A Day in the Life of a Travel Nurse

by | Apr 17, 2018 | Nurse Life | 2 comments

This post is sponsored by Wanderly.

A day in the life of a travel nurse

A Day in the Life of a Travel Nurse

Being a travel nurse is not easy. It is not for everyone. You move around a lot, have a harder time forming real relationships, and you may not always know what you are walking into. Recruiters can be helpful but how do you really know if they are just trying to make commission or if they are really trying to place you in the perfect spot? Wanderly helps take all the guesswork out of being a travel nurse. Wanderly sets themselves apart by allowing you to:

  • Search and compare fully detailed pay packages from leading agencies
  • Chat anonymously with recruiters and keep their information hidden until they’re ready to accept a job
  • Fill out a one-time application and use it for all jobs

Now let’s look at a day in the life of a travel nurse and see how Wanderly can help make it smoother.

Wake up: wait…where am I?

It’s your first day in a new assignment…new city, new climate, new time zone.


It’s important to give yourself a few days to settle into your new, temporary home.  Who knows what hiccups you may experience (car trouble, for example). You should have some familiarity on how to get to your new job location and know the traffic patterns. Also, getting used to any time changes can be challenging so having some extra days to get acclimated will make a difference.

Get ready for work

Make sure you have your orientation paperwork ready for you first day.  Make extra copies of licenses, certification, even TB and vaccine records.  You never know when things will get lost in the shuffle. Get your uniform ready the day before, ensuring to consider any scrub color requirements. This will make day 1 at the hospital much less hectic and anxiety-ridden.

How do I find my way around?

Your Wanderly recruiter will have provided you with directions, a map of the hospital campus, and where you should be on your first day of orientation.  Once again, it doesn’t hurt to go on a scavenger hunt the day before you start to learn your way to and from work…and also to know where orientation will begin.  Sometimes, hospital orientation is not even on the hospital campus. It could be somewhere else! You don’t want to realize this 5 minutes before you show up. It will also be helpful to be provided with directions on how to get to your unit.  If you can, take a moment during hospital orientation to navigate around the hospital and learn where your unit is located.


Only 1 or 2 days of orientation? Yes, it’s true.

As a traveler, this is the truth.  That’s why it is so important to have experience under your belt before you decide to travel.  You need to be efficient and knowledgeable as a travel nurse because your orientation will be short.  You need to have exposure to the disease processes that you will be caring for in your unit.  Your Wanderly Recruiter will make sure you are the right fit for the job, not just throw you into one to fill a quota. Plus they are able to answer specific questions about your assignment so you don’t feel like you are walking into any major surprises.

During your brief unit orientation, you need to have lots of practice with the equipment including IV pumps, the electronic medical record, and documentation.  You should learn how to look up policies and procedures. Learn how to look up providers and know how to get in touch with them for both routine and urgent needs.  You know how to take care of patients but you need to know what the unit norms are in order to manage your day. Write down any questions that you think of along the way- even after your orientation.  It’s important that you have any questions/concerns addressed as early as possible.

Meeting my new coworkers

More than likely, your nurse colleagues are going to be so happy to have you with them.  Most travel nurses are going to work in units where the patient census is high and staffing is short. Meaning, you are going where you are really needed!


Be friendly. Introduce yourself- even to the physicians and providers.  Let them know you are a traveler. Talk to fellow travel nurses- they may know the ropes a little more than you do.  Ask your coworkers about popular places to eat, sightsee, visit. Most people are enthusiastic about telling people about their town.  If you do come across a few negative nurses, do not take it personally. It’s important to still try and be positive. There will be some coworkers who will just be difficult.  It may be helpful to just let them be. You will learn who your reliable team members are. Surround yourself with them as much as possible. Also, remember that your assignment is only temporary. If you run into any major problems, you can know that Wanderly is there to help you on assignment.

Trust your instincts

If you travel long enough, it is inevitable that you will come across a travel assignment where you find you are not treated fairly.  You may be consistently assigned a patient ratio that is more than what other nurses have to take. You may be consistently given the sickest, highest acuity patients on the unit.  You may find that the practices and culture in the hospital are unsafe. You will know, in your gut, when things are wrong. If you are concerned about your patient assignments and the safety of your patients, you need to speak up.  Follow proper chain of command; go to your charge nurse or the nurse manager. If you feel uncomfortable with this, talk to your Wanderly nurse recruiter. Their job is to support you and they are there to have those crucial conversations if need be.  This is your nursing license that you need to protect and it is ultimately up to you to speak up if you have concerns.

Make this experience an adventure

One of the reasons to chose travel nursing is you have an opportunity to get out and see the country!  Wanderly shows you pay packages and benefits from leading agencies, so you can compare and choose what works best for you. Wherever your assignments take you, get out and explore the area you are living in. Learn the history, the culture, and the people who live in the area.  Make the most of your days off! Talk to your colleagues about interesting places to go and things to do. This is also a great way to build a connection with your colleagues.

If the opportunity presents itself, travel with a friend.  It can ease some of the anxiety and stress of traveling to a new place when you are not alone.  Also, keep an open mind to learn about new practices or protocols while you are at work. You never know what ground-breaking research may be underway at your facility.  Keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

Finishing your assignment

It seems as if you just started yesterday and before you know it, your assignment contract is coming to an end.   If you are being offered an extension of your contract, your nurse recruiter or the nurse manager will let you know.  After this, it is up to you to decide. If you decide to move on, it is important to leave on a good note. Thank your team members who helped you to feel welcome and appreciated, especially the nurse manager.  You never know who you may work with in the future.


Leaving a lasting and good impression will keep opportunities open.   Make sure you give yourself ample time in between assignments. Also, check with your recruiter to verify who is responsible for taking care of housing needs (ie, cancelling cable, power, etc).  Make sure you are not leaving your housing a mess. Don’t be mean: leave it clean! Wanderly will even help you find furnished housing for your stay!

Start your first assignment

If you’d like to embark on your first travel assignment, check out Wanderly. Compare pay packages and benefits from agencies anonymously, fill out one application and skills checklist and then apply to as many jobs as you’d like. It’s a lot more efficient than filling out one for each and reaching out to different agencies individually. Wanderly is proud to offer affordable health, vision and dental insurance that travels with you from one assignment to the next regardless of switching agencies!

A Day in the Life of a Travel Nurse

See Also:

Fast Facts for the Travel Nurse: Travel Nursing in a Nutshell (Volume 1)Fast Facts for the Travel Nurse: Travel Nursing in a Nutshell (Volume 1)buy5Prestige Medical Nurse's Car-GO Bag, BlackPrestige Medical Nurse’s Car-GO Bag, Blackbuy5Travel Nurse Work Log: Work Journal, Work Diary, Log - 126 pages, 6 x 9 inches (Orange Logs/Work Log)Travel Nurse Work Log: Work Journal, Work Diary, Log – 126 pages, 6 x 9 inches (Orange Logs/Work Log)buy5

All links on this site may be affiliate links and should be considered as such. FreshRN is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. See our privacy policy for more information.
Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.


  1. Amber Super

    Thanks for doing this post, as I’m looking more and more into travel nursing!

  2. Tony B.

    A travel nurse is very crucial and not easy. I am thankful for making this post and sharing it with the public. I hope many nurses can read this article.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.