Recently I received this on my nurses stories page, “During the phone interview with UCSF ICU Nurse Manager, I stressed the fact that it was my FIRST travel assignment as well as my first time working in the USA, therefore I did not want an assignment where floating was involved.  She confirmed both on the phone and in person that I wouldn’t float out of the unit. I was floated 50% of the time!”

I keep on hearing this over and over, the nurse manager said in the interview that is was going to be one way, but when I got there it was all different.  And then I will ask, “Did you have the working conditions in the contract?”  90% of the time, new travelers will answer, “No, I didn’t think that it was necessary, since she verbally stated exactly how it was going to be.”

Lesson learned:  If it isn’t in the contract, you can’t prove a thing.  That is why I can not stress enough the importance of making you a sheet with the name of the hospital, the person you are interviewing with, making notes on the whole interview.

Points that you must know and can put into your contract include the nurse to patient ratios, if floating is rotated with other staff, or if travelers float first.  Most of the hospitals that I have worked have a policy that per diem floats first, traveler’s floated second, and staff floats last.  My rule of thumb is that I will take no more than one to two patients more than what California laws are.  If I’m working day shift, then no more than one over what California is, and if I’m working night shift, no more than two over what California is.  So far, I have not come across any problems using this formula.

Another thing you need to put into your contract is what floor you will float to, and include all that you are competent to work on.  You might also make certain conditions to work some floors.  For instance, since I have done step-down, I will put into my contracts that I will float to ICU, but will not take patients with a ventilator or an arterial line.

If the nurse manager states that you will not have to float any more than once a week, then put that into your contract.  In some cases, I have heard of nurses putting into their contracts the statement, “If Nurse Busy Body is floated more than 50% of the time, and then it will be deemed that her services are no longer needed on telemetry floor.”

A great relationship with your recruiter and Travel Company is a must.  If you feel like you can not trust your recruiter to be there for you when things get bad, then you need to find another company who still stand beside you. 

Of course you must do your part by showing up to work when you are scheduled, being exceedingly professional, and doing your nursing job in accordance with the state nursing practice act.  First impressions are so very important and can make or break an assignment.  Professionalism is the key to long lasting happiness at a hospital.  Remember that no one else knows your experience, and you have to prove that you know what you are doing and that you know how to act according to your nursing practice act. 

Keep in mind at all times the nursing process and remember that this never changes from hospital to hospital.  You must assess, plan, implement, and evaluate.  Also the main schedule almost never changes:  get report, do assessments, check your charts, pass medications, see what orders the doctors have written since you last checked your charts, answer call lights, and pass out more medication. 

Take these key points with you and remember that you’re travel assignment can be great with getting things in writing, a little flexibility, and a lot of hard work.

Written by Kay Slane, RN, BSed, CGM (Certified Grad-level Nursing Management) Matriarch of Travel Nursing. The CEO of Highway Hypodermics®, LLC, the longest running travel nursing website by a traveling nurse. Author of “Highway Hypodermics: Travel Nursing 2019.”


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