INDUSTRY
July 12, 2016

Don't Judge: Breaking Some Misconceptions About Travel Nursing

When I was a new grad nurse, I started working in an ICU that was getting ready to expand. We were adding 12 beds, hiring on more nurses, and doing all of the necessary construction needed to accommodate the increase in patients. However, despite all of the preparations, we were still constantly short staffed after the expansion.

Still being fairly new to the nursing world, I assumed this meant that we would just have to hire even more nurses, there would be more overtime available, and we would probably just have to work short staffed. And then one day, I started hearing rumors that we were bringing on some travel nurses.

Until this point, travel nursing had been a very vague idea that I didn’t entirely understand; all I knew was that somewhere in the US, there were a group of nurses that traveled around, took temporary jobs, and went on their merry way. It wasn’t until I started working with them that I began learning all of the ins and outs of actually being a travel nurse.

That was four years ago. Since then, I have worked with well over a hundred travel nurses. I know more about travel nursing then I probably should, considering I’ve never actually been a travel nurse myself. I’ve watched the relationship between staff nurses and travel nurses with avid curiosity, and I’ve seen and heard the very common and unfounded misconceptions that staff nurses make about travelers before they even meet them.

I never paid them much attention before, and I will admit that in my early days of nursing I even shared a few of these misconceptions. But since working with some amazing individuals, who I’ve watched been very unfairly judged and at times mistreated due to being “just a traveler”, I thought it was time to dissect some of these misconceptions that many staff nurses are quick to make.

Myth 1: They’re Lazy

Oh, how popular this one is.

Many staff nurses assume that because travelers are coming in for a short period of time, and since they have no loyalty to the hospital, staff or patients, they don’t feel the need to do anything over the bare minimum. They just do what they need to get thru the shift.

Well, I think what many nurses don’t realize is that we all come with our own very specific nurse personality that stays with us wherever we go. For example – if a traveler is lazy, it’s probably because they’re a lazy nurse. I have met some really lazy travel nurses, and some equally lazy staff nurses. I have also met travel nurses that go above and beyond for their patients, are constantly asking other nurses how they can help, and get just as involved in the hospital and unit as the next nurse. Every nurse is different, and whether they are travelers or not isn’t what influences how hard they work.

Myth 2: They’re Unsafe

Many nurses assume this because travelers are basically hitting the floor running after just a two or three day orientation (I have even heard of some travelers just getting one measly shift to orient), they are more likely to make mistakes. To an extent, there is some truth to that; they may chart something in the wrong place, because the charting system is new to them. They may get lost taking their patient for a CT scan, and they may page the wrong doctor because they don’t quite know how to figure out who’s on-call. But unsafe? That’s a stretch.

Any intelligent nurse knows when to ask questions, and travelers are especially good at this. They aren’t afraid to ask the dumb questions because they know they’ll have to in order to do their job right. One thing I think many nurses forget is how experienced some travelers are. Many of them have been traveling for years, and they’ve seen just about everything. They’re resourceful, quick on their feet, and will readily admit if they don’t know the answer to something.

Myth 3: They’re Just In It For The Money

There is no denying that travel nurses make a ton of money. In fact, I’ve found it difficult at times to work next to travelers who I know are making twice my pay, but to say they only do it for the paycheck is a huge generalization.

If you ever talk to a travel nurse, their reasons for traveling are usually quite vast. Many do it because they want to see different parts of the United States. Some do it because they want to mix up their experience and see what other hospitals have to offer and others do it just to meet new people or get to know a new city. No matter what the reasons are, I think you would be hard pressed to find a traveler that was moving every three or so months to a new place where they often don’t know anyone, just for the money.

The Take Away

Now, by no means am I trying to claim that there are literally no travelers in the world that are lazy, unsafe, and/or just in it for the money. Of course they exist, but there are also travelers who are rude, who constantly complain, who are messy. Although, if you look around – there are staff nurses who have these exact same qualities.

The point is, we are ALL nurses, regardless of what path we choose. We all went to nursing school. We all have our own experience and skill sets. We all have different reasons for doing what we do.

Next time you’re working next to a traveler, take the time to get to know them before assuming you already do – you might find that their path and their choices in life are not so different than yours.

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