How To Prepare & Stay Stress Free Starting A Travel Nurse Assignment

Ask a Travel Nurse, Travel Nursing

Your first day on a new travel nursing assignment is sort of like your first day in a new school. All your surroundings are different, you’re wondering if the work will be hard, and you’re worried about fitting in and making new friends. All of these things usually roll into one great big ball of stress for the traveling nurse. While some of these things are out of your control, there are some things you can do to ease the stress of a new assignment.

Be Prepared

Being prepared sounds simple enough, but have you taken into consideration all the things that you need to do at the beginning of an assignment? The first step is obviously getting there. Do you have all your travel arrangements made and if you are driving, is your car in the shape it needs to be to get you there? Do you also know where you are going? If you are staying in housing provided by your travel company, do you know the exact location and when they are expecting you?

Research Your Destination

Before you embark on your travel nursing assignment, take the time to research your destination. Familiarize yourself with the area’s culture, customs, and weather conditions. Learn about the cost of living, public transportation, and local attractions. Knowing what to expect will help you better adjust to your new environment.

Pack Smartly

When packing for your first travel nursing assignment, consider the length of your stay, the climate, and the dress code of your new workplace. Pack enough clothing and personal items to last you for the duration of your assignment, but try to travel light. Consider using packing cubes to help you stay organized and make it easier to find what you need.

Get Your Paperwork in Order

Make sure you have all the necessary paperwork in order before you leave for your travel nursing assignment. This includes your nursing license, certifications, and other credentials. Ensure that you have copies of your medical records and any prescriptions you need.


If your travel nursing company is arranging your housing, most companies will allow you to move in the Friday before a Monday start date. I try to arrive by Saturday afternoon at the latest. No matter how lightly you travel, you will need to allow time to unpack and get your things into some sort of order. A pre-assignment weekend also usually includes a trip to the grocery store and a stop some place like Walmart to purchase anything you forgot to pack (shower curtain rings is the thing I always seem to forget).

Know Where To Go

After getting settled a bit, Sunday should be devoted to making sure you have everything you need for your first day of work. Do you know where you need to be on Monday? Will you be working a day on the unit or will you be in a classroom for orientation? Is the orientation at the hospital or in another location? What time do you need to be there? Do you know exactly how to get there? Do you have all your credentials? (ACLS, BLS, nursing license)

Another thing you could consider is going for a Sunday drive. Drive the route you will take to the hospital; see where you will need to park. Just remember, a drive in Sunday traffic will not be the same as morning or evening rush hour, so allow extra time the first day.

Brush Up on Competencies

You might also need to set aside time on Sunday to polish up on any information on which you might be tested during your orientation week. Many hospitals have “competencies” or formalized testing such as PBDS.

After you have everything in order, try to take some time for yourself. Do whatever relaxes you: read a book, watch some TV, or listen to music.

Starting a new travel assignment can be stressful, but when managed well, it can be just another normal facet of life on the road. Don’t worry, you got this!

David Morrison R.N. is a Blog Author for Medical Solutions.