By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
There is the old fashioned saying that you only get one chance to make a first impression. While this is certainly true, I do believe in a normal work setting you end up having plenty of time to gain coworkers’ trust over the course of months and years of working together.
As a travel nurse, however, you are under a different kind of pressure to prove yourself right out of the gate. While it is certainly expected that travelers should walk in confident of their skills, coworkers may not realize this or may have had a negative travel nurse experience in the past that makes gaining their trust a little more difficult.
1. If you have already accepted the job, steer clear of people’s opinions before you show up
I made the mistake one time of asking another traveler about a hospital after I had already signed my contract. This particular person had absolutely nothing nice to say about the facility and was adamant that I back out of my contract immediately. Due to certain life circumstances, this was not an option for me so I went in absolutely dreading how the assignment would be. Turns out the staff and experience was a very positive one, and I even returned for a second assignment a couple of years later.
Bottom line: once you have accepted an assignment it is almost better to go in with a clean slate rather than having others’ judgment cloud yours. By all means, be sure to research before you accept a job, but after you have committed yourself to a location it is probably best to just go in with a positive attitude from the start.
2. Introduce yourself first
Many units in need of travel nurses are used to new faces. Between new hires, float staff and previous travelers, you may not be introduced to every new face you meet. Break down this initial barrier by greeting each new person you meet and offering up your name. This helps create a positive first interaction and can help staff start to feel more comfortable around you quickly.
This also goes for meeting other travelers at orientation. Be sure to reach out to other travel nurses during hospital orientation even if they won’t be on your unit. Knowing other travelers in the hospital can be helpful if you float or it can be the start of a new friendship for exploring on days off.
3. Be the first to offer help
If you are caught up with tasks for your patient and see another nurse drowning in work, offer to help! Staff nurses may be hesitant to ask a travel nurse for help because they are unsure of your skill level. By stepping up in to assist when the opportunity presents itself, you give yourself the chance to show just how much you know.
Don’t be offended if other nurses are unsure of what you know how to do at first. Each travel nurse has a slightly different background and as such a different set of skills. Simply step up when you feel confident in your ability to help and reassure the regular staff of your previous experience if needed.
4. Explain your role if needed
In the rare instances where permanent staff are not familiar with how travel nursing works, it can be helpful to both you and them to explain their role. I like to give an overview of my background and also the basics of how contracts and orientation work in the travel world.
I also like to explain that basic nursing skills and supplies remain the same pretty much everywhere and then give a heads up that my biggest concerns will be hospital-specific policies and where to find things. As you gain more experience you will get better at asking specific questions in orientation, but with only a day or two of orientation, it is inevitable that help will be needed in these areas.
5. Don’t underestimate body language
As someone who doesn’t walk around chronically smiling, I have had to remind myself how much our expression affects first impressions. Even if you aren’t super smiley, don’t forget to use simple courtesy and stay positive when interacting with staff.
If walking around and grinning isn’t quite your speed, just be aware of how other types of body language cause people to assume if you are approachable or not. Simply being polite, sitting near other staff, or trying to make conversation here and there can make socializing with your new coworkers that much easier.
While you don’t have to be best friends with every set of coworkers or prove yourself to be the best nurse on the unit, having a sense of mutual respect and trust can certainly make your experience on a new unit more enjoyable. Simply be aware of subtle things that can make a big difference when being dropped into a well-established unit, and you will find the transition into each new department that much easier.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
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