How to Deal With the Anxiety of Starting a New Travel Nurse Assignment

Boston, MA
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I’ve been a “travel nurse” for over four years now.  But the stress of starting a new contract every 13-weeks and the anxiety of travel nursing, in general, hasn’t seemed to get any better with time.  With every contract I sign, my anxiety rears its ugly head.  Whispering in my ear “Are you good enough?”  “Will people like you?”  “Will you pass all the tests to actually work on the unit?” “Will people think you’re an idiot?”  While I can’t seem to escape the fear of starting on a new unit… in the past four years, I’ve learned how to cope.

The reality is that nurses have a reputation for being vicious (ever heard of nurses eating their young?).  No matter how many units I go to, you can’t seem to 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.  Those who are excited about telling me that I’m doing something wrong, will tattle on me for the most trivial thing, or even flat out say things like, “If you don’t learn how to give report correctly you aren’t going to make any friends.”


How to Deal With the Anxiety of Starting a New Travel Nurse Assignment


Remember – 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 been handpicked, and you’ve already won half the battle.


Arrive Early to Acclimate

One of the most helpful ways in combating your anxiety over starting a new travel nurse assignment is to arrive in your new city early so you can get acclimated before work starts.  Start scoping out where your new grocery store will be, how to get to the hospital, and anything else that is important.  As you figure these things out remember that EVERYBODY starts SOMEWHERE and although you might be starting somewhere new every three months, you still have this!

I highly recommend arriving in your new city at least two days before your first day of orientation to figure out how long it will take you to get to work, to fill your fridge with groceries, and unpack.


Be Confident, But Humble

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 say, “Where I came from 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.

Make sure you’re always lending a helping hand to your 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 and 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!


What I’m really telling you is that 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 Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia 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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