Now that you know everything you need to secure the travel nursing job you desire, the team at Onward Healthcare describes what to expect when starting a travel nurse assignment including the orientation process.
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Peter: Welcome to Travel Nursing Insider brought to you by Onward Healthcare. We’re back in Wilton, Connecticut with Deb Shea who is the vice president of Travel Nursing with Onward Healthcare and Sera Cullen, director of Travel Nursing.
In our last episode, we walked the nurse through the whole process of accepting a new position up through arriving at his or her new city, getting into an apartment and the options available as far as going into housing when you accept an assignment.
Today, we’re going to talk about some of the questions that might arise during a typical three month assignment. So let’s talk about when a nurse first arrives at the hospital, Sera. Is there a typical orientation? What’s the first day or first week like?
Sera: The first week that they’re going to go on orientation – before they even arrive at their assignment, they’re going to be given their orientation information from the nurse service coordinator. She’s going to tell them what color scrubs to wear, what time to show up, where to park, and what the nurse needs to bring. Sometimes the nurse will need to bring some ID and some copies of her certification on the very first day just for the hospital to see.
The reason that Deb stressed the importance of the compliance piece of this whole puzzle is because when you go to orientation, you are just going in to hit the ground running, do a week of orientation, and get going. If you have all that travel nurse compliance material already in, you don’t have to sit there for three days filling out paperwork. So that is part of our motivation on our end, is to just put you into the hospital and have you start working.
Now, they’re not going to throw you right on the floor right away; it’s not going to be anything scary like that. The first day, they’re going to tell you about hospital procedures, they’re going to take you around, show you where everything is, give you a timesheet, name badge, parking pass – whatever you need. You will do a little computer classes and stuff like that. They’ll show you how the hospital systems work.
The second day is normally on the floor. You’ll meet your nurse manager, you’ll meet your coworkers, you’ll have a preceptor, you’ll have someone who will help you, you’ll shadow them, they’ll show you how the unit works, where things are located, and basically your responsibilities and what you need to do.
The third day is normally when you are put on the floor and you are going. The great thing about you being a traveler is the hospital has a shortage and they need your help, so every one of your coworkers is there to help you. You’re making their life easier so they’re going to be very receptive.
Now, on the flipside, you are there to help them. There is a shortage. There is going to be some stress. It’s not just going to be butterflies and cakes all over the place. You are going to have to work and hit the ground running. That’s why we also stressed that it’s so important to listen in that interview, make sure it’s going to be a good fit, so you go there and have realistic expectations of what’s going to happen.
Peter: Speaking about scheduling and all the details, is this something that a nurse handles with the hospital or is that something that the nurse deals with Onward Healthcare?
Sera: Scheduling is actually going to be between the nurse and the hospital. There’s actually a scheduler for every unit. And so the nurse, during her first week of orientation, will work with a scheduler to find out what day she’s going to be working, what shift she’s going to be working and if she needs any time off or special request, they’ll be able to work it out between the two of them.
Deb: I like to add in on the scheduling. One thing that’s great about travel nursing, unlike per diem nursing, is that you are guaranteed full-time employment - so it’s either 36 hours a week or 48 hours a week. When you get on the assignment, we know that you have expenses, you have bills to pay, we make sure that you get your full time work in.
Peter: Well bringing that up, how about overtime; do these assignments generally offer some overtime?
Deb: Overtime is available at most of our assignments. If that’s something that’s absolutely critical for you, you do ask about that during the interview process but most of the hospitals, like Sera said, are short staffed, so overtime is available. We do follow all the federal and state laws so anything worked over 40 hours a week is time and a half, except in California, which is a little bit different and your recruiter will explain that to you.
Peter: Deb, I’m sure this doesn’t happen very often, but what happens when a nurse gets to an assignment and he or she feels that they just don’t clinically fit in to this unit?
Deb: Here at Onward Healthcare, our management team has extensive industry experience. So we have a process that doesn’t happen very often. So you’re right, Peter, it doesn’t happen a lot. What we do is we clinically screen the nurses here at Onward Healthcare prior to sending them out for interview.
