How To Navigate Through a Difficult Travel Assignment

Young woman having a stunning view out of the back of her Camping Van

Note: Guest contributor Missy Rubie wrote this post. Learn more about Missy at the bottom of this article.

Each of us has our own story or our “why” behind our path to travel nursing. I became a traveler because I craved more knowledge. I wanted to learn as much as I could about my specialty of emergency nursing to feel prepared for anything that may roll through the ER door. Going from a small, seven-bed ER critical access hospital to a larger ER was going to be an adjustment, but I was ready to step outside my comfort zone. I wasn’t prepared for just how far outside that zone I would get. 

Whether it’s your first assignment or your twentieth, you’re bound to experience a tough job at some point. Let me help you navigate that challenging assignment – we can get through it together!

Identify the Challenge

First, determine why this assignment is challenging. Are the staff rude and not treating you fairly? Do you get the worst tasks? Are you feeling homesick? Do you think you’re unsure why NCLEX let you pass and gave you a nursing license? TRUST ME – these are all normal feelings!

Each day can present a new challenge, so how do we work through them? First things first, identify the challenge. Then, we choose how we are going to react. 

Are there opportunities for the staff or providers to be kinder to you? Some facilities and staff may have had poor experiences with nurses in the past, but you have the opportunity to change their perception! Travelers are typically held to a higher standard, and you can rise to the occasion.

Choose How You Will React

Here are some ways to shine as a traveler and turn challenges into opportunities.

  • Do you hear someone else’s patient’s bed alarm going off? Check the patient and ask if they need help! 
  • Do you have time to help someone else? Ask if you can do anything for them! These small things go a long way. CNAs and nursing staff will appreciate your assistance and will hopefully reciprocate the help when you’re busy.
  • Are they asking me to take care of a patient with a diagnosis or procedure new to me? Rather than say, “I can’t do that,” embrace the opportunity to learn something new and do the best you can to care for the patient! Prioritize your patient care, and communicate with your peers. Let them know you’re unfamiliar but are willing to learn. 
  • Are you feeling homesick? Do you miss your work besties, favorite providers, and the comfort of knowing the policies and procedures of your home hospital? Try to embrace learning how facilities do things and establish new relationships with other travelers! 
  • Do you feel you’re not sure why someone would give you a nursing license? We all have our struggles some days. After 12 years of nursing, I still ask many questions and have to use my resources! I look up diagnoses and procedures and communicate with my team if we are doing something new to me. We all work together! I’ve learned so much about emergency medicine because I’ve worked alongside and learned from some of the best doctors, nurses, and assistants.

Tips for Getting Through a Tough Assignment

Now that we’ve gone through some scenarios, I’ll leave you with a few quick tips to help you work through any difficult assignment.

  • Ask all the questions! 
  • Be adaptable and willing to take on any task, big or small. 
  • Be open to learning new things. Knowledge is power, right?! 
  • Count down your shifts. We can do anything for 13 weeks!
  • Journal! It’s fun to go back and read some of the clinical experiences I had! 
  • Keep an open mind and embrace new experiences. 
  • Let rude people roll off your back. How they treat you is beyond your control. Instead, choose how you react wisely. 
  • Make friends with perm staff and travelers! The connections I made with other staff and travelers on my first assignment saved my bacon, truly. We went hiking, went to dinner, and shopped! 
  • Give yourself grace. We cannot take care of others if we do not care for ourselves. Simple as that.

About Missy Rubie

Hello, my fellow nurses!

My name is Missy, and I’ve been a nurse for more than 12 years. 

Nursing is my second career as I worked on an accounting degree while working in the business office at my local hospital. I switched majors to nursing and began my nursing career in that same small critical access hospital. I spent more than five years working MS and ER there and started my travel nursing journey in 2015. While I traveled, I trained for multiple marathons and had fun exploring each new place!

I traveled for two years until I landed in Wyoming and have since made myself at home! I’ve enjoyed working in the ER, as a charge nurse, and as a house supervisor at my local hospital. I like picking up shifts in ICU as well as MedSurg. I still work PRN at the hospital and genuinely enjoy bedside nursing. 

Recently, I’ve been fortunate to work with the internal clinical team at TNAA as a Director of Nursing. I love taking my experiences with travel nursing and using them to provide support to travel nurses.

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