4 Things I Learned From My First Travel Nurse Assignment

Hi, I'm Chelsea! Travel Nurse, plant enthusiast, and Co-founder of The ReNegade Resume. In August 2021, I took a leap of faith and quit my staff nursing job to start travel nursing and I haven't looked back since.

Why Travel Nursing?

Becoming a travel nurse has been on my bucket list since I first started my career. Taking the leap had been on my mind for quite some time before I finally stopped making excuses for myself as to why I shouldn't quit my job as a staff nurse. I wasn't growing at my job and to be honest, I never really felt "happy" while I was there. I felt like my nursing career was plateauing and if there is one thing anyone knows about me, it's that I am ALWAYS looking for ways to level up.

Don't get me wrong, I achieved and learned SO much during my 3 years as a staff NICU nurse and of course, I would do it all over again.

But, you know what they say... when it's your time, it's your time. I knew this was my time to finally take the leap and start travel nursing.

I tend to be a meticulous planner, but I knew in my gut this is what I needed to do. So, I submitted my resignation letter (yes, without a new job secured) and started applying for travel assignments. Now let me tell you, this was not as simple as I thought it would be. I was not receiving any calls for interviews and I was starting to get discouraged. But then... BOOM. I received an instant offer for a position two days prior to my final shift at my staff job. And you know what made it even better? The position was in the exact location I had been hoping for all along. I was over the moon excited and ready to dive right in.

So, I accepted the offer and took my talents to Philly! Fast forward 15 weeks... I finished my first-ever travel contract and still can't believe I'm living out one of my top nursing career goals. Now that I've completed my first assignment, I wanted to share the top 4 things I've learned thus far in my travel nursing career.

1. You are at the bottom of the staffing totem pole.

It is almost guaranteed that you will get some of the busiest and crappiest (that's putting it lightly) assignments, and you can expect to be floated often. Continuity of care? Yeah, that takes a back seat when the patient assignment is done. There were stretches where I would work three days in a row, and have three different patient assignments. And for what reason? There wasn't one! You will get thrown into a lot of things you might not necessarily want to do, but do not let that affect you.

2. People will assume you don't know what you're doing.

Yes, it is actually insulting. You're the new nurse on the unit, and many of the staff nurses won't give you the time of day (haters gonna hate!). You can't control people's feelings toward you, but what you can control is the way you present yourself. So, my advice to you... prove them wrong! Focus on your work day in and day out and you'll be sure to leave a lasting impression on your patients. At the end of the shift, that's what really matters.

3. You need to assimilate to the unit culture.

Yes, you will need to get accustomed to the unit culture, but that DOES NOT mean you are doing something wrong just because you do it differently. Stand strong in your nursing judgment and continue to advocate for your patient's needs.

4. Know your worth.

I didn't go for the big bucks on this contract because I wanted to get my feet wet in travel nursing. I extended two weeks but was declined a rate increase for the first extension. Whatever, I brushed it off. After the initial extension, I offered to stay an additional two weeks, but again, asked for a rate increase. Guess what? That rate increase was denied again. My response? BYE (professionally, of course). I did not extend a second time. Surrounding hospitals were (and still are) offering DOUBLE the rates to work down the street. Please be sure to do your market research and analysis before committing to an extension. Know your worth because you are worth it. If the agency/hospitals can't pay you for your value, it's time for you to move on.

There you have it. The top 4 things I have learned so far in my travel nursing journey, and I'm not stopping any time soon. I have recently received an offer from AyaHealthcare and officially accepted and signed my second travel nursing contract. And yes, the bag is SECURED this time around. New York, I'm coming home!

Are you considering taking the leap to start travel nursing but haven't taken the time to update your resume or cover letter? I get it. That's what The ReNegade Resume is for. Let's revamp that resume and cover letter together, and get you on your way to living out your nursing career dreams.

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