Debunking Common Contract/Travel Myths

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Many RNs are worried about giving local contract or travel nursing a go at first due to the scary rumors they hear swirling around out there in the healthcare world. As a recruiter of more than 10 years let me fill you in on some insider info – all those rumors? NOT TRUE!

Myth #1: Travelers Always Float

I am happy to report that travelers don’t really float any more often than they would as a staff nurse.

Do they float first? Typically. Do they float every shift? No. In what situation would a traveler float? The same situation in which a staff nurse would float – when the census is low and another unit needs help. Would they float you outside of a unit where you have experience? No, unless they thought you could handle it (ie. it was lower acuity) and you were comfortable and confident.

Myth #2: Travelers Get “Bad” Patient Assignments

This rumor is just as bad as the first. At the beginning of an assignment you may feel like you’re getting the “easy” patients or a “bad” assignment but remember two things:

First, that they’re testing you out. They don’t know you. The only thing the unit knows is what you put on your skills checklist and what you said in your 30 minute phone interview. Once they get to know you they’ll start trusting you and using you to your skill level.

Second, you’re there to help out. Travelers exist because hospitals are short staffed. If you weren’t there then some other staff nurse would have that assignment or worse, that assignment plus one…or more. I’ve never worked in a unit or heard from another traveler that they were directly targeted to take a “bad assignment”.

Most travelers report getting the easy assignments at first and slowly getting harder patients as the staff team learns to appreciate their skills.

Myth #3: “I Don’t Want to Lose My Skills”

This rumor ties in with #2. You won’t always get easy patients and your skills don’t go away, they’re like knowing how to ride a bike.

As a matter of fact, most people gain or learn new skills! Every hospital / unit does things differently so you will constantly learn. It is like having a new coach every 13 weeks. Also, if you have experience in multiple specialties you can take a full time assignment in one unit and then work PRN in another. Or do one assignment in one unit and the next in another to stay fresh.

And to go back to my initial thought, even if you do an assignment where your patients are less acute than you’re used to, once you get back to a busier unit your skills are still there – like riding a bike.

Myth #4: Travelers Always Have to Work Nights

This is false. We have contractors and travelers who have been on assignment for over 10 years and have NEVER done nights. You can do days only, you can do day/night rotating, or you can work nights. Night shift positions might be more readily available and often pay more, but travelers do not get stuck working nights.

I’m not going to lie, it’s easier to find night shift positions. If the shift is more important to you, then you have to be more flexible with location but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to miss out on that city you want to go to or hospital you want to work in. You just might not get there exactly when you want to get there.

Myth #5: Travelers Only Work In Small Units/Hospitals

As a travel nurse you have so many opportunities to work in some of the most prestigious hospitals in the country. You can work pretty much wherever you want to work.

If you want to get to a specific city you might have to be more flexible about which hospital you work in. However, if you want to get to a specific hospital that shouldn’t be much of an issue. In fact, we get the most needs from large health systems like Johns Hopkins and University of MD.

Hospitals need help, all of them. Unless you want to, you won’t get stuck in a tiny county hospital (not saying those can’t be great), in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Travel nursing opens so many doors to so many great opportunities.

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