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Surviving Your Shift 101

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8-12 hours is a long time in patient care world. Even the strongest of nurses can have moments of overwhelming stress and frustration. Here’s my tips for surviving those shifts when you feel like doing everything but smiling!

  • Get organized! Tasks can pile up in a matter of minutes; so, organization is key to keep things from going haywire. Learn to best prioritize your care. Find out the best way you keep things prioritized and plow ahead during your shift. If it helps, ask a more experienced nurse about how to prioritize your to-do list.
  • Get help! No one person can do it all alone. Teamwork is a beautiful thing when put to good use! There will be times during your shift when good help will be the difference between you drowning in your workload or staying afloat. Never be ashamed to ask for help as even the best nurses need a hand sometimes. Asking for help can make you a better team player because you’ll be able to recognize when one or your teammates needs you to return the favor!
  • Get funny! Learn to laugh at yourself. A good sense of humor can help you keep things in perspective and know when to take deep breaths. Laugh at yourself and watch your stress level come down immediately!
  • Get real! Dealing with stress and frustration is no fun, especially during long patient care shifts. But sometimes, we need to get real about why the stress is presenting itself. Do we need to get better at prioritizing? Are we dealing with personal issues while at work? Are we afraid to ask for help during a busy shift? There are real ways we can minimize stress and frustration once we get to the sometimes underlying causes. If stress and frustration frequently occur during shifts, it could indicate some things about us that need room for improvement (i.e., prioritization, teamwork, etc.). Don’t be afraid to change certain behaviors if they impede good patient care.

Well, I hope you found these tips helpful. Stressful shifts are sure to happen, but thankfully, there are ways to manage them. The most important thing is that we take deep breaths and plunge in to being great nurses who manage to give great patient care despite the stress.

Back to School: Is it the right time?

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Are you trying to decide if it’s the right time to pursue an advanced degree? Here are 5 signs that it’s time for you to return to nursing school.

1. You need more money. If you would like to earn more than you currently do, than returning to school might be the right move for you. For example, according to salary.com, the median salary for the average nurse practitioner is $96,734 as of February 2015.  Of course you’ll have to take the cost of school into consideration, but earning a higher salary is a great incentive to get an advanced degree.

2. You want to learn more. If you find yourself wanting to become more knowledgeable in your current position, than earning an advanced degree will help you learn more and practice nursing at a higher skill level.

3. You’ve become bored in your current role. Boredom could be a sign that you’re ready for more challenges in your career. Earning an advanced degree will help you to challenge yourself professionally. With an advanced degree, you can learn new skills and practice a more exciting level of nursing.

4. You want more independence. If you want more autonomy, then an advanced degree is a great way to practice nursing with more freedom to make clinical decisions. An advanced degree is also a great way to have more say over your hours.

5.  You want to teach others. If you enjoy acting as a preceptor or training new nurses, then earning an advanced degree will help you to move into an educational role as a nurse. The field of nursing has a great need for nurse educators. According to AACN’s report on 2013-2014 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, U.S. nursing schools turned away 78,089 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2013 due to an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints. Almost two thirds of the nursing schools responding to the survey pointed to faculty shortages as a reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into baccalaureate programs. Earning an advanced degree could help you to lessen the need for nurse educators.

Hopefully, these 5 reasons will help you decide on whether pursuing an advanced degree is for you. If any of these 5 signs resonate with you, then there’s no time like the present!

 

 

 

Refreshing the Wanderlust: Dealing with Travel Nurse Burnout

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It’s that time again. Another contract is signed. You’re saying goodbye to new friends
and leaving to go off on your next adventure in travel nursing.

Sure, it’s awesome! I am currently on my 5th travel assignment , and I’ve had my share of great times. But, I also know how physically and emotionally taxing travel nursing can be. Frequent travel is tough on anyone, but the constant changing work environment can eventually wear out even the strongest travel nurse.

But there’s good news! There are ways to prevent your wanderlust from running cold. Here are a few.

Get some rest! It’s grueling to start a new assignment, especially during the first 1-2 weeks. New time zones can be a beast! Catch up on as must rest as you can while adjusting to your new surroundings.

Evaluate your goals. What are your reasons for travel nursing? Do you want more experience? Do you want to see new places? Do you want to enhance your resume? If you notice your excitement about travel nursing starting to wane, reevaluate your reasons for traveling. It may be time to change courses, and that’s okay.

Try a new activity! Look for new and fun things to do while on your assignment. It could be just the thing to re-energize your travel nurse experience.

Stay stress and drama free. One of the great benefits of working as a travel nurse is the ability to remain un-involved in hospital drama.  Is there strife between staff and management? It’s unfortunate, but not necessarily a concern of the traveler. You’re there to help, so you have to stay balanced. Of course there are situations that may stress you out, (frequent floating, various patient populations, etc.) and if it ever gets to be more than you can handle, talk to your recruiter.  Also keep in mind that if your assignment is not enjoyable, it is temporary.  Learn what you can from the experience and move on to the next adventure.

