New Grad Travel Nursing: It it Safe Right After Nursing School?

Should a New Grad Nurse Start Working as a Travel Nurse? Share Your Opinion.

Travel nursing sounds like a great idea for a lot of nurses. You get to choose where you want to go when you want to take a vacation and even choose your schedule – in most cases. Travel nursing is definitely an attractive proposition for many nurses – and the pay is usually great. Is it for new grads?

I have my opinion…

My first taste of travel nursing was in California at Kaiser Permanente during a union strike. The pay was awesome – just great. I met people I had never met before and they became friends for life. Just wonderful happy nurses doing what they like traveling and making money at the same time.

Also, Read How to become a Travel Nurse

Later I decided to go ahead and do a contract in Bay Area, California. Being in a new city, new weather in California was kind of exciting. I found more of my type in California than anywhere else I have ever done a travel nursing assignment.

Point here being, travel nursing is not only an opportunity to be adventurous but also a chance to meet new friends.

Maybe it was the first time experience thing. The first time is always great. I remember working with a nurse called Jody who had been out of nursing school just over a year. I still don’t understand how she got hired as a travel nurse with less than two years experience.

Jody specifically wanted to become a nurse so she can travel – and so she couldn’t wait to graduate and start traveling. She had a rough ride, at least the assignment I worked with her.

Is Travel Nursing Safe for New Nurses?

I bet this questions may have different answers depending on personal experiences. Depending on the specialty you work as a nurse, your response may differ. In my own opinion, is you asked me if travel nursing is safe for new nurses, my answer would be…

It is NOT Safe For New Nurses but…

…it depends on a lot of things surrounding patient’s safety, competency and also your personal traits. Travel nurses are supposed to be work-ready and competent in the areas they practice. Very few travel nursing agencies would accept a brand new nurse in a travel nursing assignment.

Jody had finished a critical care internship in her home hospital but her experience was so limited. I find it unsafe to gamble with human lives, unkind nurses (it’s a jungle out there – be well equipped) and your license in the line of fire.

Travel Nursing Has No preceptors

I have not traveled in a single hospital that offered preceptorship for new travel nurses while still on assignment. That would be so expensive for the hospital to do – paying two people (you and your preceptor) to take care of a single nurse assignment.

This won’t just happen to a traveler – unless you have signed up and agreed to be there for a longer period of time. Still, I do not see this happening anytime in travel nursing world.

Experience is quintessential:

No matter how good you were in nursing school, that does not make you a good nurse. Experience, learning, and attention to details make one a good nurse. This is an earned medal of excellence and cannot be taught in nursing school.

My opinion is that you need to get a nursing job in a local hospital with good internship or residency program. Learn as much as you can and do not be in a hurry to start travel nursing jobs. Take your 2 years minimum and you will be glad you did.

Local Agency versus Travel Nursing Assignments for New Nurses

It is a good idea to keep your eyes on the ball. Keep your eyes on the prize. If you want to do travel nursing, it is a good idea think about the steps of how to get there safely without anything to worry about.

Before I did a travel assignment, I did local nursing agency jobs and this helped me a lot to build my character and shape up my travel nursing assignment expectations.

10 things you will learn doing local agency nursing assignments before taking on a travel nursing job:

  1. Nurses are kind to travelers but not all of them:

    Again, I cannot stress enough that my opinion is based on my personal experiences. It is not unusual to find yourself working with not so welcoming nurses out there. You will learn that most are nice to travelers but there are always statistical out-liars who can make your life miserable as a travel nurse.

  2. Nursing Unit is a Family…You are the Outsider:

    Yeah… knowing this is like equipping yourself with one of the most powerful knowledge about travel nursing etiquette. They know each other well and most nurses have a close relationship with each other.

    Be courteous when trying to blend into this family-like relationship. You might find it hard but understanding that nurses working together are closely related is important. You’ll be just fine with time. They will accept you – just don’t force it.

  3. Never get into the Nursing Unit Gossip:

    Never get into nursing gossip as a travel nurse

    This can get you in trouble faster than you can blink. Let’s face it. There is a lot of gossip in nursing units. Just do not get into it. Don’t get into knowing who does what or who’s seeing who.Just keep it real professional.

    Do your job and do not allow yourself to get into nursing gossips.
    After all, gossip is negative energy that you probably should avoid at all times. Believe me, there is a whole heap of such gossip in the nursing world.

  4. Never try to impress…work to Excel:

    Ever worked with nurses who try to impress seniors, doctors, etc.? Do not be this kind of a nurse. This is one problem that can get you colliding heads with the whole nursing family. That doctor you might be trying to impress or that charge nurse may not like the impressing approach.Be professional and avoid behaviors that can make your travel assignment horrible.

    Work to excel. Be the nurse who does her job well without decorating his/her work or blowing up your own whistle. Let others see your work as excellent.

  5. Never get into Fights & Arguments. You’ll lose:

    New Nurses are Easier Targets for Nurse Bullies

    Never let yourself to get in any altercation with anyone, no matter what the situation is. It may sound good to stand your grounds but always be skillful how you deal with nurse bullies. Because they are there and there is nothing to sugarcoat it.

