The 3-Week Rule in Travel Nursing

Young woman taking a walk on top of a mountain and enjoying the day

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

Travel nursing can be a highly rewarding career. We often feel fulfilled by the opportunities to help patients in different communities as we explore new cities and cultures. But, the travel nurse career also comes with unique challenges and requires high levels of adaptability and flexibility. The ‘three-week rule’ is a lesson I learned during my first few travel nursing contracts, and it’s helped me in my career ever since.

My First Weeks as a Travel Nurse

In 2017, I had just begun working at my third hospital as a travel nurse. It was overwhelming, to say the least. The hospital was the largest I’d ever worked in, and the culture of the city was completely different than anywhere I’d ever lived. At the end of my third week there, I broke down. I sat on the floor of my apartment with my cat and cried. I pulled out my planner and wrote out a countdown to the end of my contract. I journaled and wrote, “I don’t know how I’ll be able to survive ten more weeks here!” What was I doing?! 

I dreaded going to work the next week, but I picked myself up off the floor and vowed to complete the next ten weeks I had committed to working. That first day of week four ended up being 100% different. I had a great shift and connected with my patients and coworkers. I was inexplicably more confident in where things were and how to contact the residents and physicians. I ended up extending my contract on that unit and have since considered returning in the years since.

Establishing the 3-Week Rule

Fast forward to my fourth contracted hospital, and I found the pattern repeated without the total mental breakdown this time. That is when I decided from then on that I would always wait until I had completed three weeks and began the fourth week before formulating a definitive opinion regarding the unit and/or hospital where I was working. 

Advice for New Travelers

As travel nurses, we are often thrown in with little orientation. We have the skills and experience behind us. Therefore, we are expected to hit the ground running. But nobody expects us to know where everything is right off the bat. I expected too much of myself in those first few weeks of my early contracts. Since then, I’ve learned to give myself the grace to ask more questions and familiarize myself with the geography of the unit, as well as the slight nuances in policies for that hospital.

We are creatures of habit, and changing hospitals may disrupt our flow, especially early in our travel careers. Ask questions. Be open to different ways of doing things. Have others show you where things are instead of allowing them to get them for you when you can’t find them. Give yourself three weeks of settling in before you decide if you love or hate a unit or hospital.

About Anna

Travel Nurse Anna Catalano going on a adventure in the forest

Hey all! I’m Anna. After 11 years as a nurse and 6.5 years of travel nursing, I’m still in love with this adventure! Over the years, I’ve become passionate about selling new opportunities and teaching new nurses and new travelers about our careers! I started traveling with my late cat, Grover, and now travel with my dog Lucia. I’ve enjoyed my travels all over the US! New England is next on my bucket list of travel assignments.

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