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5 Most Common Mistakes Among New Travel Nurses

  • Identify the five most common mistakes among new travel nurses
  • Understand how to avoid these common mistakes
  • Examine ways to become a successful travel nurse and the available resources
Tracey Long


There are several common mistakes among new travel nurses. Do you remember the mistakes you made as a new nurse? Well, we won’t bring those up again until you can laugh about them. The point is that in any new career or venture, mistakes happen.


Mistakes are evidence that you’re learning a new skill, or you’re too tired after a 12-hour shift! If you’re looking to expand your nursing career by exploring the world of travel nursing, there are some common mistakes among new travel nurses we can help you avoid.


History reveals that Thomas Edison tried 1000 times to invent the light bulb before he found success. He is reported to have said, “I didn’t fail, but I found 1000 ways NOT to make a light bulb!”

Common Mistakes Among New Travel Nurses notice


What are the Most Common Mistakes Among New Travel Nurses?

Becoming a travel nurse involves a new skill set for your success. Hopefully, you feel confident in your general nursing skills and duties so that you can apply them in a similar setting, just in a different hospital or facility and city. If not, you may not be ready to embark on the travel nursing journey just yet.


It is recommended to work for at least two years as a nurse before becoming a travel nurse. Don’t make the mistake of setting yourself up for failure by still being a new nurse. Being a new travel nurse is hard enough. The following are the top five mistakes new travel nurses make.


  1. Inadequate Research and Preparation

Dissatisfaction is often caused by the lack of thorough research and preparation for an assignment. It is up to you to learn about the new location, facility, and job duties expected in the contract. Make sure these details match up with your expectations and skills.


You need to do the research to find a travel nurse agency and recruiter you can feel comfortable with and you can ask the important questions. For example, if you neglected to clarify that your experience has been working in a medical-surgical unit and then you are placed in emergency room, that might not be a good fit for your skill set or safe for your patients. Being prepared means knowing how much to pack and bring. Overpacking and bring way too much “stuff” can be a burden.


  1. Poor Communication with the Travel Agency

Poor communication with your travel nurse agency and recruiter could result in misunderstood contract terms, housing arrangements, and other essential information leading to potentially awkward moments during assignments. Not asking enough questions is a mistake. A mistake is acting like you know everything already.


Their job is to answer your questions so, ask away! Not asking questions of your new manager is also a mistake. It’s good to make a personal relationship with your new nurse manager/supervisor and clarifying expectations. Don’t act like a temporary nurse who isn’t committed to the job.


Not communicating well with your new teammates is a mistake and missed opportunity. Questions to ask your agency and recruiter include the following:


Scope of Work:

  • How long is the assignment and on which unit?
  • How often does the facility float a travel nurse to a different unit?
  • Does the facility offer training for different units?
  • What are the expectations for the job?
  • What is the time frame of the contract? Can it be extended?


Contract Hours and Pay:

  • What is the hourly rate?
  • How many shifts are expected?
  • What happens if they don’t schedule the travel nurse for the minimum days of work?
  • Do they pay overtime?
  • How often does the hospital cancel the contract before it’s completed? What is the compensation if they do cancel during the assignment?
  • What happens if the hospital cancels the contract up to 1 week before the start date?
  • How does payment work?
  • What is the payment schedule?
  • Does the agency help with getting licensed in the new state?


Bonuses and Extras:

  • Are there any bonuses for signing?
  • Does the agency help find housing? If so, how much of the stipend is taken away?
  • Are there other nurses who have worked this assignment that you can talk to?
  • Does the agency or hospital provide medical insurance?
  • Does the agency or hospital provide professional insurance as a nurse?
  • How long has the agency/recruiter been in the business of travel nursing?


  1. Financial Mismanagement

Failure to understand compensation packages or tax implications is often at the root of financial mismanagement among the most common mistakes among new travel nurses. Unlike a full-time employer who keeps track of your income and deducts required taxes, you will now be responsible to keep track of what taxes you owe and pay them.


New travel nurses have been disappointed when they enjoyed and spent the higher hourly wage, but found they owed much more in taxes than they had saved at the end of the year. You are responsible to manage your personal budget for housing, and transportation in your new area. These expenses may or may not be part of your contract, and that needs to be clearly communicated between you and your agency.


  1. Ignoring Self Care Needs

Neglecting self-care could also result in mismanaging finances for new travel nurses. Because of the demanding nature of travel nursing, self-care should be a priority. Neglecting this aspect could result in burnout and negatively affect both individual well-being as well as the quality of your nursing practice.


