7 common mistakes made by new travel nurses

5 minute read

It is important to remember that everyone makes mistakes – even nurses. Whether you’re fresh out of school or a metro nurse transitioning to be a travel nurse, it can be daunting starting your first contract.

To help relieve some of that anxiety, we asked experienced Affinity nurses about common travel nursing mistakes they’ve made in the past.

We narrow their feedback down to 7 common mistakes – acknowledging these will help you avoid major pitfalls and smooth out the transition process from metro to rural and remote nursing. We hope you find these new nurse tips to be helpful!

1. Thinking of all staff in a facility as a “friend”

Being an agency nurse is amazing – you get to meet new people and travel to beautiful locations.

However, it is important to understand that while some nurses enjoy building relationships, some are solely focused on work. Exploring new surroundings and making friends on contract is an added bonus.

Do your best to avoid workplace politics and gossip as it can damage the relationships between you and your colleagues.

If you have any questionable thoughts, stay professional, and discuss them with your supervisor or manager. Remember to be constructive when discussing feedback or concerns.

“Keep your guard up and stay away from workplace gossip – just smile and never add fuel to the fire.” – Affinity RN

2. Not being well-prepared for your first day

Be prepared to get your hands dirty on the first day – especially if your facility is experiencing a staff shortage. If you are filling in the gaps for a certain role, your colleagues will be relying on your expertise to fulfil this position.

Some hospitals may be quieter, while others will have a fast-paced environment that may keep you on your feet for long periods of time! If you are a new travel nurse and aren’t sure what to expect, be prepared to hit the deck running on the first day.

Being mentally prepared for a big shift is a great way to avoid feeling overwhelmed and disappointed on your first contract.

3. Not familiarising yourself with new procedures and policies

As you travel as an agency nurse from location to location working at numerous facilities, it is vital to understand each hospital you’re contracted at. Two facilities can apply procedures and policies differently, relative to their risk and patient type profile.

Spend some time to familiarise yourself with respective, local protocols – are you allowed to carry out a certain task, or should you leave it for a more senior nurse?

Do not try to change a facility’s procedure and policies based on past experiences at ‘St. Elsewheres’. Methods used in a metro hospital may not always apply to a rural and remote facility, and vice versa. Remember, just because protocols are applied differently doesn’t mean core principles aren’t being considered.

Look around, observe and study the way other staff are doing their jobs. If you have any queries, make sure you speak to someone early on in your contract.

4. Being complacent and lacking awareness

Having a lack of awareness is the failure to be able to see beyond your thoughts. It can negatively influence your ability to make good decisions as you cannot grasp the impact of your emotions and actions.

Complacency commonly arises when a task has become routine due to a high amount of repetition. This can include simple daily tasks from administering IV medication to drawing blood from patients.

At the end of the day, our patients put their trust in us to deliver exceptional care. A combination of complacency accompanied by a lack of awareness can be dangerous. If a task has become routine, make sure you are taking extra care to carry out that task correctly and effectively.

Think to yourself: “how would I like to be cared for if I was the patient?”. Be proactive and ask questions, as guessing generally doesn’t lead to positive outcomes.

5. Not getting enough rest

It goes without saying, but make sure you are well-rested before a shift.

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing’s associate professor, Ann E. Rogers, wrote a paper on the effects of sleep and fatigue on nurse performance. She stressed that out of the several hundred studies that was reviewed for the paper, none showed any positive effects from sleep restriction in healthy adults.

Ensure you work with your team and get to take your scheduled breaks. If your workload does not allow you to be relieved for breaks, speak to your supervisor or manager for a rearrangement.

Make sure you also take time off if you are feeling unwell. Forcing yourself to work while under the weather can result in consequences not only for yourself, but also for your colleagues and patients.

Here are some tips on how to unwind after a long shift.

6. Not owning up and reflecting on your mistakes 

There are going to be times where mistakes and errors happen – we are human, after all. As health practitioners, it’s essential we acknowledge, reflect and learn from these mistakes to avoid repeating them.

While it is important to reflect on things that go wrong, an article also stresses the importance of reflecting on things that went well. Doing so can build confidence and develop good habits to help you repeat it again on another occasion.

The article goes into detail regarding different stages of reflection:

  1. What, where and who – what happened, where were you and who else was involved?
  2. Why – why things happened as they did, was there room for improvement?
  3. Critical review – could you have done anything differently?
  4. Making changes – what will you do differently next time?
  5. Re-enforcement – what happens when you put this into practice?

Applying and analysing these reflection stages will help guide you to making better choices in your nursing career.

7. Forgetting to have fun! 

Agency nursing is a great way to find the perfect work-life balance as a nurse. How often do you get to work and travel while getting paid for it?

As per the previous tips, we stress the importance that work should be taken seriously, but ensuring you also value your time off while on contract.

Get the most out of your contract by exploring new surroundings, perhaps meet up with fellow agency nurses and plan a day trip together – work hard, play harder!

Brimming with confidence now that you’re aware of common mistakes made by new travel nurses? Take the plunge and register with Affinity today!

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