Happy stress-free, energy-filled traveling! Feel free to ask questions or leave a comment.

 

Scrubbing In: Should We Nurses Be Concerned?

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MTV recently premiered its new reality TV show “Scrubbing In”, that focuses on the lives of young and vibrant travel nurses working in Orange County, California. Dedication to patient care is portrayed by the cast, but of course so is partying, playtime and personal drama, which comes with reality television territory.  ”Scrubbing In” is no exception. Due to growing concern over the potential negative perception of nurses, some nursing organizations are calling for its cancellation. The popular online petition site, change.org currently has a growing petition with over 30,000 signatures.

After reviewing the show’s  premiere episode, I must admit that I to am concerned about its effects on the nursing profession. Call it professional bias, but I have always held nursing in a certain honorable and noble esteem.  I worry a bit that the cast’s antics lessen that esteem.  I now find myself posing questions like this:

Will viewers begin to see young nurses as immature, dramatic and reckless? Will those perceptions weaken the influence of nurse advocacy? Will travel nurse companies have more rigorous hiring processes as a result of the cast’s behavior? Will hospitals soon be more cautious about hiring travel nurses?

These questions are great food for thought right? But hey, there is a bright side to this. Maybe “Scrubbing In” is hardly an iceberg soon to create impending doom for the field of nursing.  In the best case scenario, viewers could just chalk the show up to pure entertainment for those who tune-in.  Maybe in this case, “a cigar is just a cigar”.  Many professions have to deal with their share of negative attention. Perhaps nursing is no different.

Share your thoughts with me!  You can tune-in to “Scrubbing In” on MTV, airing Thursdays @ 12/11c.

 

 

You Can Do It! 5 Must-Have Traits of Travel Nurses

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“You’re a travel nurse? That’s awesome, but I don’t think I could do that”.

 

Boy, have I heard this a lot!  Are you considering travel nursing,  but not quite sure you could handle the more stressful parts of the lifestyle? Read on then, because this blog’s for you. Allow me to share 5 must-have character traits that make travel assignments easier to handle.  You may not have all of these traits under your belt before you start life as a travel nurse, but be prepared to develop them at some point along your journeys.  Are you ready?Here we go.

  •  Hutzpah: I love this word! A travel nurse has to have hutzpah, or guts to move to a new city every few months. Making housing arrangements and packing alone will certainly test your grit. But most of all, the travel nurse has to be courageous enough to be thrown into a new working environment, which is not always easy.  Your colleagues are new. Your equipment is new. Everything is just so….new! Thankfully, developing hutzpah will help you to dive in and figure your way through the unfamiliar. You may even have fun learning new things.
  •  Adventurous: Go. See. Do.  I repeat. Go. See. Do. That’s your mantra as a travel nurse! Make yourself a “bucket list”  for each of your assignments. Be determined to have great experiences. You certainly don’t have to sky-dive or bungee jump on each assignment (you’re amazing if you do), but the time will fly by. You want to be able to say that you got out and saw what made the city/area great.
  • Even-keel: Yes, you will have hectic shifts at times. No, everyone may not be as nice as you would like them to be. Yes, you will have know each facility’s policies and procedures. Yes, you may have to spend extra time looking for equipment. No, your schedule will not be perfect. Yes, you may have to work a holiday. My best advice? Go with the flow. We travellers are essentially there to help.  Your ability to deal with various circumstances will make you a valued commodity to your colleagues!  So, do your best to calmly deal with whatever comes.
  • Flexible: Flexibility goes hand-in-hand with an even-keel  temperament.  You will need both to maximize your experience while on assignment.  Since you never know when you’ll be asked to float to a different unit or pick up an extra shift, it’s best to have the ability to handle change.   
  • Savvy: As a traveller, you will see and learn new ways to do things. That’s great! Travellers are valued not only for being quick learners, but also for having experience and skill. Take time to learn about different supplies, equipment and procedures. The ability to pass that knowledge on increases your skillset and overall value.  Afterall, you’re building an impressive resume here! 
So there they are. The traits that I think will help you to have a wonderful and productive career as a travel nurse. You may have read them and thought, “I am none of those things”, but please don’t let that deter you. Go on and get started, and watch how quickly you will develop these traits. I repeat, get started. Jump in! You may suprise yourself  with how skilled, adventurous and adapatable you become. Happy travelling:)

Whatsapp: My Favorite Apps for Travel Nurses!

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My smart-phone is the most crucial piece of luggage that I take along with me on travel nurse assignments. Why? Because my apps are amazing! They seriously help to de-stress my travel nurse life. I have come to depend on them when I need to know the best route, photo, nearest gas station, restaurant or hotel. There are always alot of app options, but I will share the quick, fun and stress-free apps that have helped  make my life on assignment that much easier!

