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Rookie Wit & Wisdom
One Travel Nurse’s “Horrible Assignment”

My first assignment as a travel nurse, I often cried or vented on the phone during my 30-minute drive home. I would often pray before work, "God, please get me and my patients safely through this day..."

I know many nurses love the life and adventure of being a travel nurse: a new city, with a nightlife, restaurants, beaches, or other attractions. Lots of people love it! The pay and benefits are great, to be sure. But is it worth it?

Not for me.

Looking back, I wish someone would've offered me the advice I now offer nurses considering traveling:   Do your homework! Look into the agencies AND the hospitals so you know what you will be getting into.

During my phone interview with a manager-who was personal and upbeat-I was told I would be hired for the surgical wing of the med/surg floor with remote telemetry and 37 patients total. I was also told the patient load would be 6-8, which was higher than what I was used to. Honestly, it made me a little nervous. At my previous hospital (a magnet hospital) I normally only had 4-5 patients at time. And that was on a busy day shift doing primary care.

When I started, I was given four days of orientation: two days computer training; two days of hospital-wide orientation (the stuff no-one really pays attention to anyway); and a half day of presenting the new lifting equipment and meeting some more of the supervising staff. There was no training on IV pumps, and there was no tour of my unit.

The next week, I was given one day to shadow an LPN before I was on my own. My first day, though, I floated to another floor. I stayed until nearly 10 pm to finish my charting! I felt like I was trying to go up a creek without a paddle. On this floor there were only two RN's (I was one of the two), a secretary, and a nursing tech with 14 patients. The other RN functioned as the charge nurse with her own 7 patients, which meant virtually no one was available if I had a question.

And, boy, did I have a ton of questions that first day on my own. But I had to fend for myself in finding the answers. I was not familiar with EMAR or Omnicell, or the IV or PCA pumps. Nor was I familiar with the doctors' names or their specialties (that was a luxury I missed after leaving a place I had worked in for over two years).

After that day I felt lucky if I got to work on my unit or any unit for two consecutive days. There was very little continuity of care, and way too much to learn in way too short a time span. Too many patients, not enough staff.

One nurse even told me, "If you can make it 6 months here, you can do anything."

Other staff members were for the most part very nice. I didn't always know the names of the nurses I was working with, nor did they know mine. Everyone was too busy to manage anything beyond an empathetic look and an occasional, "Yeah, I'll help you boost the guy in room 12 back to bed, if you'll go give these meds to my pt in 4!"

I would have liked to develop relationships with my co-workers, but I typically left later than they did and simply had no time for it. Somehow, by about four weeks I was teaching other travelers how to do/find things. Even though I was getting the hang of things, for each 12-hour shift all I could think was, If I can just get through this!

After my traumatic experience, I continued to talk with two different recruiters, keeping it no secret how difficult it had been for me. One was from the same agency I had hired on with, another from a smaller, sister agency. I found that some recruiters will pressure you to make a decision quickly to fill their quota. Other recruiters will listen to you and try to find the best fit for YOU. They will in fact tell you which hospitals to avoid and which ones have a good or bad reputation.

When it came time to either renew or change assignments, I wanted to stay in the same area (I had a boyfriend in the area). I did my research this time, and options were limited, so I opted out.

Though I call it a "horrible assignment," I did learn a lot from it, and I believe I became a better nurse because of it. In other words, sometimes the worst experiences are the greatest teachers because we make sure never to duplicate them!

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One Response to “One Travel Nurse’s “Horrible Assignment””

  1. Trini0408 Says:

    I’m thinking of doing Travel Nursing in a few years. What agencies would people suggest? Which are good ones that will listen to my and place me somewhere good?

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