March 5, 2020

Just Getting Started: Advice for First-Time Travelers

first travel nurse assignment

You filled out your application, nailed your hospital interview, and now you’ve signed your first travel nurse contract. You’re ready to go! As you start to think about all the things you’ll need, you can become overwhelmed. Don’t stress, we’ve got you covered with some top tips for first-time travelers. Get ready to hit the ground running!

7 Tips for Your First Travel Nurse Assignment

first travel nurse assignment

1. Pack Like a Travel Nurse

Be an organized, light packer — don’t be that travel nurse who brings everything and the kitchen sink to your first assignment. You don’t need six pairs of the same shoes or your best stemware. Most importantly, remember that you’ll have to unpack everything yourself, too! Considering that your assignment will only be for a few months and pare down your items to the essentials.

  • Pick your clothing that you can easily mix-and-match
  • Opt for functional clothing & shoes you’ll wear on repeat
  • Ditch the giant flatscreen & use a streaming service on your laptop
  • Schedule a grocery delivery for after you arrive
  • Purchase essentials — like garbage cans, ziplock bags, or shower curtain liners — when you get to your new place

For all our best packing tips, check out our packing list here!

travel nurse packing list

2. Build Your Social Network

It can be daunting to move to a new place where you don’t know anyone. Luckily, technology can help connect you to your new location. Use free resources like The Gypsy Nurse group on Facebook so you can tap into nurses familiar with the area. You can get tips, advice and you may even find a few friends! Here are some more ways to connect while on assignment:

  • Follow our hashtag on Instagram, #travelwithTNAA to see if there are other TNAA nurses in your area
  • Join neighborhood-specific groups for local events
  • Consider apps like Meetup or BumbleBFF to take the awkwardness out of approaching new friends

3. Arrive Early to Explore

Most of our nurses suggest arriving 3-5 days in advance of your start date, so you’re not rushed to move in and acclimate to your new town — this will give you time to find the places you’ll need while still allowing some downtime.

  • Find a grocery store, gas station, and cafe near home
  • Drive or take public transportation to the hospital or clinic so you get used to the route
  • Ask for a tour of the hospital and to meet your supervisor and team before you start, so you become more comfortable

4. Make an Effort to Know Your Coworkers

If you’re introverted, now is not the time to hunker down alone at home while you settle into a new community. Reach out and make an effort to be a positive presence in the hospital or clinic. Bring coffee and bagels for everyone or connect with a couple of colleagues and invite them out to a local cafe. Acknowledge that your colleagues have knowledge that you can tap into and offer up some of your own experiences in exchange. Always be respectful, kind, and open; that way, you’ll be sure to make a great impression.

travel nurse meeting people

“Bring the coffee. It’s a great ice breaker when you start and a good way to start the shift each night. We all know the hospital coffee isn’t the greatest… I’m still friends with people I met on my first assignment. You meet people from all walks of life, and if you allow it, they can all teach you something about yourself. Take those lessons with you to your next assignment.” — Ethan, RN 

5. Prepare for Challenges

Your most significant strength is how you respond to challenges. Perm staff are not aware of the skills you bring to the table, so, unfortunately, you’ll need to prove yourself. It can feel like “sink or swim” — but, maintaining a positive outlook is the best way to approach this. Find a way to manage stress by exercising or meditating so you can feel balanced.

At the beginning of a contract, I do find myself working with more of the “feeder/grower population,” meaning NICU babies who are learning how to eat and growing before getting discharged and going home. After some time at my assignment, I usually will be given babies who require higher levels of care.

travel nurse seattle

I’ve learned that I adapt quickly. I had to go into my first assignment with confidence and not be scared. I had to embrace the new and push forward as this was going to be my new normal. I have become a person who grows and learns with each assignment. I’ve realized that I’m so much stronger than I thought.” — Kelsey, RN 

6. Leverage Your Recruiter

Keep the lines of communication with your recruiter open during your assignment. While you might not need them right now, they’re there to support you while you’re away from home.

  • Schedule a weekly call or text, so they know what’s going on and have communication on any issues that arise
  • They can get you in touch with the right people for any problems, from housing to payroll
  • After a few weeks your recruiter will begin helping you look for your next assignment, so be sure to tell them about your assignment experience

travel nurse with dog in wyoming

Nick is an absolute dream recruiter. Not only is he a professional, but he’s also become a friend and family member. He texts regularly to check up on us, he’s connected with us on Facebook and Instagram, and he’s just so encouraging. He cheers us on when we go on adventures and asks about them afterward. I’m so grateful that Nick is with me for this adventure. What I find most endearing is that he genuinely cares about what’s in our best interests. He knows that we have an ill family member in lower Washington, and he worked to get me an assignment that would put us in proximity to my family.” — Laura, RN

7. Have Fun Recording Your Travel Nursing Experiences

A new adventure like travel nursing is going to present some challenges and give you opportunities to grow. Have fun recording your travel nursing experiences – even the tough ones – by making photo albums, a vlog or even write letters to yourself. In a few years, you’ll be glad you did.

travel nurse photograph

Deciding to take on your first travel nursing assignment is a huge step. You’re choosing an adventurous life full of change and new experiences. Enjoy this new beginning by maintaining your positivity and reminding yourself why you want to be a travel nurse. Whether it’s a life change, to see new places, meet new people, or gain new skills — adventure is guaranteed to be in store!

Prepare for your first travel nurse assignment by reading our Orientation Guide!