We have a client service management team that does that and a clinical liaison department that does that. So once your file is over, a clinical person has reviewed your file and they see that you are good match on paper to the floor, then the nurse has an on the phone interview with the nurse manager. At that time, you’re able to ask clinical questions about what’s expected on the unit, what type of patients there are, what type of systems are used in the hospital. During that interview, we really get to see if you feel comfortable as a traveler with the unit and the unit feels you’ll be a good fit.
Having said that, a small percent of our nurses might get to the assignment and feel it’s not a great clinical fit and what we do is we work through it. You contact your recruiter, you talk to the nurse manager and let’s talk about what the issues are. We try to do training and sort of turn the situation around. If you absolutely don’t feel comfortable in the assignment, what we will do is we will kind of take it on a case by case basis and kind of redirect you to another assignment if needed.
Peter: I’d just like to mention in the previous episode of Travel Nursing Insider, we did cover the interview process in depth and so I would encourage our listeners to have a listen to that episode because we really did go through point by point how you go through doing one of these phone interviews for a position.
Deb: Being a travel nurse can have some bumps in the road, and the reason why is because psychiatrists tell us all that two of the most stressful things in our lives are moving and/or starting a new job and when you travel or a travel nurse, you are moving to a new place and you are starting a new job. I can guarantee you, no matter what travel company you work with, there’s going to be some bumps in the road.
What we encourage our nurses and we probably over communicate this is that it’s really important that when you have a bump in the road, we need to know about it at a mustard seed - either contact your nurse service coordinator or your recruiter and we will work through the problems with you.
I think specifically you asked if there’s a problem on the unit. What we’d expect you to do is call your recruiter and review the issues that were going on. Your recruiter will partner with the client service manager who works day in and day out with the hospital and we’ll create an action plan to turn, like I say, the lemon into lemonades.
Peter: What if I’m working in a night shift, what happens – is there somebody available that I can talk to at 12 o’clock at night?
Sera: Absolutely. We find it very, very important to have someone available for you 24 hours a day. So if you’re on a unit and you’re by yourself in the middle of the night, you are not alone. Onward is always there for you. You can call our help line and somebody will pick up the phone and help you with whatever situation it is, whether it is something clinical or whether it is a personal issue that we need to work through. Onward backs you up 110 percent.
Peter: How about termination early, Sera? Is there a situation where a hospital will try to fire a travel nurse within the first couple of weeks that they arrive?
Sera: Yikes! I hope not. Again, the reason that we have you go through an extensive interview with the nurse manager is to make sure it is a good fit. Now, the hospital has this need because they have high census or they have an opening on the floor and they need the help and the support. So it’s not something where you’re going to get out to an assignment and suddenly the hospital is going to say we don’t need you anymore. So I don’t want any nurses to ever fear that they’re going to drive all the way across country and not have a job waiting for them. We are not that type of company and we definitely back all of our nurses up, but we also have solid contacts so these situations don’t happen.
One of the other big things I want to stress with everyone is flexibility – flexibility on the unit, flexibility when you are faced with any of these stressful situations is so important. As Deb said, there may be some bumps in the road – life happens, but if you are flexible, if you call your recruiter, if you call your company, they will work through it. You guys will put your heads together and any problem is solvable.
Peter: Is it possible to take a day or two off if I’m one on these assignments for some personal time off if something comes up with my family?
Deb: Absolutely. The nurses are either working five 8-hour shifts a week or three 12-hour shifts. About 85 percent of our nurses work three 12-hour shifts. So if you needed to take some time off, you could ask your manager to block book your schedules, so work three in a row and then be off the fourth day.
Sera: And that is also really, really important when you’re going to new locations because you want to go explore. I mean, you don’t want to just do your job and go back and sit in your apartment - that’s no fun. That’s why you want your car. You want to be able to have a couple of days off so you can go see the sights, go exploring, and just have a brand new adventure.
Peter: And especially if you’re in some place like San Diego or Monterey Bay or Miami, you’re not going to want to sit in your apartment all day long.
Sera: Exactly. You want to go out there and have a great time, meet new people, and have new experiences.
