How to adjust on a New Travel Assignment

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Great tips on how you can make the most of your assignment!

I give anyone a huge amount of kudos for stepping out of their comfort zone. Whether it’s moving to a new state, starting a new job or making a new set of friends, leaving behind the comfortable to explore the unknown takes an extraordinary amount of courage and self-confidence. And some people, such as you brave travel nurses, combine all three of the above at the same time, and have to quickly learn how to adjust well in a new travel assignment. Each hospital and eachtravel assignment is so unique. The hospital that you work for can greatly help you overcome many obstacles in your new travel assignment if they give you a detailed, thorough orientation, or they may not be much help and hurry you to the bedside to work. Regardless of the scenario, let’s review some tips that can help make you a phenomenal travel nurse.

How to Adjust Well in a New Travel Assignment by Mastering the Computer System

Each day I have the privilege of talking to a diverse group of travel nurses, many of whom have traveled and worked extensively throughout the country.  Out of curiosity, I always ask about the most stressful part of their job as a travel nurse.  Nine times out of ten, they reverberate the same answer: the computer systems.

How, then, do you conquer these computers so that you can adjust well in a new travel assignment?  While the computer system is often the most intimidating hurdle, the good news is that they’re usually fairly standard and user-friendly. Usually. I personally think that they’re getting better and better with time. Regardless, I would recommend writing yourself lots of notes during orientation and while shadowing on the floor. Write down which “tab” you go under to put in xray orders, to document intake/output, to check the MAR.  In addition, write down what they expect you to document (iv assessment every four hours, vital signs every two hours, etc). I cannot emphasize enough the importance of charting the way the hospital wants you to chart, and knowing the basics of the computer system will assist you in meeting the standards that your boss has of you.

Most hospitals also have a computer help desk where people help you to navigate the computer system. They become my best friends really quick. At each new hospital I work, I write a little list of phone numbers that I keep in my back scrubs pocket (saves you a lot of time in the long run), and their number is usually on the top of that list. Last but not least, be patient and gracious with yourself. If you’re smart enough to be a registered nurse, you’re smart enough to master the computers.

Find a Few Co-Workers to Rely On

Whether the nurses on your new unit verbalize it or not, they are extremely grateful that you’re there. With that in mind, find a few of your new co-workers that you can learn to rely on in order to help you adjust well to a new travel assignment. Be on the lookout for those you have the gut feeling you can trust and who have a good amount of experience in the unit. You already know how to be a great nurse, they don’t need to teach you that. They need to teach you where the supplies are, who the doctors are, what the certain protocols are for certain procedures or medications. Make sure you discern who the charge nurse is for each shift, and if you feel comfortable just ask them if they can be your “go-to” person if you have any questions. Nine times out of ten they’re happy to be that person for you.

Nursing assistants, secretaries and pharmacists also become people of invaluable assistance; keep a keen eye out to see who does what and who can be your ally when certain troubles are sure to arise. Have the pharmacist’s phone number close by, and get to know everyone by name. Be friendly and you’ll typically receive friendliness in return. Ask questions, work hard, and you’re sure to gain your co-workers respect and admiration. Most people are happy and willing to help those who are kind and hard working.

Time Management

Sometimes travel nursing feels like you’re a brand new nurse all over again, doesn’t it? As difficult as it may be, being mindful of time management is key to be sure you adjust well in a new travel assignment. And by saying that, I mean you may have to do things slightly differently than when you were working comfortably in your last position.

As the new kid on the block, your fellow nurses have a lot to ask you: where you’re from, where you’ve worked, what’s your family like, do you own a pet or a house or an orchid…the questions are endless and good-hearted in nature.  People especially will get into these conversations when they’re sitting in the nurse’s station charting assessments, daily care, etc. At your last job when you were comfortable, you could chart, eat lunch, catch up on the daily soap operas and gossip all at the same time (and still get home in time for dinner). Now, it takes a lot more focus to be sure you’re getting everything charted correctly. I suggest that you do the majority of your charting in the patient’s room until you get comfortable with the computer system and the way the hospital runs. Everything takes just a little bit longer as you’re getting used to your new setting, so avoiding as many distractions as possible is imperative. Then once you’re caught up, indulge in the mindless chatter that helps the day go by.


Your nursing skills are stellar, that’s why you’re in this unique and exciting position in the first place. You’re ready to go on an adventure, make more money, and expand your opportunities. In order to excel, it’s important to pre-meditate what your personal challenges will be when you walk into the new hospital setting. Are you shy? Do you have a tendency to be easily distracted and chat with all your friends before you get your charting completed? Are you slower with technology? Anticipate what could be some speed-bumps for you, and pro-actively think how you could overcome them in order to adjust well in a new travel assignment. Do everything in your power to give yourself an environment in which you will thrive, and this assignment will be a memorable experience.