  1. Ignoring Contract Details

One of the most common mistakes among new travel nurses is to just skim your travel nursing contract. Missing details in a contract agreement, such as cancellation policies, overtime rates, and hidden fees, can cause unexpected challenges and dissatisfaction during an assignment.


New travel nurses may also overlook the detail in a contract and significance of meeting licensing and certification requirements across states, leading to delays or complications during credentialing procedures. Failing to carefully consider housing options provided by an agency could result in dissatisfaction if the quality or location don’t match up to your preferences, hindering your work-life balance and may lead to stress and burn-out.

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How Can I Avoid Those Common Mistakes?


Do you remember creating care plans in nursing school? Painful right? Yet they helped you think like a nurse and learn to problem solve.


You had to identify a nursing diagnosis, desired outcomes, and then write out the interventions to help you achieve your goals. Let’s do the same in the following table to help you avoid the most common problems of a new travel nurse.


What Do Successful Travel Nurses Do?


People are not merely born successful or unsuccessful, but they have learned the behaviors and actions that lead to success. That means you can learn to be a successful travel nurse by doing the actions of a successful and effective travel nurse. A successful nurse travel experience is best achieved by carefully researching and selecting assignments that align with your individual preferences and career objectives.


Communication between you and the travel nurse agency should be clear to reduce misunderstandings between contract terms, housing arrangements and expectations. Building strong relationships within healthcare teams at temporary placements creates an enjoyable work experience and fosters a happy work atmosphere. Financial success requires an in-depth knowledge of compensation packages, efficient budgeting practices and careful financial planning.


Prioritizing self-care, acknowledging the significance of work-life balance, and seeking professional development opportunities all contribute to overall nurse wellness and career progression. Furthermore, remaining compliant with licensing requirements and carefully reviewing contract details build upon success for travel nurses seeking fulfilling and sustainable careers within this dynamic field.


woman writing


What Resources are Available to Me?

You are not alone as a travel nurse. One of the most common mistakes among new travel nurses is not seeking help and resources. There is an entire industry of travel nurses who are enjoying the benefits of being a travel nurse and having great adventures.


Networking with them online, in person, and at conferences are great ways to build your sense of community and support. The following list includes general resources to explore that can help you in your journey of being a successful travel nurse.


  1. Travel nurse agencies

An internet search will help you begin to explore the wealth of resources from many travel agencies, such as Axis Medical Staffing or Fusion Medical Staffing. Travel nurse agencies can offer job opportunities, support services, and resources specifically for travel nurses.


  1. Professional Associations

Professional associations can provide job leads, networking, and professional resources for travel nurses. In addition, professional associations, such as the American Travel Health Nurses Association (ATHNA), have networking opportunities, educational resources, and industry insights. Professional associations often have annual conferences you can attend for continuing education, networking, and even skill building. A great way to learn about a lot of travel nurse agencies is to attend TravCon, a travel nursing conference where you can learn so much about travel nursing.


  1. Online Travel Nurse Communities

Participate in online forums where travel nurses share experiences, advice, and recommendations to increase success on the road.


  1. Continued Education Platforms

Take advantage of continuing education platforms, such as CE Broker, to stay current on industry trends, enhance skills and fulfill licensure requirements


  1. Housing Platforms

Investigate housing platforms, such as Furnished Finder, to find housing quickly and comfortably during assignments.


  1. Tax Services

Find a tax professional that specializes in travel nursing or independent contractors to effectively navigate and maximize financial gains. This is especially important if you have never filed your own taxes before and will provide greater ease and benefits in managing specific tax implications and reaping all possible financial advantages from this career move.


  1. Healthcare Facilities Rating Sites

Research healthcare facilities on rating websites, such as Healthgrades, to gain insight into the facility’s reputation and quality as potential work locations.


  1. Wellness and Mental Health Resources

Focus on mental and overall well-being with resources, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Headspace, an app designed for meditation and stress reduction. Be proactive about the reality of the impact of travel nursing on your mental health. Some travel nurses may feel isolated and alone creating depression. By choosing to interact with others and networking in social settings in your new area you can create new friends and support.


  1. Government Healthcare Websites

Stay aware of the latest healthcare regulations and guidelines by consulting government websites, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They offer vital insights for compliance purposes as well as industry updates.


nurse working on a laptop

The Bottom Line

Overall, the industry of travel nursing is a great adventure. It fulfills many of the desires of adventure, higher pay, new friendships, new professional opportunities, and choices. Like any new change, it brings challenges and the need for awareness, preparation, and being proactive to have best success. Moreover, remember the adage, failure to plan means planning to fail.

Nurses are not into failing, and you can create success with good planning and following the guidelines in this article. Good luck and have fun!