Travel Nursing: What I’ve Learned in My First Year Pt. 1

There has undoubtedly been a surge in the number of nurses making the leap into travel nursing since the beginning of the pandemic. Travel nursing can be a very lucrative way for nurses to make competitive salaries without obtaining an advanced degree. I think the pros of travel nursing are very clear, but there are some things every nurse should know before signing their first contract.

The more nursing experience you have before traveling, the better.

It’s not impossible to get a contact as a novice nurse, but it is very ill-advised. Although the money can be enticing, there are certain aspects of nursing that new nurses just don’t have. When you become a travel nurse, facilities expect you to hit the ground running with little to no orientation. You are an aide to the facility, so you’re expected to be an expert in your respective field, possessing the confidence and critical thinking skills needed to independently care for your patients.

Have money saved up before you travel

While this is not completely necessary, I wouldn’t recommend leaving your staff job without at least 3 months’ worth of bills saved up. From the time you sign a contract, to your actual start date is about 6 weeks to complete the onboarding process. You want to have savings in case your start date gets pushed and/or your contract is cancelled for any reason and your job search restarts.

Rates fluctuate, so be prepared to negotiate

More than once, I’ve found myself negotiating my rate with my recruiter. Once you begin your travel nurse journey, you may find yourself wanting to negotiate for a higher rate. I can’t count the times I’d signed a contract, then found another agency offering a higher rate for the same job. To negotiate, I would contact my recruiter to discuss the other agency’s rate and see what could be done to adjust my rate.  I’ve only been unsuccessful once, due to the facility not being willing to budge.

I’m excited to share what I’ve learned during my travel nurse journey, but I’d love to hear your experiences as well! Feel free to leave a comment below and subscribe to my email list so you don’t miss parts 2 and 3!


Interview Tips for Remote Nursing Jobs

Due to the recent pandemic, there has been an influx of nurses looking to leave the bedside. Work-from-home positions have become more appealing to expert and novice nurses alike.

Let’s face it, bedside nursing isn’t for everyone. Even nurses who love the bedside have become burned out due to the working conditions during the pandemic.

Whatever the reason, it’s never too late to switch gears and try something new!

I’ve been a bedside nurse, case manager, and utilization review nurse. I don’t regret any time spent at either position because the knowledge I’ve gained has made me a better nurse.

Lately, I’ve gotten a lot of questions surrounding the interview process for work-from-home nurse positions.

Whether you’re applying to a hospital, insurance company, or an agency for a remote position, the interviewing process is virtually the same.

When interviewing for any remote position, you will either have a phone interview or a video interview through web-ex, skype, etc.

These positions can sometimes be difficult to come by, as a lot of employers require previous experience in the field to be considered.

         Read Getting Experience Without Experience to learn how I was able to get my foot in the door.

Below you will find tips on how to ace your phone/virtual interview and make yourself stand out to employers!

Phone/Virtual Interview Tips & Tricks:
1. Be in a quiet area away from distractions (no kids, pets or TV on)
2. Have the questions you want to ask the interviewer ready and in front of you.
3. Stand while on the phone (helps with confidence and concentration)

4. Smile while talking (you can hear a smile!)

5. Have a pen and notepad in front of you, along with your resume!!

6. Create a checklist. Review the job posting and make a list of how your qualifications match the hiring criteria (Have the list available so you can glance at it during the interview).

Phone/Virtual Interview Do’s & Don’ts

Do smile. Smiling will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice. It can also be helpful to stand during the interview since this typically gives your voice more energy and enthusiasm.

Don’t smoke, chew gum, eat, or drink.

• Do focus, listen, and enunciate. Be sure to listen to the question, ask for clarification if you are not sure what the interviewer is asking, and speak slowly, carefully, and clearly when you respond.

Do take your time — it is perfectly acceptable to take a moment or two to collect your thoughts.

Don’t interrupt the interviewer.

Do take notes. It’s hard to remember what you discussed after the fact, so take brief notes during the interview.

• Do have questions to ask the interviewer ready.

Do remember to thank the interviewer at the end of your conversation and ask when you can expect to hear back.

Important to know:
– interviewers will want to get to know you. (They will ask some informal questions)
– They will want to know your work history – please study your resume.
– They will ask behavioral based questions (standard interview questions)

Questions to be prepared for:

  • Why do you think you would be a good fit?
  • How did you handle change in the workplace?
  • Tell me about your experience working with healthcare members & providers.
  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?
  • What do you know about the company?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Tell me about a challenge or conflict you have faced at work, and how you dealt with it.
  • Why are you leaving your current job?

