So it’s your first nursing contract… Congrats!! It’s honestly so exciting. You’re off on a new adventure! You’re going to meet so many amazing people and you’re going to have such a great experience. You completed the application process, got matched with a recruiter, got presented for a position, and signed your very first contract. You’re feeling anxious and nervous. Are you going to be lonely? Is it going to be hard being away from all your family and friends? On the other hand, you’re truly full of happiness…it’s the greatest feeling stepping out into the unknown with that sense of freedom and unexpectedness. You channel all of that energy into packing your life into a suitcase or two, saying good-bye to your colleagues and co-workers, and enjoying last-minute parties and dinners with friends before you go. Did you forget to pack something? Did you pack too much!? It doesn’t matter anymore because it’s time to go!
Here we go! You either road trip to your assignment or you get on a plane to take you there. Sometimes it’s a quick trip…other times it takes 15+ hours of flights and layovers…or maybe even 30 hours of driving! During that long and treacherous length of time, you may be asking yourself numerous times ‘Why did I decide to do this?’ or ‘Is this a mistake?’. Get that negativity out of here and focus on the positive! You finally reach your destination and are now faced with your next task: finding your housing.
If you’re driving on your own, you’re searching for the place clinging to Google Maps like it’s your best friend. If you were picked up at the airport in a taxi, then your taxi driver is probably doing the same thing. Word of Advice #1 to you before you fall asleep in that car after your long day of travelling: make sure you are firm and 100% sure of your housing address when you communicate that to your driver. Your recruiter would have arranged your travel details beforehand and would have given you all the details you need. If not, make sure you have a phone number that you can call on weekends and after hours so that you have someone you can contact in case you need anything.
You arrive at your new home for the next few weeks and you assess the situation. You’ve got a bed with linens, a kitchen with basic supplies and possible roommates to help you get situated. Maybe you’re the only one in your housing? Then you find everything on your own. This isn’t so bad. You unpack your things and begin to settle in. You text or call your family and friends to let them know you’ve arrived and you’re proud of yourself! You made it!
Now you have to think about starting work the next morning! But you need groceries first. You walk to the grocery store and get what you need. You wish you had driven your car out here so you didn’t have to carry all of this stuff. You wish you had asked the taxi driver to bring you here first. Hopefully it isn’t too far of a walk and hopefully there’s a liquor store nearby too! You map out your walk (or drive) for the morning to get to the hospital and you set your alarm with plenty of time to get there. You triple check that your alarm is set and then before you know it, it’s orientation day!
The morning of your first day of work, you show up to your new facility and you are immediately aware that you are outside of your comfort zone. You don’t know where the staff entrance is, so you go through the ER doors since those are the only ones open this early in the morning. You might have to be buzzed in by the staff but that’s no big deal. You’ll get the grand tour later and you’ll know the correct entrance for next time. You get to the nurse’s station and lock eyes with someone. “Hi I’m ____. I’m a travel nurse starting today.” Word of Advice #2: get used to saying this because it will come out of your mouth about 50 more times today. Word of Advice #3: Make sure you know the start time of your shift because on my last contract, I showed up half an hour late for my first day. They had just recently changed their shifts from 0730-1930 to 0700-1900 and my company didn’t know yet!
Next you are paired up with your buddy nurse who is orientating you today. You get a tour of the hospital but don’t worry, you’ll still get lost for a couple of weeks until you get your bearings. You are shown the supply room and where everything is but you’ll still be asking where items are for awhile. You’re shown the med room but you’ll probably have to wait a few days before you have access to the Pyxis system. You meet nurse after nurse, doctor after doctor, physiotherapists, the social worker, the health care aids, the floor manager (an important one), and you are never going to remember all of those peoples’ names. It’s okay. No one is going to expect you to remember everything all at once. It’s information overload and your brain is sore.
You meet up with your manager and get your schedule for your contract and you realize that this is your only orientation shift. This is it. One day!? Yep. So this is why they recommend at least two years of experience! You find that buddy nurse and proceed to ask them EVERYTHING about the floor…how things work, how to chart, how to call the doctors, how to call a code, how to do a discharge, how to admit someone and so on and so forth. Use this day to your advantage and ask as many questions as you can. And you know what? Even after orientation day when you’re on your own, you can still ask questions! Do not be afraid to double check something because it’s better to ask than to make a mistake that could have been prevented.
You get home after that LONG 12 hour day of feeling like your head is going to explode and you process what just happened. Wow! This is so great. You love the way they do things here and it’s so refreshing and different than what you’re used to back home. Maybe you feel the opposite? Then realize it’s a good learning experience for you and you’ll appreciate your old hospital that much more after this contract. Everything from here on out is experience and a learning opportunity for the future. Embrace it! Word of Advice #4: Make sure the key to your bedroom works because after the first day of my first contract, I came home after a very long day and my key wouldn’t work! I got locked out of my room with all of my belongings inside of it! It was this big thing and two hours later someone from the hospital administration got me in with the correct key. Just avoid this issue and make sure your key works right from the start.
A week or two later you’re settled in, you’re making friends with your co-workers and roommates, you’re exploring your new city and community and you can finally relax. You start to miss people back home and it’s getting a little tough to be away but then you get your first pay check. WOAH. Your check is so much money! The government deducted that much tax!? Is this correct!? A million thoughts go through your mind but the main one is dollar signs flashing everywhere. You then realize that all the stress and fear was worth it and you can get used to making this much money while you’re so far from home. Your recruiter reaches out to you about another opportunity for you and you get excited to do it all over again. It gets easier every time and before you know it, you’re a bad ass travel nurse and you’re owning the gypsy life. Where to next?!