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So you’re gonna’ be a traveler. Here are some steps to take right away to destress your first travel nurse assignment.

Get it on paper. First, after agreeing to any contract over the phone, you will want to have written confirmation from your travel company. This document should spell out all the terms and conditions of your assignment as well as the expectations of your employer.

Keep communication lines open with your recruiter. You will want to touch base with your recruiter to see if there is any paperwork that you will need to bring. Typically, the facility will want to see your nursing license and any certifications (CPR, ACLS, BLS or PALS cards). If you forget these items, don’t panic. Your travel company should have these items on file and could send them to your facility in a pinch.

Test? What Test? Another thing you will want to check with your recruiter is what to expect from the facility in the way of an orientation. A big concern for many nurses on their first travel nurse assignment involves testing that is often scheduled as part of the hospital’s orientation. This may involve something as benign as a simple math test involving drug calculations, or it can be a comprehensive testing platform such as PBDS (Performance Based Data Systems – check out our study guide on YouTube). While there are ways to prepare for all, no one likes being surprised during the week of orientation. If possible, ask your recruiter for the name of a contact person at the facility. This way, you can check with them directly regarding what to expect during your orientation.

Home away from home. After lining up your documentation, you will need to address housing. Even if you are taking housing per diems, many travel nursing companies will provide assistance in locating appropriate housing near the facility. A great tool we love to use is PadMapper. After you know where you’re staying, you can ask the renter for useful information such as what cable provider and phone company provides services at the complex. Also, double check with your housing contacts a week before the assignment starts to make sure all the details are ironed out and acceptable.

Planes, trains, or automobiles? Finally, you need to decide how you will travel to your assignment. If you plan to fly, you will want to check on transportation to and from work, which may entail looking up bus or subway routes. For most travelers, being out on the open road is a staple of being a travel nurse. Typically using a rental car for transportation eats into overall pay to stomach the cost.

Who has money for gas? If you are driving, you will want to know your travel company’s policy on mileage reimbursement. What is the rate per mile and is there a cap on the total allowance? This should also be found in your contract. Aside from paying for the trip, be sure to have good directions. You will first want to determine your route, which is made easy now with mapping websites like Google Maps or Bing Maps. You should also consider a GPS unit (usually standard on any smart phone and one of a traveler’s most valuable tools). And no travel nurse should ever be without a road atlas (piece of mind at a cost of less than $10).

On the road again. All of this should lead you up to your departure date. During this time, you should ALWAYS stay in contact with your travel nursing company recruiter and even the facility (you’d be surprised how many travelers show up to a hospital that has no idea they are coming). If anything changes, this helps ensure everyone stays informed.

After arriving at your first travel nurse assignment, you’ll have another list of things “to do.” In future posts we’ll take a look at that list and go over some things to expect as you start your travel contract.