We sat down with some stellar travel nurses and asked them about the challenges and triumphs they’ve experienced. Travel nurse Jennifer Klein wants you to make new nursing friends, focus on the positive, and try something out of the ordinary.
Tell me a little about yourself.
A few years ago, I joined the Gypsy Network group on Facebook. At the time, I was in a bit of a rut. I enjoyed my job but knew that I needed a change. I figured I would try this travel nursing thing to see if it would make me happier — and it totally did.
I fell in love with traveling. I really enjoyed Klamath Falls, Oregon. I got to meet some great nurses up there. I’m really into the outdoors, and we did a lot of hiking and mountain biking. I ended up fracturing my wrist, so I stopped traveling for a bit — it was great to have the flexibility to do that. When I healed up and tried perm work again, I got back into the same little rut, so off I went! I started traveling again and really enjoyed it.
What are some things you love about being a travel nurse?
I love that every area you go, it’s always a little bit different. Nursing is, in a lot of ways, the same everywhere. But when you’re traveling, you get to experience different cultures, learn about different diseases, and become proficient in different health processes. I really enjoy meeting different people.
It’s very normal for us humans to accept whatever it is that we’re used to. But even just moving from Pennsylvania to California, there are a lot of cultural differences. It gives you a better perspective, and it makes you a better nurse because you’re more open-minded.
Traveling also expands your education. I’ve learned different computer systems and expanded the number of diseases I’m familiar with. Every area has diseases or conditions that are more common than others. Plus, every 3 months, if you want to, you can go to a completely different area. I went from Wisconsin to Oregon to North Carolina to California. It’s been amazing.
What are your top challenges as a travel nurse?
For new travel nurses, I would say that the first 2 weeks is always the hardest. But, no matter what, don’t give up. Because the hardest part is learning the system and making sense of the chaos. You’re going into a facility that has needs — they’re short-staffed, and it’s likely the nurses are stressed or burned out. You want to go in there and learn their way, their computer system, and how they chart.
There’s always a sour apple in any place you go — that’s true in perm jobs true. For the most part, I’ve always had good experiences with other nurses because I understand where they’re coming from. This is their home, this is their job. They’ve been dealing with being short-staffed for a while, so I always put myself in their shoes. I can imagine they’re tired and stressed.
What unique strategies do you use to tackle these challenges?
I’m never afraid to ask questions. Also, if I’m ever unsure of how to chart something, I always make sure to free text, just to get everything down, so it’s in the chart.
Nursing is the same everywhere, but each hospital has unique policies, different charting systems, different ways to bill. To get along, you have to go in there and show that you want to learn how they do it. You want to learn how they run their show. Then, after those first two weeks, you get used to how everything flows.
What advice would you give to a travel nurse just starting out?
Just get passed those first two weeks, and you’ll be fine.
Don’t take anything personally. I’ve traveled to great places where people are nice to me. There will always be just one person who’s snarky or judgemental towards you. Don’t take it personally. It’s their home. Don’t let their negativity rub off on you.
Enjoy the culture — get out there and make friends. The way you enjoy traveling is by putting yourself out there. Do things that you wouldn’t normally do. If you’re in California, take scuba diving lessons or surf. Do something out of the ordinary.
In our career, it’s really important to decompress. If you’re just working and going back home and going back to work, you’re going to get burned out. So, connect with other nurses. Facebook has different travel nursing groups based on area. Meet up with other travel nurses and just talk. I’ve met complete strangers and made lifelong friendships.
Look for the positive and look for the good in people. Not every travel nursing company is created equal. Every facility and every company has its own prerogatives. Part of the reason I’ve had such good experiences is because I’ve traveled with TotalMed. They’ve taken good care of me.
Want more travel nursing interviews? Check out our entire series.