 

1. Around Me: This is one of my favorites! This app lists nearby gas stations, bars, coffee shops, hospitals, hotels, movie theaters, taxis, etc. Even if I am looking for a specific place, I can search for it and map it with this app. It’s wonderful for road trips to my travel destination. Honorable mention: Wikitude is amazing! In addition to bars/nightlife, this app also shows nearest sights and live music.)

 

 

 

 

2. Diptic: What travel nurse doesn’t want to capture the sense of fun and adventure when on assignments? Pic collages are an excellent way to that.  Diptic is my favorite collage app. I can use many pics from one experience ( sightseeing, ball games, hiking, etc.), edit them the way I like and either save or share them. It also has a great variety of layouts, both classic and fun, to load pics to.  (Honorable mention: Pano is a great app for capturing panoramic views of those beaches, cityscapes and mountains. No collage pics with this app, but still awesome)

 

        

 

 

3. Urbanspoon: Okay, so I am a complete foodie when I am on assignment :)  What better way to explore a city than to try its cuisine? Urbanspoon is a foodie’s best friend. It sorts the city’s restuarants by cuisine, open tables, price and most popular. It also lets you reserve a table at your restuarant choice.  (Honorable mention: Eat24: If you are in the mood for delivery or pick-up, just put your address and cuisine choice in this app, place your order and voila!)

 

 

 

More and more apps are created by the day, so there’s no doubt even more great apps for travel nurses. Do you have any favorites? Feel free to share with me!

Travel Nursing 101: A Solid Contract

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Let’s talk about your assignment contract! This is the single most important document of your travel nurse assignment. It’s ironclad and often non-negotiable. You and your recruiter will discuss requested time off, overtime, etc. But, if you remember nothing else, remember that if it is not in your contract, it does not exist! In the best-case scenario, your recruiter will thoroughly explain everything your contract should have in it in order to make your assignment smooth and hassle-free. Since that may not be the case, especially during your first assignment, I’ll highlight some things you want to make sure are spelled out in clear, concise terms before you sign on the dotted line. Ready? Here we go!

1. Pay: Your pay rate is sure to be included on your contract, but here are a few things you want spelled out. Should you want to pick up overtime, how much is the pay rate for overtime? Is it higher than the regular pay rate? What portion of your pay is untaxed? Is there a per diem rate? Are there shift differentials? Meaning, will you get more money for working night shift? Is there extra money for floating? For being the charge nurse?

* Note: Does your assignment have a sign on or completion bonus?? Be sure the amount and payout dates are in your contract. Does your company reimburse you for licensing fees? Travel expenses?? Again, be sure the amounts and pay out dates are detailed. One thing I didn’t realize when I did my first assignment was the importance of having travel and licensing expenses available before your assignment begins! It can be expensive to travel to and from your assignment, so it’s important to know when your company will reimburse you.

2. Time Off: Now this one’s tough! Your contract will include your start and end date of your assignment, but unless you specify what dates you want off, you are not guaranteed any time off during your assignment! This is very important, because you may want to have family or friends visit. You may want to go home briefly during your assignment. I have had friends denied time off to go home for family emergencies, so I cannot stress the importance of this enough!  Be sure to discuss with your recruiter exactly when and under what circumstances you would like to be off. If you don’t, the travel agency will leave your requests up to the hospital/facility schedulers. Some facilities are traveler friendly and will work to accommodate your request; but, try not to leave your schedule requests up to chance.

Also, know exactly when your contract obligates you to work. Is your assignment schedule for every other weekend? Rotating between day/night shift? Will you be required to float? If you are floating, what kinds of patients will you be caring for? Get.It.In.Writing. Okay?

3. Housing: I’ve read blogs that advise travel nurses to not sign contracts until they have housing details worked out. I have not had any major housing issues, but here’s my advice.  If you opt to have the travel company secure housing for you, know what is included in the standard furniture package. If you have to rent any devices/appliances, make sure the rates are included in your contract.

 

 Stay tuned and as always, questions/comments are welcome!

Travel Nursing 101: First Things First

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Okay, so you’ve decided to become a travel nurse, or at least you’re expressing interest. That’s great! It is a wonderful, rewarding opportunity.  I’m currently into my 3rd travel nurse assignment (like the shot of the bridge?) and I often get asked many questions on what travel nursing is like. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet  and befriend fellow travelers along the way. Through our conversations and my own experiences, I’ve learned quite a bit of helpful information.  So, I’m taking the next few blog posts to give some tips on how to make the most of  a travel nursing career.! Here it goes……

Travel Nursing 101: First things first.