Great questions to ask the interviewer:

  • What kind of company culture do you have?
  • What is the training process for this role?
  • What does a typical day look like?
  • How have successful employees managed to stand out in the past?

These tips come from personal experience I’ve learned along the way, as well as directly from managers of big-name insurance companies such as Anthem, Aetna and Humana. I hope these tips provide some insight in the work-from-home interview process and help you land the job!

Tips For New Grads

Surviving your first year

When I was a new grad, I remember feeling like a straight up idiot. I felt like I forgot everything I learned in nursing school. I would follow my preceptor around like a lost puppy and dread being left alone in a room with a patient, even for a moment.

I’m quiet by nature, so building rapport with patients felt like a task. I hated when patients would ask me questions because I felt like I didn’t know enough, and I second guessed everything I thought I knew.

If you’re a new grad and can relate even just a little, I’m here to tell you that it does get better…. much better.

Soon you’ll be walking round your unit with your head high like you own the place. You’ll answer questions like a pro (because you’ll be one) and building rapport will become second nature.

Self-doubt and nervousness in the beginning are completely normal. It means you’re doing something right Even seasoned nurses find themselves in situations where they are unsure of what to do.

To help make the transition from novice to experienced nurse a little easier, I’m going to share some tips that helped me as a new grad.

  • Tip 1: Ask questions!

Don’t be shy about it either!

No one wants to look dumb at work, especially nurses. However, let me tell you, it’s better to ask a question than deal with the consequences of screwing something up. In our field, even small mistakes can cost someone their life.

You’ll find that nurses ask each other questions all the time, even questions that they “should” know the answer to. I sometimes ask a question I know the answer to just so I can make sure another nurse has the same answer as I do. I know that sounds crazy but working 12 hours and managing multiple patients at a time can make you a little crazy.

  • Tip 2: Cluster care, when possible.

As a new grad, time management was one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome. The first few hours of your shift are often the busiest, and without proper time management you can be stuck playing catchup for hours.

Clustering care is especially helpful when you have multiple patients on contact precautions (such as COVID-19 patients) and working on night shift.

The purpose of clustering care is to decrease the number of trips into a patient’s room by completing several tasks at one time.

An example of clustering care would include administering medications, completing an assessment/reassessment, performing wound care, emptying drains, turning/repositioning and addressing toileting needs all in one trip to the patient’s room. Keep in mind clustering care is not always possible, and patient needs must be addressed no matter when you last entered the room!

  • Tip 3: Keep report short and sweet!

I hated giving report as a new grad. Even with my SBAR sheet in hand I stumbled over my words and it took forever. Giving thorough and concise report comes with time as you become more comfortable in your role as a nurse.

What helped to speed this process along for me was making my own SBAR sheet. I started by making my SBAR sheet much shorter than those provided on the unit. I also arranged the sheet in a way that made sense to me and flowed well.

Another tip that helped me was sticking to the most important information. I should not take you 30 minutes to give report on one patient. Each nurse does their own assessment, so some things are not important to give in report.

For example, the on-coming nurse doesn’t need to know that the patient prefers grape popsicles over cherry. They would however, need to know of any changes in patient condition that occurred on your shift.

Another way to speed up report is to refrain from starting your assessment in the middle of report and, requesting that the other nurse does the same.

  • Tip 4: Utilize the rapid response team!

At some point in your nursing career you’re going to need the rapid response team. The rapid response team is just as it sounds. It’s a team of nurses, doctors/NPs, and other clinicians who respond rapidly to declining patient statuses that don’t require a code blue.

The purpose of the RRT is to address the early warning signs of deterioration to prevent cardiac arrest. The duration of a rapid response situation is typically resolved quickly with the patient returning to baseline or being transferred to a higher acuity unit.

You’ll use your clinical judgement, along with the signs and symptoms your patient is displaying to decide whether you need to call the doctor, call a code, or call the RRT.

But what if you don’t know what to do?

Of course, you can refer to a senior nurse on the unit, but if your patient is declining and you’re unsure of what to do, the rapid response team is the way to go.

*Patient’s friends and family can call the rapid response team as well if they feel that its needed!

  • Tip 5: Chart your assessments ASAP!

This may be the most important tip I can give a new grad. When I first started out, I would stay late after every shift catching up on charting.  Staying late to chart is extremely annoying (trust me) and will eventually lead to incremental overtime, which most employers frown upon.

