to be Treated Differently


Another thing that no one would tell you before you become a travel nurse is that some nurses will give you harder assignments than their regular staff, and that is because they do not have a relationship with you. They do not know you, probably will never see you again, and sometimes they may feel like you’re getting paid all this money so you can get the harder assignment.

12 Things you’d wish you knew before becoming a travel nurse

It may not be the fairest thing in the world, but it is one of those things that you need to prepare yourself for if you are going to be a travel nurse so that if it happens to you, you’re ready to take it head-on.

You will float a lot


If you’re somebody who doesn’t like to float or prefer continuity, then a travel nurse might not be the right fit for you. You may walk in the doors thinking that since you got hired for the COVID floor, this is where you will be for the duration of my contract. However, that is not the case. Post-pandemic, hospitals are hiring nurses not for a specific unit but for the need of the hospital as a whole, especially now that the numbers have subsided. They just throw you wherever they need you. So, you would want to be prepared for that. 


Don’t have to travel that far to be a travel nurse


Usually, when we think about travel nursing as a profession, we assume that we’ll have to go to a random place in another corner of the US. This is one of those misconceptions that you’d wish somebody would have told you about. Because the fact of the matter is that you only need your tax home to be far enough away where it is more convenient to stay overnight, which you could’ve easily found out had you done research before becoming a travel nurse. So, if you really want to be a travel nurse and it’s something that you’re interested in, but you are not ready to take that plunge to go to the other side of the country then an assignment closer to home may be your best bet.


You’re expected to be complying and accommodating


Hospitals and facilities are typically going to have higher expectations from travel nurses. Since travel nurses are more expensive, there are a few things that employers want, one of which is that you’re expected to hit the ground running. They’re not looking for someone who needs a lot of mentoring or training. They need you to be fast at documentation, fit in well with the team, and just help them with your experience in every setting. The second thing that kind of goes along with that is they expect us to be more flexible who says ‘yes, I’ll float there’ and ‘I’m here to help you guys.’  Holidays are generally another area that you will have to cover, the perm staff has scheduled off and it’s part of why they need you as a travel nurse.  Don’t forget the extra pay for holidays though, you’re making a big sacrifice that deserves some extra dollars in your wallet!  Make sure to ask your recruiter about holiday pay and check your contract before signing.


You’re Hired to be a nurse, not a consultant


You get to come in for three months at a time, and it’s best if you just go along with the culture they already have in place. This can be hard for nurses who’ve been working for a while because they’ve seen many different hospitals around the country and know a better way for this hospital to flourish. However, even when you know with 100% certainty that you have the answer to what this hospital is doing wrong, you’ve to remember that you’re not hired to be a consultant. The hospital expects you to come in, see patients and fit in with their culture.


You’re expected to bite your tongues and say, how can I best help you? How do you guys do things here? It works so much better to go in with that mindset.


Be careful with what you write in your resume


Most companies are going to have some type of testing, including a skills test, certificates, and checklist test that you’re going to have to take, so be prepared for that. Your skills checklist is something you’ll have to fill out with any company you fill out an application with or are interested in working for. things-you-wish-you-knew-before-become-travel-nurse

One thing I would like to tell you is to take your time on your skills checklist and if you document that you are proficient in that skill, make sure that you are, in fact, proficient in that skill. Similarly, if you get to a facility and there’s something on the checklist that you indicated that you were proficient in, and you’re really not, it could create a problem. 


Housing is going to be your big expense and biggest headache


Housing is easily one of the biggest challenges for a new travel nurse. To alleviate this headache altogether, you can let the agency find housing for you. If you do that, though, you’ll lose your weekly stipend. However, if you find your house on your own, you get to keep the stipend and get paid weekly. Moreover, if you jump on the responsibility of finding housing right away, it won’t be as big of a problem as it could possibly otherwise be. Try to keep your eyes open for scammers. Never let anybody convince you to send money without you doing the location check. These things are something worth knowing before becoming a travel nurse.


Never jump in without asking about the nurse-patient ratios


Certain parts of the country have mandatory nurse-patient ratios, but you would be surprised in areas that do not. Some hospitals offer a crazy amount of money weekly to handle patients in bulk.

12 Things you’d wish you knew before becoming a travel nurse

This might sound manageable to some travel nurses, but there’s no way you can take care of 10 patients safely. 


Stay ahead of the game and save yourself from a delay in employment


Whether you plan on extending your contract or your recruiter finding you another facility to work at, make sure you get that ball rolling midway through this particular assignment. So around week 7 or 8, start talking with your recruiter about your next plan of action. Just stay ahead of the game, and that way, there won’t be a delay in your employment because a lot of times, if you wait too long, it takes a while to find that next assignment. So always be proactive about your future. 


Roll up your sleeves and work overtime to earn that extra cash


As a travel nurse, you must know that much of your money is made in overtime. It’s also made in regular base pay, but that will not be enough given the other expenditures. This is why it is important to come in with the right mindset. You want to make sure that you represent your agency the best way. More importantly, you want to make sure you represent yourself in the best way. Get to work on time and don’t leave any work behind. Working overtime will make you the money that you didn’t even think of.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What type of travel nurses are most needed?

Although all kinds of travel nurses are lucrative, but the ICU ones are the most in demand. ICU nurses are mainly responsible for patients in critical conditions. Specifically, patients whose life hangs to a thread need the most skilled nurses to care for them, and who is better than a travel nurse? Some patients include intubated ones, those on ventilators, and those surviving on medication drips. 


Do travel nurses get to pick where they’re sent for work?

Yes, travel nurses do have a say in where they prefer to go for work. They’re also allowed to choose the state, the hospital, as well as the healthcare setting to their liking. From exciting cities to rural and suburban locations, travel nursing jobs are available throughout the country. 


Is it harder to be a travel nurse?

Much like any other job, travel nursing comes with its fair share of difficulties. While it might not be as difficult for some to adjust to the constantly changing schedules, long work hours, and floating in the units, it is more challenging for others. Being a travel nurse is harder than being a regular staff nurse because you’re always expected to be the yes person. This, however, should not discourage you not to choose this profession because every trouble is worth it.


Why is travel nursing paying so much?

Travel nurses get paid more because of what they have to offer in terms of skillset, their ability to pull off almost anything, flexibility, and just serving the hospital in every way they can. They travel from different parts of the country to fill in the nursing shortage and meet the short-term needs of the hospital, which is what they get paid for.


Is it fun being a travel nurse?

Travel nursing is all about embracing new people and exploring new places. If you’re someone who loves to have adventures while making money, this is the picture-perfect job for you. Since it’s only a 13 weeks contract, you can always take time off to spend it however you like. The flexibility and freedom that comes with travel nursing make this profession fun and exciting.  


Summing Up…

If you’re planning to become a travel nurse or you know someone who is, make sure you do your research before betting the farm. It might sound like there’s nothing you need to worry about since the agency will figure things out for you, but it’s not true. The list we’ve compiled has everything you must know before becoming a travel nurse, so you know what you’re getting yourself in.

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