The first thing I will tell anyone considering an assignment as a travel nurse is this: have a clear purpose for starting a career as a travel nurse.  Are you most interested in earning extra money? Are you traveling for the experience alone? Are you willing to work various shifts/units? Holidays?   Trust me, having the answer to these questions in the back of your mind will help you determine which assignments are best for you. Some assignments have great pay rates, benefits, etc, but aren’t necessarily in the most fun places and vice versa. Some assignments may require you to float to various units, work holidays and rotate between day/night shifts. Before you choose an assignment, decide which details you are willing to negotiate on.

Now that you’ve decided to travel, you need to choose an agency to travel with. Choose the right travel company. I repeat, choose the right company!! As travel nursing has expanded, agencies are expanding and becoming more competitive.  Truthfully, in terms of communication, contracts, housing, benefits, customer service, etc., some agencies are better than others. Pay close attention to an agency’s reviews before signing on with them!  There are several websites that can give you agency rankings. I like both www.highwayhypodermics.com and www.travelnursingcentral.com.

Use all the tools you can to get reviews. Do your homework! If you know a traveler, talk with him/her about their experiences. Do they like their company? What companies would they stay away from and why? Do they have a good relationship with their recruiter? Having a good recruiter can make all the difference in your travel experience. There are a lot of varied opinions about different agencies. You may have a great experience with a company while another traveler didn’t. Sometimes, experience is the best teacher. As a rule of thumb, though, if you notice several negative comments about an agency via word of mouth or web, pay attention.

Coming up in my next blog post,  I’ll tell you specifics about contracts. What needs to be detailed in your contract? What questions do you need to ask your recruiter? What questions do you need to ask when you interview for the assignment?  A good rule to remember: If it is not in your contract, it does not exist!

Stay tuned and all questions are welcomed:)

Advice to New Grads: An Interview with Seasoned Nurses

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I recently had the privilege of interviewing  two really great nurses.  Both have been in practice for at least 7-10 years and have worked in various roles (inpatient, traveling, charge nurse and outpatient). I figured that with their experience and skill,  they would be more than able to give great advice to new nurses.  I was right!

I asked 3 simple questions and I loved the responses!  They are brief and candid, yet powerful when you take them to heart. It struck me how much these ladies valued their roles as nurses. They’ve worked a little bit of everywhere, yet there are certain parts of their roles as nurses that have remained the same. I could hear joy and satisfaction in their voices! Let’s face it, not everyone can do it. Be proud of the decision you made to become a nurse. It was a good one! I hope their advice to you is helpful.

Here’s the interview, enjoy!!

    AVW: What’s been most rewarding for you as a nurse?

Nurse A: “Seeing my patients improve and go home! I love getting to know them and building relationships with them. It’s like they know you care because they light up when they see you.”

    Nurse B. “Building really close relationships with my patients and families. They were hesitant to conversate with me when I first started this position, but now they know and trust me. That’s a great feeling”.

  

AVW: What’s been the toughest part of being a nurse for you?

   Nurse A: “A patient that I had taken care of for a long time and built a close relationship with had a stroke at the end of my shift once. It was so hard for me to see that happen and go    through it with the family. I had trouble visiting them in intensive care. It was so hard. But, the patient’s doing well now and that’s great”.

Nurse B: “Honestly, it’s  hearing my patients sometimes lie about taking their meds at home. I know they don’t want to lie, but it’s hard when they’re trying to keep from looking bad. As a pediatric nurse, it’s sometimes very hard to witness poor parenting”.

 

AVW: What advice would you give a new nurse?

Nurse A:  ”You’ve learned a lot in the textbook world. The real world of it is a little different. The understanding of  it is important. Also, everybody has a different way of doing  things. Be open-minded to that”.

Nurse B:  “Start slow, but now when and how to dive in.  It’s tempting to take shortcuts, but don’t. Go home and know that you did right by your patients”.

Wings

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I’m here reading a book by a lake in Dallas, TX and these two friends in the picture gave me a great title for this blog post: Wings.  It’s  of course a little cheeky, but it fits. I’m here for my very first travel nurse assignment. New place. New people. New things to learn. I haven’t had to go through an orientation experience in a little over 6 years and being “the new girl” can be a little intimidating!

Then I consider my feathered friends here. They are in they’re zone, completely free and doing what comes natural.  What else can they do but fly? It’s no different with you or I. A nurse is a nurse, no matter the environment.  My 2nd or 3rd day in a new hosptial, I found myself doing what comes natural to me  as a nurse, even while learning new things!

Maybe you’re a new nurse or you’re changing jobs and it seems like you are going to have trouble learning all you need to fly on your own. Relax! A good nurse is a good nurse, even in new places.   As long as you hold on to what you’ve been taught, you can be put in any environment where compassion and skill is needed. You’ll do exactly as these birds. Happy flying:)

 

 

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