Peter: One thing that’s really important for people to understand that are listening to this is you are the employee of the staffing agency, not of the hospital, so it’s really important for the nurse to stay in contact and connect with their recruiter and the person that is working with them back at their travel nurse company.
Deb: Absolutely. Our recruiters – once you start your assignment, you have your orientation, we make a point to contact the nurses once a week. It could be just a phone call left in your machine if everything’s going well and you don’t have time to give us a call back, we understand that. Some of our nurses, we talk to four and five times throughout the assignment. Some of them we talk to twice a week.
The one thing that I can’t stress enough and I said it earlier is the mustard seed. When you get to the assignment and you realize that, “Oh my gosh, there’s a stain in my couch… or my bed is lumpy bumpy… or one of my lamps is a little crooked…” you need to pick the phone and at that small mustard seed, tell us so that we can fix the problem. We’re paying a lot of money to get you awesome furniture and you need to be our eyes on the ground and let us know when there’s problems.
Both from a housing perspective and from a clinical perspective, just be open with us as what’s going on and we’re always willing to turn that lemon into lemonade and fix whatever issue you have.
Peter: So the moral of the story here, Sera, is not to let all of these little annoyances build up and I think this is something that’s really important for people to understand because most people, especially who haven’t done a travel nursing assignment before, haven’t had that outlet of that support person – their champion back there at home office – who is looking out for them and wants to make sure that it’s a positive experience.
Sera: I vicariously live through all of my nurses’ experience. I love going on the adventures with them and so anything that they’re going through, I want to experience as well – good or bad. So I know that a lot of nurses don’t bring some stuff up just because they think they’re complaining. It’s not a complaint. It’s an opportunity for me to make your assignment better and as I said, I want to go through the experience with you. I want to make sure that you’re sleeping well, I want to make sure that when you come home exhausted from doing a hard day’s work that you have a really pleasant environment to rest in and sleep in and that way you can go out and do a great job for the company, for yourself, and also have a great time.
The reason that I love talking with the nurses all the time is because I want to hear what you guys are doing. I want to hear what you think of the hospital, I want to hear what you’ve seen, where you’ve gone. I get pictures from nurses all the time showing me where they’ve been. It’s just so much fun and a pleasure for me to work with all the nurses because I get to experience it as well.
Peter: That brings up what you brought up in the last segment where you guys go out and you find these class A facilities to put your nurses in. If there is something wrong, I mean you’re paying for a class A facility and you need to know about it so you can fix it.
Sera: Absolutely, and the thing is a lot of what we’ve talked about so far are little things. Little things can be resolved so easy, but if you let them go, they turn into a big thing, and then it’s just no fun and personally, I just want to know about it. I can help you, I can fix it, or we can find a solution together.
Peter: All right, Deb, so we’re at the part of the program here where we’re going to talk about some really hot jobs, some really cool opportunities that Onward Healthcare currently has available. So what’s up?
Deb: This morning, driving to work, we’re here in Wilton, Connecticut, it was 10 degrees. So lot of areas of the country are freezing cold right now and we’re getting a lot of calls from nurses saying that they want assignments in sunny Florida.
I’m pleased to say that we’ve got number of assignments in both the West Coast and the East Coast of Florida all on the ocean. We do have some in the central zones too, but a lot of the nurses like to be on the ocean. We’ve actually just recently opened an office in Deerfield Beach, Florida so we have people on the ground in Florida helping us increase our open position accounts. So if you want to get some sun and have some fun, give us a call and we’ll be sure to hook you up at a position in Florida.
Peter: Deb and Sera, thanks so much for joining us again on Travel Nursing Insider. It’s always a pleasure to get your insights. Stay tuned because on our next segment of Travel Nursing Insider, we’re going to be talking about what happens, how you transition from this three month assignment into a new assignment and what your staffing agency can do to help you prepare for that.
For more information on the exciting world of travel nursing, you should visit Onward Healthcare on the web at onwardhealthcare.com or call 1-800-278-0332 to speak to a travel nursing recruiter.
You should also follow Onward Healthcare on Twitter at Twitter.com/onwardhealth, fan them on Facebook at Facebook.com/travelnursing, and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes. Just do a keyword search for Travel Nursing Insider.
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