There’s nothing worse than getting off the phone with a manager who just interviewed you for a travel nurse assignment and thinking to yourself, “I forgot to ask about X!” “I don’t have a good idea of what to expect if I accepted a position in that unit!” After going through loads of travel nurse interviews and forgetting one too many times to ask the questions I most wanted answers to, I compiled a list of everything I need to know to make an informed decision about accepting a travel nurse position.
While these may be questions to ask your travel nurse recruiter, I have found that you’ll get a more straightforward answer if you simply ask the manager yourself during your nursing interview. Recruiters may get side-tracked and forget to ask for you, they may not know the answer, or they may ask you to simply ask for yourself!
I keep this list on my phone so when a manager calls to interview me, I can quickly refer to these questions. Thus ensuring I have the best picture in mind before signing a travel nurse contract.
1. As a Travel Nurse, What are My Weekend Requirements?
One of the downsides of being a healthcare professional is working holidays and weekends. Unfortunately, no matter what state you move to, there is no way to get around this requirement. And while I’ve learned to embrace it, when I began travel nursing I realized that I was required to work significantly more weekends than the staff nurses were.
Before asking this question, figure out what you’re okay with. If you don’t mind working weekends, it shouldn’t be an issue. However, if you do mind, prepare to walk away from an assignment if the answer doesn’t suit you. I’ve found that this varies from contract to contract. Some units I’ve worked on require travelers to work every weekend, and some every third!
Also, keep in mind that travelers don’t make weekend differential like staff nurses do, so there is really no incentive to work weekends. Once you get an answer to this question, make sure it goes straight into your contract. I’ve been told an answer before (“you’ll work every other weekend”), only to arrive in the unit and be put on more weekends than I was originally told (three out of four to be exact).
2. What Color Scrubs Do I Have to Wear? Are they Provided or Do I Have to Wear My Own?
Some hospitals provide scrubs to their staff. Or they allow you to wear t-shirts instead of scrub tops. If you work L&D, NICU, OR, or other units that go to the operating room, more than likely hospital scrubs will be provided. If you have to bring your own scrubs I always ask my recruiter if they can compensate me for buying new scrubs. Typically they can refund you with proof of a receipt.
3. Am I Able to Request X Amount of Time Off Without it Hurting My Chances of Getting a Job?
Ahh, the one question I skip asking my recruiter altogether and just go straight to the source for. More often than not your submission will get looked over if you request too much time off. Once I figured that out, I stopped asking for time off when I was submitted for jobs and instead started to ask during the interview. I will say something along the lines of, “I have a trip planned for X and I need X amount of days off. I really want to work on this unit but I’m curious if this request will hinder my chances?” Then, I go from there!
Having open and honest communication with managers doesn’t mean you’ll always get your way, but I’ve been told yes more often than I’ve been told no. Once you confirm this on the phone, make sure it goes into your contract.
4. What Charting System Do You Use?
While I’ve never turned down a position based on the charting system the unit uses, I find that I feel more prepared if I know what I’m getting into before I arrive for the first day. Simply knowing eases my anxiety about whether or not I’ve used the system before.
Plus, I use this question as an opportunity to sell myself! If I’ve used the charting system before I make sure to mention it so that they know I’m proficient. If I haven’t I point it out, but follow it up with “I’m a quick learner!”
5. Am I Required to Float? How Often Do Travelers End Up Floating?
This is one of the most important questions to ask because it’s all about how comfortable you feel in different units. As a travel nurse, it’s almost inevitable that you will be floating to units outside of your specialty. As a NICU nurse, I typically float to the peds floor, PICU, and sometimes even the CICU. When this is the case, I make sure that the person who is interviewing me knows that I don’t get floated often and I’m not as proficient on those floors. I then get in writing what they expect out of me when I float. For instance, when I float to the PICU/peds I usually state that I’m not comfortable with any patient over two years old. Figure out what you’re comfortable with and go from there.
Keep in mind that as a travel nurse your job is to help relieve the staff nurses from their busy assignments. You will almost always get the shaft, but you’re making more money with less commitment. Every hospital I’ve worked in requires travelers to float first, before their own staff, even if that means you’re working on a different unit for the majority of your contract. I usually follow up with the question “How often do travelers typically float?” just so I’m prepared for what may come my way.
Read more: Tips for Nurses Who Have to Float
6. Do I Self-Schedule or is My Schedule Made for Me?
I ask this question because if the schedule is made for me, I make requests. If it were an assignment where I work the night shift, I make it known that I prefer to work three nights in a row. In my experience, the scheduler tries their best to accommodate your preferences, with no guarantee you’ll get what you ask for.
The world of travel nursing can be scary and unpredictable. The more prepared you are, the less chance of something surprising you. I learn something new every contract, and there’s no doubt that this list of travel nurse interview questions will only continue to grow.
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