We sat down with some stellar travel nurses and asked them about the challenges and triumphs they’ve experienced in their travels. Sidnie Garner discussed the blessing of travel nursing, working with a great recruiter, and giving 100%.
How did you get started with travel nursing?
My husband needed a career change, so I needed to support my family while he goes back to school. A colleague of mine at the local hospital I was working at was a traveler and she suggested I look into it. She said I could pick up a second job close to home and bring home a high salary.
She introduced me to her recruiter at TotalMed, who has been absolutely wonderful. I told him my situation and within one day, he had placed me in an ER position within an hour of my home. I’ve been travel nursing out of necessity, but it’s been such a blessing. It’s been a game-changer for my family.
What do you like about travel nursing?
I like the flexibility. If a hospital isn’t a good fit, or if you want to travel somewhere else, you always have the opportunity to explore new facilities, learn new skills, meet new people.
I’m a people person, so I really enjoy the ability to meet new colleagues and patients. The opportunity to meet and interact with new people on a regular basis is the best part of it. You get to experience different points of view and different cultures.
There are a lot of other travel nurses at the facility I’m at now. They’re from everywhere, and I’ve learned a lot from them. They pass on the skills and information they’ve picked up in other hospitals or professions. You can apply that info to your career, to how you practice nursing, and to your life — it’s pretty amazing.
One of the other travel nurses even moved in with my family and me. We’re really good friends, and I consider her to be a part of my extended family.
What are some of the challenges you encounter as a travel nurse?
When you go into a new facility, people don’t know you and they don’t know how you work. Some nurses are cautious about trusting travel nurses, just because they are unknown. Staff nurses know you don’t have a vested interest in their hospital — you might stay or you might leave. So, you have to prove yourself really quickly. You have to let them know that you’re a good nurse, that you won’t leave them in the lurch, that you’re going to do a good job for your patients. You have to let them know that you’ll help them while you’re there.
Another challenge is that travel nurses only have a short period of time to learn hospital policies and procedures, to learn how things run. You have to absorb info really quickly and be able to run with it. That can be really challenging, especially in larger facilities.
I also wish there was more information for nurses on how to choose recruiters. We usually have to find recruiters by word of mouth. If you don’t have a contact like I did, it can be difficult to find a recruiter who is trustworthy. I really lucked out with my TotalMed recruiter, because there are definitely people out there who aren’t looking out for your best interest.
How do you meet those challenges?
Try to develop personal relationships with people. Make sure you give a good impression on staff members. Introduce yourself, be ready to work, hop in, and make yourself useful. If you have sound nursing practice, that’s going to show in your work, and you’re not going to have issues. I just go in and work exactly how I would as a full-time employee. It’s all about how you carry yourself and your work ethic.
Also, if I don’t know something, I’ll look it up or ask somebody. The fastest way to learn something when you’re at a facility is to find an experienced nurse. It’s often easier to ask someone, but I’ve also found that hospitals have a direct link to policies and procedures on their homepage. If you don’t know something, the answer is often right there at your fingertips.
I also feel really lucky with my recruiter. I can say 100% that TJ is amazing. We don’t just have a professional relationship — we’ve also developed a friendship. He’s been very good to me. He checks in on me and asks about my day, and that makes me feel really good. Sometimes, you can feel like you’re out there by yourself and knowing that your recruiter is there to back you up is amazing. I feel really blessed to have this opportunity, and TotalMed has been wonderful to me.
What advice would you give to a new travel nurse?
Something that was helpful to me when I first started is to remember that we are all there to accomplish a similar goal, which is to take care of patients. That’s why we got into nursing. So keep that in mind and keep a positive attitude. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and jump in with both feet. A lot of people kind of want to dip their toe in. If you don’t give 100% of yourself, you’re not going to get 100% back.
For example, at my home hospital, I work in a children’s ER and do a lot of training. This morning, I trained floaters at my home hospital in using the pediatric crash cart. When I travel, I help with training, too, since I work in pediatrics. I’ve brought in some ideas and equipment and explained how it would be beneficial. I’ve also helped with new travelers. They didn’t have a checklist for bringing on new travel nurses, so I created one to help me out with training. Now, they use it to make sure new travelers get everything they need before they are on their own. It’s nice to know that their management team and their staff trust me enough to take my suggestions and learn from me, too.
Looking for more travel nursing interviews? Check out our entire series.