Choosing a new destination for a travel nursing assignment can be an exciting task. Before accepting the assignment, the facility will hold an interview via phone call to determine if you are a good fit. It’s also particularly important for travel nurses to ask specific questions to gather adequate information before making their decision.
At the beginning of any professional relationship, it’s critical to discuss expectations. For instance, what is the nurse-to-patient ratio for the unit? What type of patient populations are present there? For example, you may be working in an orthopedic nursing floor, but that unit could admit overflow surgical post-operative patients in addition to orthopedic patients.
Other important factors include the unit’s floating policy, whether nurses will be expected to float to other units, and if that’s the case, which nurses will be chosen to float.
Another critical aspect is the number of travelers currently working on the unit, as this can have an impact on the decision. For instance, perhaps the unit consists of mostly travelers. This could mean that they have a difficult time maintaining permanent staff members, but it could also mean the unit is more welcoming due to all of the travelers on the unit.
Additionally, is an extension possible after completion of the first contract? Knowing this information is important because it measures the potential of staying longer if the facility turns out to be a good fit. A facility may know in advance that help is only needed for 13 weeks, as opposed to a longer timeframe. You’ll want to insure the validity of your license in whatever state you accept a new post in.
Every facility has different parking protocols. Rural hospitals may have on-site parking located close to the hospital. However, a downtown urban hospital may have a more complicated parking situation.
It’s important to know what the parking situation is in advance, as off-site parking can add more time to a daily commute. Proximity to the hospital can also impact how close or far a nurse may live near a facility. Some facilities charge fees to park in employee lots, while others offer shuttles to and from parking lots that are further away from the hospital.
The parking situation may be an incentive or a deterrent to accepting a travel assignment. If a facility does require a fee for parking, it’s beneficial to ask your travel company if they provide reimbursement.
Choosing a work schedule is an especially crucial detail regarding the acceptance of a new travel assignment. Many facilities will advertise a specific shift in their posting, but may be open to alternative shifts during the interview process.
Other questions include:
- How often is the schedule made? Is it made every six or eight weeks?
- Will you have a set schedule, where you work the same days each week? (ex. 12 hour days every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday).
- Are nurses required to take calls or work mandatory overtime?
- Is working holidays a mandatory requirement for completing this contract? If there are specific holidays that a traveler does not want to work, it’s important to make this decision in advance and request them off during the contract. Some contracts require working multiple weekends during a set period of time. In these cases, it’s important to determine how many weekend days are required during the contract period.
The answers to these questions are critical to determining whether an assignment at a new facility is a good fit.
Travel nurses are not oriented in the same way as a new hire employee. As experienced nurses, they are expected to learn the unit quickly and begin taking care of patients with little assistance.
Ask the interviewer what the orientation process is like. Will it be one week, including hospital orientation? Will it be two weeks long, with hospital-specific orientation? Some units may offer minimal training and expect travelers to hit the ground running. This could be easy for experienced travelers, but more difficult for those with limited experience.
Is the orientation held with multiple preceptors or only one? Will hospital orientation be traveler-specific or on par with new hire employees? As a longer hospital orientation can take time away from unit-specific training, it’s a good idea to understand the expectations in advance for working independently on the unit.
There are so many exciting possibilities when accepting a new travel assignment. Before starting at a new facility, it’s important to ask specific questions and have a good idea of what to expect. As every facility is different with varying needs, knowing a few key details can be the difference between loving an assignment and canceling a contract because the facility is not a good fit.
Article by Blyss Splane BSN RN CNOR
Blyss is a certified operating room nurse living outside the Atlanta area. She is currently working as a travel nurse and loves meeting new people and pursuing a healthy lifestyle.