    Know who to talk to and do not keep quiet because bullies should be stopped. Just don’t get into catfights and word bullets that can land you into human resources problems.

  6. Know Your Stuff Well & You’ll be Fine:

    Know Your Nursing Procedures & Medications Well

    This is where most problems start. A nurse bully might get an opportunity to bully a new nurse who seems not confident about his/her job. You will realize that your knowledge, experience, and confidence will not only make your travel nursing job easy but also make other nurses to like you.

  7. Exceed Everyone’s Expectations:

    Keep your patient’s room clean and neat

    Regardless how good you are as a nurse, you must do one thing so well that it will blow other nurses minds. You MUST always make sure your patients, your rooms, and your workstation are clean and neat.Nothing beats that in the world of nursing. It is just the way it is.You could be the nurse who saved 5 lives in your shift but if your patient is sitting on poop at shift change, everything else you did won’t matter.While there are times things happen too rapidly and you cannot be everywhere at the same time, buddy up with someone one who shared the shift with you and politely requests them to help you. If you are a team player yourself, you will get helped. A lot of help.

  8. Be a Team Player:

    A good travel Nurse must be a good team player

    Nursing is all about being a good team player. In fact, you should not be a nurse if you are not a good team player. There is nothing frustrating like drowning while another nurse is laughing out loud showing videos on facebook.Always be quick to jump in and help the next nurse. Do not get into nursing cliques. Be there for everyone and you will be amazed how many nurses will be there for you. This will make your travel nursing assignment really fun.

  9. Get to Know Current Issues Affecting Your Job:

    Travel and agency nurses usually do not get all the communication from hospitals they are working in. Their communication normally comes from their staffing agencies.

    Nursing is an ever changing profession and there could be changes that happened but the communication has not yet hit your mailbox. Most nursing units have noticeboards where such communications are posted.Take time to read these noticeboards.

    There is nothing wrong asking the charge nurse to let you know if there are any new changes. I have found it useful to actually tell the nursing unit management to update me with things I need to know.

  10. Understand the Hospital Policies & Procedures:

    I cannot stress this enough. Each hospital has it’s own rules, policies, and procedures. While it is required in your first week of orientation to locate where such documents are located physical and/or in the intranet, make sure you actually read them. Each hospital is different and don’t assume they all do the same thing.Example: You may find some hospitals that use PTT to titrate heparin drip and others use Heparin Essay. The difference between the two could mean either look like you do not know what you are doing or even doing a medication error.Another example:

    Some physicians use D5W in DKA protocol, others don’t. Some hospitals actually have it all down in an algorithm that you should follow to titrate your insulin. Some physicians override such protocols and write custom orders depending on patient unique situations. Others use anion gap range to determine when to stop titrating the insulin. Others rely solely on urine ketones.

    Whatever the case is, never assume what you’ve always done is the right way. Know how each hospital policies and procedures differ. Pay attention to physician’s custom orders that may override protocols.

Why You Should Not Become a Travel Nurse Right After School:

I am a big proponent of getting good experience first before you hit the road traveling as a nurse. It is understandable that others may not agree with these facts but here are some facts that may make a new nurse unfit for travel nursing.

  1. New Nurses Lacks the Experience:

    As a new nurse, the much-needed experience that comes with time is lacking. Most local and travel nursing agencies prefer more than 2-year experience. This period of time allows you to become an experienced nurse

  2. New nurses do not have specialty certifications:

    Another measuring parameter for nursing experience is specialty certifications like CCRN for critical care nurses. These certification exam boards require applicants to have completed a certain number of bedside hours. Example, 1800 hours for CCRN critical care exam is required. New nurses lack this requirement.

  3. Most New Nurses Haven’t Found Their Fit:

    It is not uncommon to find that most nurses end up in other nursing specialties other than those they started with when they first came out of nursing school. While this is not a requirement, there is nothing unfulfilling than finding yourself trapped in a nursing specialty that you do not like. It takes some time for some nurses to decide which specialty they want to keep. Liking what you do as a nurse has a lot to do with the kind of a nurse you are overall and how your peers see you.

  4. New Nurses May Not Get the Job After all:

    Recruiters and hospitals definitely will see a brand new nurse as a high-risk nurse and a potential liability. This is one reason why new nurses may not even find the travel and agency nursing jobs after all.

  5. Like Driving a Car, New Nurses are as Clumsy as New Drivers:

    Besides being qualified, smart and willing to learn, new nurses need more time to polish up their skills in order to survive in nursing world jungle, be efficient and safe. Take your time to become better. Be polished. Be refined before you start travel nursing assignments.

Closing Thoughts About Travel Nursing:

Of course, these are not nursing laws, these are just strong opinions about travel nursing for new graduates who have not had more than two years of experience. Let me know your opinion by leaving comments below.

Travel nursing is fun. It pays a whole lot better than full-time nursing jobs – by far. While you keep your eyes on the prize, be careful not to find yourself in a hot pickle. It is a jungle out there. Be well prepared. Be well trained. Be polished. You will have fun doing travel nursing assignments.