So you’ve thought about becoming a traveling nurse. You ’ve imagined yourself basking under the desert skies of Arizona, frolicking on the sun-soaked beaches of Los Angeles — and not just for a vacation, but as your lifestyle.
But wait. Forget the exotic travel for a minute — what is the job really? Being a nurse brings enough of its own challenges, no matter the specialty. Who wants the added pressure of navigating unfamiliar hospitals with every single assignment? What if you get to a new location and you keep getting lost? What if you don’t know where anything is? What if no one will help? How many times can you go through that?
James DeMaria, Vice President of Renal Care Registered Nursing Services in Nanuet, N.Y., has been providing acute hemodialysis and acute apheresis services to some of the Northeast’s largest hospitals and caregiving facilities. Transporting equipment and providing patient care to different locations on a daily basis has made him an expert on the ins and outs of traveling nurse etiquette.
Jim made his transition to travel nursing from med surge in 2000 and has never looked back. Check out his list of first-day-on-the-job dos and don ’ ts to learn his secrets to managing the job and enjoying it.
- Arrive with the right attitude. Being in unfamiliar territory can quickly make you anxious. Remember to have an open mind. You became a traveling nurse precisely to break up the monotony, so embrace the challenge!
- Meet the unit secretary. Only second in importance to the floor manager, the unit secretary knows where everything is
- Learn people’s names. It’s as simple as that. Learn people’s names. Remember people’s names!
- Be helpful. When you’re helpless, be helpful. When you have a question, chances are everyone around you will be in the middle of something. Instead of interrupting a busy fellow nurse, why not offer her assistance in lifting her patient into a bed? Earn your right to be inquisitive by being a team player.
- Pay attention to detail. As the outsider, you’re the low man on the totem pole. That means when something goes wrong, fingers are going to be pointed at you. Pay extra attention to detail and fill out all proper documentation.
- Be shy. When you’re trying to learn the lay of the land, you must not be afraid to ask questions. But be friendly. As Jim would put it, “There’s a way to be assertive without being a nudge.”
- Make up your own rules. As a traveling nurse, you’re essentially a guest in someone’s house. Act accordingly.
- Be exclusive. Make every person you meet your friend and ally. “You never know what you’re going to need,” says Jim. “I work with water a lot in what I do, so I get to know the maintenance people. If they remember you as a nice guy, as a friend, they’ll help you out.”
- Take things personally. Not everyone will remember your name. Or worse, they’ll call you by the wrong name. Instead of getting irritated, diffuse the awkwardness by making a good-natured joke. Enjoy yourself. Laugh.
- Forget that you’re a great nurse. As with starting out in anything, your first experiences as a traveling nurse will be filled with some degree of uncertainty and novice anxiety. But there’s one thing you’ll always instinctively know how to do: take care of your patient. Let this relationship be your rock when everything else seems unfamiliar.