Not only that, but you also want your charting to be as close to real time as possible in case your patient begins to deteriorate. The last thing you want during a rapid response or a code is to have large gaps in your charting.

Its not always possible to have your charts up to date, but you at least want your initial assessment charted within the first hour of your shift. Yes, you can have your assessments written on paper, so that you can remember details and chart later. However, in nursing if you did not chart it, then you did not do it, so you want your charts to be as up to date as possible.

Nursing can be scary and often overwhelming, but I hope these tips help to make things a little easier!

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Should You Get The COVID-19 Vaccine?

NOTICE: FDA Grants Emergency Use Authorization for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine


DISCLAIMER: this post is not to tell you whether or not to get the coronavirus vaccine. The information provided in this post is to strictly help you make an informed decision about what you feel is best for your health and well-being.

There is a lot of fear and speculation surrounding the coronavirus vaccine. A lot of people are leery of this vaccine for many reasons. Regardless of your feelings about the coronavirus vaccine, it is important to have factual, up-to-date information to make a well-informed decision.  

Is the coronavirus vaccine safe? I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen on social media that the coronavirus vaccine will “mess with” your DNA. Respectfully, this is simply not true. The coronavirus vaccine is a mRNA vaccine; however, it does not actually enter the nucleus of the cells where DNA is located. This means that the vaccine does not and cannot alter your DNA.

The fact that this vaccine does not alter your DNA, does not completely speak to the safety of the vaccine. Since mRNA vaccines are still new, and clinical trials are still underway, there is no concrete evidence that speaks to the safety and long-term effects of the coronavirus vaccine.

That being stated, the CDC states that “Clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines must first show they are safe and effective before any vaccine can be authorized or approved for use. The known and potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine must outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine for use.”

The current form of the vaccine being developed in the US does not use a live virus, meaning the vaccine will not “give” you the coronavirus. Keep in mind, that there are other forms of coronavirus vaccines currently in development.

I wish I could provide a definitive answer on the safety of the vaccine, truth is, we will have to wait and see. The CDC does have protocols in place to monitor the safety of any vaccine once its accepted by the FDA such as vaccine safety monitoring, but even still, you can’t predict how individuals will be affected by the vaccine.  Please keep in mind that this holds true for any vaccine, not just the coronavirus vaccine.

Who can take the coronavirus vaccine? It’s projected that the first round of the vaccine will be limited. The vaccine will first be offered to healthcare workers and those in long term care facilities. Afterwards, the plan is for the vaccine to be administered to those aged 16yrs and older.

If I have already had COVID-19, do I still need the vaccine? If you have already had COVID-19, you may think you are immune to the virus. That is not completely true. Just as you can catch a cold and the flu over and over, you can catch the coronavirus multiple times as well.

The CDC website states, “At this time, experts do not know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person.”

 It is not yet known how long immunity will last after recovering from the coronavirus, which is why it may be recommended to you to receive the vaccine.

Will the coronavirus vaccine become mandatory? There are some vaccines that are mandatory for children to attend public schools, daycare, and for adults to hold some jobs. i.e., working in a hospital. Knowing this information, it is fair to question if the coronavirus vaccine will become mandatory for students and employees. However, at this time there is no evidence supporting/or refuting whether the vaccine will be deemed mandatory.

The best way to prevent the spread of coronavirus is to maintain proper hand hygiene, quarantine when experiencing symptoms and/or exposed to someone who has tested positive, wear a filtered mask and maintain a social distance of at least 6ft from others when in public areas.

The information in this post was obtained from ONLY evidence-based, credited resources.

I truly hope this post helps make your decision a little easier and allay some of your fears. Everyone is entitled to their feelings regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and their decision to vaccinate or not. It’s important for us to be respectful of the opinions of others, especially during these uncertain times. Please feel free to leave any questions or opinions in the comment section below.

When researching information, be sure to always use credited resources. For help finding credible information, you can visit this site: Finding Credible Vaccine Information | CDC

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Do You Really Want To Be A Bedside Nurse? What You Should Know Before You Decide.

A lot of people think they want to be a nurse, only to find out they hate it once they start working. Although I love being a nurse, there are some things I wish I knew before going into the profession. Knowing then what I know now wouldn’t have changed my mind, but it may for some. Here are 5 questions you should ask yourself before deciding if bedside nursing is right for you.

1. Are you a people person?

This may seem odd, but you’d be surprised how many nurses leave the bedside because they simply don’t like people. Luckily, there are a variety of things you can do with your nursing degree that does not involve direct patient care.

