In this week’s edition of the Traveler’s Guide to Nursing and Allied Health, check out 10 Tips for starting a new assignment.
No matter how many times you’ve packed your bags and ventured off to a different city, there are always quirks and challenges to starting a new travel assignment. Aside from navigating unfamiliar surroundings, Explorers must get acquainted with new personalities, protocols, and the intricacies of their department, in addition to all the dynamics that make nursing and allied health stressful.
“Travel nursing and allied health is incredibly rewarding, but it also presents obstacles and demands you don’t face with a permanent position,” said Jessica Madgey, Associate Vice President of Nursing, MedPro Healthcare Staffing, an industry leader in placing travel nurses and allied professionals. “Starting strong sets the tone for your assignment and influences others’ perception of you.”
Check out these 10 Tips before you start your first shift on your next assignment. A little preparation goes a long way in ensuring a successful transition to your new workplace.
1. Prepare – If you have time, do a test commute to your new facility. See how long it takes to drive to work and if you’ll need to compensate for traffic. Find out which train or bus you should take and if you’ll need to make any connections. Pick out your clothes and plan or pack a meal for your first day.
2. Arrive Early – Nothing demonstrates professionalism like punctuality. Arriving to work early shows you respect your co-workers and are committed to the job. It also gives you time to destress from a hectic commute and prep for the day ahead. Bring a small notebook to take notes at orientation which could last from a half to several days.
3. Take a Tour – Be sure to ask for a tour of the facility if you don’t get one during orientation. It’s essential to get the lay of the land and be familiar with unit locations, supply areas, etc.
4. Introduce Yourself – Though titles can vary from location to location, seek out and introduce yourself to supervisors, administrators, and colleagues. Be sure to say hello and learn their names.
5. Get a Preceptor – A good preceptor can not only familiarize you with your new facility, but they can also be a resource for life. Ask to be matched with a preceptor or mentor for at least your first few days.
6. Request Policy and Procedure Manuals – Each facility has its own way of doing things. Be sure to reference your new facility and department’s policies and procedures to be sure you are following protocol.
7. Learn the Proper Chain of Command − Staff Nurse, Charge Nurse, Nursing Supervisor; it’s vital to know the hierarchy in your department and facility. If you have questions about your responsibilities or issues with a co-worker, you could create additional problems by asking the wrong person to address those concerns. Also, learn who the informal leaders are, such as the nurse with the longest tenure or the most liked.
8. Review HCAHPS – Find out your facility’s HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems). This will give you better insight and perspective on your new facility’s strengths and weaknesses and where you may need to focus your attention in patient care.
9. Check Floating Guidelines − Many healthcare facilities use floating as a method to cover staffing shortages. Some nurses are comfortable with the practice, while others are not. Regardless of your stance, refer to your contract and check on your new facility’s protocols.
10. Keep a Positive Attitude and a Healthy Lifestyle – The best way to keep stress levels at a minimum is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Don’t let a change in location or schedule disrupt your routine. Maintain your daily exercise regimen, outdoor activities, hobbies, meditation, and healthy eating habits to perform your best when you start a new assignment.
Moving to an unfamiliar city and starting a new assignment is stressful. It’s also exhilarating. Your first few days can bring information overload, so be sure to take notes and ask questions. Remember, whether it’s your first day on the job or your 101st, it never hurts to “ask.”
“One of the benefits of travel nursing and allied health is being exposed to a variety of techniques, methods, and practices,” said Madgey. “No matter how long you’ve been practicing, no one knows it all.” Get clarification on any procedures or practices you’re unsure of, and be open to learning new techniques and sharing yours.
It goes without saying that you want to make a good first impression at your new facility. People remember their first interactions. They may not recall what happened, but they will remember how they felt the first time they met you. Show up well groomed, in the appropriate attire, with a smile and a positive attitude. “No man is an island,” wrote John Donne, and no nurse is an island either. Show your new colleagues you’re a team player. Be ready to help, and they’ll do the same for you.