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!


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!

How I Got Into Nursing School With A Low GPA

For as long as I can remember, my dream was to become a nurse. However, in high school a lot of poor decisions on my part caused me to ruin my GPA, putting me at a 1.9 at graduation.  I still was determined to become a nurse, I just knew it would take a lot  of work to rebuild my GPA. I won’t try to sell you some story about how GPA does not matter, and tell you that you can get into nursing school with a low GPA if you just do x, y, and z. The fact of the matter is, nursing school is rigorous, and entry is competitive. Therefore, if your GPA is suffering (less than 2.5) you are going to have a nearly impossible time getting accepted unless you raise your GPA. The journey will be difficult, but worth it if you really want to be a nurse.

Step One: Raising your GPA

Depending on how low your GPA is, raising your GPA may simply be a matter of taking 1 or 2 courses and getting an A. For me, there was no saving my GPA and I had to start over by attending community college. I went to community college for 2 years and took all of the pre-requisites for the nursing school I was interested in (you can do this even if your GPA is not low if you’re looking to save money).  If you decide to go this route, make sure your credits will transfer to your desired school(s), as not to waste time (and money). Do well in your classes! My GPA from community college was a 4.0!

Step 2: Prepare a letter of explanation

If your poor GPA was more than 10 years ago, then this step is not needed. Otherwise, you’ll want to have this letter to add to your application. A letter of explanation does just that – explain what caused your low GPA. Armed with your improved GPA, this will let your prospective school know that you’re serious about your education. In your letter, be sure to outline that the obstacles that previously stood in your way are no longer an issue.

  • Examples of reasons for low GPA: being young and not focusing on school, personal health issues, family hardships, financial troubles, etc.

Step 3: Letters of Recommendation

This is a necessary step for most schools, but if your GPA is lacking you want great letters of recommendation. I was still pretty young when I applied to nursing school, so I used my high school teacher and my community college professors for my recommendations. If you’ve been out of school too long to use your teachers, I would suggest using a manager/supervisor, and/or a mentor. You want to be certain that your recommenders can speak to your ability to be a successful learner and can attest to your passion for becoming a nurse.

Step 4: Nail Your Admissions Essay

Your admission essay should make you stand out from other applicants. You want to highlight your strengths, as well as emphasize your desire for becoming a nurse. In my essay, I discussed how caring for my ailing mother solidified my dreams of becoming a nurse. If your story isn’t similar to mine, don’t worry! Everyone’s call to action is different, just be sure to accentuate yours in your essay! You also want to tell the admissions committee why you are choosing their school. You want to focus on how the school’s mission, vision, and values align with those of your own.

Step 5: Going above and beyond

I will not go into too much detail on this step, as its pretty self-explanatory. I will, however, discuss some of the ways I went above and beyond to help strengthen my application. One thing I did was volunteering. The school I applied to values caring for the underserved populations. Knowing this, I volunteered at the free clinic, blood drives, and feeding the homeless during the holidays.

I also sought out shadowing experiences at my local hospital to get a feel of what a typical day in the life of a nurse is like. Schools like to see that you’re taking the initiative to be in charge of your education. Nurses are lifelong learners, so you want to show your potential school that you’re willing to do what it takes.

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