However, if your goal is to become a bedside nurse, you at least need to be able to tolerate people.

Bedside nurses not only interact with patients all day, but their families as well. Not to mention doctors, residents, social workers, nursing assistants, lift team, turn team… the list goes on and on.

If you don’t enjoy interacting with others, (or can at least fake it) bedside nursing may not be right for you.  

2. Can you be assertive?

As a nurse, your patients will depend on you to make sound decisions about their care. Sometimes this may mean getting your patients to do things they don’t want to do.

For example, early ambulation is key to preventing blood clots after surgery and to promote healing. I can’t think of one patient who willingly wants to walk the halls right after having surgery.

As a nurse, its your job to get your patient out of bed and walking. Some patients will be easier to convince than others, so this is where your assertiveness will come in

 Being assertive is not the same as being mean, judgmental, or rude! As a nurse, being assertive means you have confidence, are bold and decisive.

You’ll also need to be assertive when it comes to advocating for your patients. If something does not look, feel, or sound right to you, you’re going to need to be confident enough to speak up and assert yourself. This goes for patients, doctors, family members, the hospital CEO – whoever! Your patient is YOUR responsibility!

3. Do you have enough stamina?

I’m talking about physical and mental stamina. The typical bedside nurse shift is 3 twelve hour shifts a week. It may sound nice to have 4 days off but trust me it doesn’t feel like it. Working 12 hours is mentally and physically exhausting and not everyone can handle it.

Not only will you be lifting, walking, turning, and sometimes restraining patients; you’ll be assessing them at the same time. Be prepared to reassess your patients every 3-4 hours and after every medication and intervention.

You’ll need mental endurance as well! Being tired is not an excuse to not know what is going on with your patients. You will be expected to be just as alert at hour twelve as you were at hour one.  

4. Do you like to educate?

Educating is a huge part of nursing and believe me, you will find yourself teaching the same thing to the same patient again and again.

When I say educate, I don’t mean stand by the white board and give a mini lecture on how exercise can help manage their blood pressure. Your patient’s eyes will glaze over if you don’t get kicked out of their room.

You’ll need to be crafty when educating your patients and deliver education in small doses throughout your shift.

5. Can you leave your feelings/problems at the door?

Your patients will expect you to be at 100% regardless of what’s going on in your personal life. As a nurse, you are your patient’s teacher, friend, confidant, therapist, etc. checking your attitude and problems at the door will not only benefit your patients, but will give you a break from your issues as well.

Also, remember you will not get to choose your patients. At some point you will have a patient who is of a different culture/religion, sexual orientation, or who has political views that differ from your own. You may have a patient who is racist or just does not like you for no reason at all. You will need to push past your personal feelings and provide quality care regardless of the situation.

You also must look within and realize that you may have certain feelings about your patients.   You will be caring for people from all walks of life, different social statuses, and those suffering from addiction. These circumstances can be triggering for some, so it’s important to be in tune with your feelings and be able to separate them when needed.

If this post has you reconsidering becoming a nurse, don’t be discouraged! Bedside nursing is not for everyone and that is perfectly fine! The beautiful thing about nursing is the ability to change your mind again and again until you find the right fit for you!

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Surviving Nursing School: How To

First off, CONGRATULATIONS on getting into nursing school, that’s no easy feat!

As sad as it is to say, at least one of your peers in your graduating class won’t walk across the stage with you. Nursing school is no joke, it’s a fight to get in and a fight to stay in. Below you’ll find tips on how I survived nursing school, so you won’t be the peer left behind!

 Get Prepared/Organized

The worst thing you can do is start your semester off in disarray. Its much easier to say organized then it is to get organized mid-semester. It’s a good idea to get reorganized at the start of each semester to say on track. I’ve made a list of some things I used to help me stay organized in school.

  • Pens, notebooks, highlighters – the usual
  • Have separate bag for clinical: This will help you to keep things light while at the hospital, not to mention sanitary 😊
  • Different binders or dividers for each class: If you think I’m being overzealous, I promise you I’m not! Separating your binders/notebooks by the class will make studying a lot less overwhelming!
  • Flash-drive: to store PowerPoints, projects, etc.
  • Recorder: I started off using my phone, which worked fine until I ran out of storage. Not all professors read directly off the PowerPoint, so these will come in handy while taking notes!

