Dealing with the Anxiety of Starting a New Travel Nurse Assignment

Boston, MA
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I’ve been a “travel nurse” for over two years now.  But the stress of starting a new contract and the anxiety of travel nursing, in general, hasn’t seemed to get any better.  With every contract I sign, there’s my anxiety.  Whispering in my ear “Are you good enough?”  “Will people like you?”  “Will you pass all the tests in order to actually work on the unit?” “Will people think you’re an idiot?”  I can’t seem to escape the fear of starting on a new unit.  But two years in, I’ve learned how to cope.

The reality is that nurses have a reputation for being vicious.  No matter how many units I go to, you can’t escape this reality. While most are kind, helpful, and even attentive to anticipating when I need an extra hand… there are still those that are waiting to tear me down.  Who are excited about telling me that I’m doing something wrong or in one case in particular, “If you don’t learn how to give report correctly you aren’t going to make any friends.”


The Anxiety of Travel Nursing and Facing Your Fears – You’ve Already Won

The important thing to remember when you get that call, ace that interview, and that contract comes to your inbox… you’ve already won!  You are already good enough to be in that unit.  Do you know how many people are applying for the exact position you are?  You were hand-selected from hundreds and sometimes thousands of resumes!  Whoever interviewed you saw something special in you and wanted YOU in THEIR unit.  So when anxiety comes knocking, don’t you forget… you’ve already won.


Arrive Early to Acclimate

And when you arrive in your new city?  Don’t let the stress overwhelm you.  So what if you don’t know where the grocery store is, how to get to the hospital, or what you should be exploring first.  Take a deep breath and remember that EVERYBODY starts SOMEWHERE. And although you might be starting somewhere new every three months, you still have this!  Get to your new city a day or two early to acclimate. Figure out how long it is going to take you to get to work.  Do a test run before your first day.  This will eliminate the stress of getting to your new assignment more than you know.  And once you’re done with that, find the grocery store, the Walgreens, and anything else that will make you feel more at “home”.


Read more:  What to Expect During Travel Nurse Orientation


Be Confident, but Humble

And when you step on that unit for your very first shift?  Show up with confidence, but be humble.  Ask questions.  Be curious.  Adapt to the way that your new unit operates.  Don’t spit back “Where I used to be we did it X way.”  They hired you because they need a helping hand. Not to school them on a better way to do X, Y, and Z.  Lend a helping hand to your fellow co-workers even if they don’t return the favor.  You’re bound to get a lot further if you remember that this is new for them too!  They have a new staff member to get to know. They are trying to figure out if they trust you, just like you are trying to figure out if you trust them.


When Someone is Rude to You – It’s a Reflection on Them, Not You

And when that b*tchy nurse shows up to ruin your day?  Take it with a grain of salt.  Breathe and remember that you are good enough to be where you are.  Let her take out her frustrations on you. It doesn’t make you any less of a nurse.  It makes her less of a nurse.  So smile, pat yourself on the back, and hold your head high.  You’ve got this!

So here’s what I’m telling you.  You ARE good enough to be there.  You ARE smart enough. People WILL like you.  Don’t tear yourself down.  Be kind to yourself.  Be forgiving.  Love yourself as you would love others.  And if you happen to be a staff nurse reading this, please cut your fellow travel nurse a bit of a break.  It can be a tough and terrifying position to be in.


Need more guidance on travel nursing and how to overcome your anxiety?  Check out these posts:

Travel Nursing, Where do I Start?

Tips For How to Make Friends as a Travel Nurse

How to Acclimate to Your New City As a Travel Nurse


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Kylee is a traveling Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse with a love for solo travel, wine, and Taylor Swift. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia. Passports and Preemies was created as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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  1. Emma L Euclide
    February 18, 2021 / 5:07 am

    I am starting my first travel assignment this coming week and this has helped more than you know!

    • February 18, 2021 / 5:35 pm

      Hi Emma, I’m so happy to hear this! Good luck on your first assignment, I’ll be thinking of you as you navigate your new adventure in travel nursing!

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