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!

As always, 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.

Make sure you sign up for emails so you never miss a post!