Getting The Right Experience To Land Your First Travel Nurse Job
Picture this; you pick up a call from a recruiter at a staffing agency, and the conversation is going great. You are answering each of their clinical questions with confidence and the connection is perfect between the two of you. They’re asking if you have your ACLS, BLS, PALS, and you even start filling out the skills checklists with them over the phone. They can’t hide their excitement as they promise you $2,500 weekly take home at a level I trauma facility in the city, and you think you have finally made it to the big leagues.
Then they ask exactly how long you have been a nurse, so you reply honestly, “Well, I just graduated with my BSN about 6 months ago, but I am ready to hit the floor running.”
Just like that, the mood shifts. The recruiter shuts down and starts rushing you off the phone. “Ok, just send me your resume, I will follow up this week. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.”
You know something has gone terribly wrong. You think to yourself, “How could I have been so gullible? Will I ever get a high-paying travel nursing gig?”
Get the right travel nurse experience
When you graduate from nursing school, you are so eager to find a job and start putting those hard-earned skills to use.
Not so fast. The experience you gain post-graduation can determine your future as a travel nurse. If you see a fast-paced, high paying travel nurse gig in your future, you must pave the way for that early on. Urgent care clinics, correctional care, home health and SNF/rehab facilities can all be rewarding positions, but they aren’t exactly the experience that a facility is looking for in a potential traveler.
For example, if you see yourself working at a Level I trauma center and teaching facility, your externship or first job should be at a facility with those same qualifications. Use this to get your foot in the door with your recruiter, and make sure to highlight it on your resume.
Travel nurses are expected to adapt quickly, and if you have not been in bedside care or worked the floor of a hospital, your resume will fall to the bottom of the barrel quickly. Direct bedside care is the most important thing that facilities want to see in your experience.
Travel nurse charting
Charting can be an obstacle for even the most seasoned travel nurses. If you can show that you know multiple mainstream charting programs, you will get a big leg up on your competition. Soak up this knowledge early on in your career, or take some classes on the commonly used systems.
Since you will not get as detailed of an orientation as a staff nurse, you are expected to be familiar with the facility’s charting program upon arrival. Some facilities even require that you are proficient in their program before you ever receive a job offer.
Lynda.com is a great resource for either learning or brushing up on specific computer charting software. Here are some of the main charting programs used in facilities today:
Travel nurse certifications
You know we had to bring these up. They’re not always cheap–and some are a pain to obtain–but being overly certified is never a bad thing when trying to stand out amongst a crowd of like-minded applicants.
As a newly graduated nurse, obtaining as many certifications as you can within your specialty is a great way to boost your knowledge and highlight your resume. Facilities look to their travel nurses to be well educated and up-to-date with the latest clinical topics. Proving you’re certified solidifies your credibility.
Cleaning up your travel nurse resumé
Let’s face it; you lack experience, the one thing that a resume is supposed to highlight. Or do you? Here are a few tips from Oren Lavi, the director of client advisory at LiquidAgents Healthcare that will help transform you into a marketable candidate within the travel nursing industry:
- Add your externships and internships.
- If you graduated with any type of honors, such as magna cum laude, list that under your education.
- Get to know your managers. Detailed references are very important, especially if they take the time to write a positive comment about your work. Your agency will use those to really sell you to their clients.
- List any and all special experience, specialized skills or traits that you have picked up in your nursing career. Even though you are relatively new to the field, you can still learn a lot in a short period of time on the floor. Don’t be shy about your skills!
Find a travel nurse recruiter and agency that understands your needs
When you’re looking for your first job, jumping on the first opportunity offered, especially if you haven’t gotten a ton of other offers, seems like the right thing to do.
Wrong! Rushing into a contract just to get some extra lines on your resume is the fastest route to burnout. Compromising too much could mean you’ll end up stuck 13 weeks in a city you hate at a hospital that isn’t traveler friendly.
Now that doesn’t mean to wait for your fairytale travel nurse job to come along, because you’ll be waiting forever. Realistically, most contracts will come with a bit of compromise, but you shouldn’t have to give up everything just to make a travel job work.
This is where your recruiter and agency should come to the rescue. What you don’t want is a recruiter or agency who are pushing you to take jobs at facilities or locations you don’t want just to fill a quota.
A good recruiter who knows the market should be able to find you a position that fits most, if not all, of your criteria and will work with you to make your first experience a great one–and a good agency should provide multiple opportunities in the market for that recruiter to choose from.
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