Get Ready To Work In Groups

If you’re an introvert, start preparing yourself now! Literally every project I was assigned in nursing school was a group project. Personally, I’m not a fan of group projects, I’m not fond of being responsible for someone’s grade, and vice versa. While I can tell you a couple of horror stories, there are some upsides to group projects. For example, it can be a great way to meet new people to study with.  

Keep A Study Schedule

Having a set study schedule will help you to keep your school-work-life balance in order. Knowing when you’ll be studying will give you time to plan your life around school. Don’t neglect your friends and family all of the time! Its important that you to keep some semblance of normalcy while in nursing school!

Find Someone To Study With – Even If You Like To Study Alone

I retain the most when studying by myself. Having a study group or a study buddy, however, can be very beneficial. Its helpful to have someone to test your knowledge with and/or to help you learn a concept you don’t understand.

Ask Questions, Utilize Teachers and Tutors

My school offered tutors free of charge, but if your school does not, you can find a peer to tutor you, or even look online to find tutors specific to your needs.

Asking questions was a game changer for me in nursing school. I would make a list of questions to ask my professor as I studied. I also would ask questions during class if I needed clarification. Don’t wait until you’re studying on your own to try to figure out what you couldn’t understand in class!

Some professors will allow you to meet with them during office hours. Take advantage of this benefit if its offered! I would’ve failed OB had I not gone to my professor and asked for help!

Surviving Nursing school won’t be easy, but you’ve got this!  I hope you found this post to be helpful! Sign up for emails, so you never miss a post!

Nurse Practitioner School: Online VS Brick and Mortar

Online schools get a bad rap, especially regarding healthcare. On one hand, I understand the criticism and on the other, I disagree.

When I refer to online schools, I mean schools that have no physical building for students to attend.

The biggest critique of online schools is the acceptance rate. Many online schools are willing to accept incredibly low GPAs (2.5), and don’t require admissions essays or references of their applicants. Most brick and mortar schools require a minimum GPA of 3.0, an admissions essay, and 3 references with one being in the role in which you’re applying.  

The argument can be made that since the admissions requirements are so lax for online schools, the education provided would be sub-par, thus producing incompetent nurse practitioners.

Some argue that jobs won’t hire online students because of this, but I’ve never known this to be true. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard the complete opposite.

 In addition to the lack of any real admissions requirements, accreditation of these schools come into question as well.

To sit for boards, you must graduate from a CCNE accredited school.  CCNE accreditation is becoming easier to achieve due to changing requirements. Also, schools can begin enrolling students without CCNE accreditation, and achieve accreditation later down the line and the students who graduated before accreditation will be able to sit for boards.

This does not sit well with a lot of NPs and MDs who attended schools with a rigorous admissions process. Another accusation of online schools is being a “degree mill”.

Because online schools can accept much larger classes than a brick and mortar, the likelihood of students being able to have one on one time with their professors when needed is rare.

The required clinical hours of some online schools are quite questionable when compared to those of some brick and mortars. There is a consensus that you should have at least 800 clinical hours under your belt before sitting for boards.

Upon doing my research, I’ve seen some online schools require around 500 or so precepted clinical hours. A common characteristic of online schools is the requirement of students to find their own preceptors.

This can cause a dilemma for students, as their graduation can be delayed if they are not able to find a preceptor in a timely manner. Also, most preceptors charge the student, so that is an additional fee that students have to pay in order to graduate.

So, what does this mean for you as a prospective student? Well, the choice is yours. Personally, I believe that you can attend any school and be the best at that school. No matter what school you choose, it is the responsibility of the student to take charge of their education to become a successful nurse practitioner.

If attending a brick and mortar school is something you’re not willing to waver on, you may be in luck. Many brick and mortar schools offer online options to accommodate different lifestyles and service students in other states.

As far as education quality, I’ve heard horror stories of students from brick and mortar schools who were less prepared for their role as an NP compared to their peers who attended an online school.

Now-a-days, many schools are taking a holistic approach to their admissions process, so applicants with a GPA slightly lower than a 3.0 can get accepted.

Also, upon research I’ve learned that some online schools have the same, if not more required precepted clinical hours as those of online schools.

Additionally, in doing my research I learned that in some states, brick and mortar schools are requiring students to find their own preceptors as well.

Basically, what it boils down to is YOU! Do your research and choose the school that best fits your needs and lifestyle. Be it brick and mortar or online, focus on being the best student you can be and take charge of your education!

I hope this post helps you in choosing the school that’s right for you! Make sure you sign up for emails, so you never miss a post!