Remember in grade school when we had this spot on our report cards that read, “Gets along and plays well with others?” Well, that is about how things are in the big world also.
Your first impression takes you a long way when it comes to getting along and working well with others upon arrival to your new unit. Go to your charge nurse the first day with a smile and tell them who you are and that, “I’m here to help.” Remember that it is tough to chew on someone’s butt when they are smiling.
A slight aggressive approach here is much better than one in which you saunter up to the nurses’ station and sit there. That may give the first impression that you are lazy and want to set around instead of being excited to help and being passionate about your new adventure.
Be optimistic that this assignment is going to be the best you have ever had. This is your home floor for the next few months, so don’t go onto the floor with an attitude of “what kind of mess did I get myself into.” The unit may be an older unit, but even older units can have great staff.
Whatever you do, don’t be late on your first day. When you first get into town, drive the route several times to get an idea of how long it is going to take to get from your apartment to the hospital. Then add ten minutes to make sure that you get there early.
In the first week of orientation, it is imperative to remember that you have two ears and only one mouth. Don’t say all the things that you can do, but show them what you can do. Take an active roll in orientation and promote your independence. One of the easiest ways to do this is to answer call lights without being told to and very promptly. This will show others that you have a willingness to work.
Take the focus off of yourself when people start asking about your background by also being interested in what they have to say. Sometimes the background of others can be just as exciting as traveling around the United States taking care of people. I have run into fascinating nurses that have lived in some of the places that I have worked at, nurses who lived in the same type of farm that my grandparents lived on, and nurses who are new not only to nursing but to the United States.
After working there for a few weeks both you and the other nurses get more relaxed and comfortable with each other, but you still have to remember about having two ears and one mouth. This is the most natural time to mess things up by bragging about all the things you have done. Just remember that life is not a box of chocolates, but a jar of jalapeño’s that can burn your butts later.
When conflict comes up, you have to use it as a tool for input instead of a weapon of destruction. Don’t feed into the negative thoughts of others and join into the conflicts that already exist on the floor. Although you might have a few suggestions, it isn’t wise to express them until you have settled in and can confide in a charge nurse or unit manager who wants to know what you think.
Avoid negative feelings about others and remember that we are all different. Each one of us can bring something to the table to make a positive impact on the unit; you have to use a lot more tact than you would if you were a regular floor nurse.
Keep opinions to yourself that will cause an emotional outburst. A highly sensitive situation can bring up some terrible tempers. When emotions instead of facts come out in a conflict, then you have gone too far.
As a staff nurse you might get along with some nurses but still have a few sparse friends or a cliché that sees things the way you do but remember as a traveling nurse, you will soon be alienated if you are too far out of the mold. An alienated nurse will never have a fun assignment.
Written by Epstein LaRue, RN, BS, author of the number one rated nursing, trends, issues, and roles book series, “Highway Hypodermics.” For more information on travel nursing including travel company profiles, travel company evaluations, and hospital evaluations, visit her website at www.highwayhypodermics.com