Navigating New Traveler Orientation

Congratulations on accepting and starting your new assignment!

Whether this is your first or your fiftieth assignment, there will be some nerves when starting somewhere new. Much of this has to do with the uncertainty of things and needing to assimilate rather quickly. Having just finished orientation for my new assignment (yay!), I have a little bit of a refresher on these feelings and some insight on how things unfold during orientation. Below are some tips on how to best approach your new traveler orientation.

1. Get Your Mind Right

Go in with expectation that no one will have any answers for you. Every answer you get is more than you expected to have received. Yes, this a bit of a hyperbole, but you need to understand that everyone you talk to has a very specific job to do, and they probably don’t have the answers to your questions, which are probably unrelated to their area of expertise.

You need to remain flexible and patient as information reveals itself as time goes on. If you’ve reached the end of orientation and still have questions about getting paid, log-ins, or schedule, then ask away. Everything else can probably be resolved down the road (i.e. when you’re on the unit, a different class).

2. Expect a Short Orientation

Remember, the incentive for hospitals to use travelers stems from a traveler’s ability to have a near-immediate impact on the staffing situation of a facility despite minimal on-boarding time and training. As a traveler, you are expected to be a quick fix and fill the holes in their schedules as soon as possible. For this reason, it is not uncommon to have a three-day orientation, most of which is classroom-based, discussing policies, culture, and charting systems.

Depending on how the facility chooses to prioritize material, you may only be given a brief unit orientation (i.e. one half-day). Again, everything is up to the discretion of the facility, and you may get lucky and have a bit longer orientation. However, in my experience, one week is usually plenty as long as you understand that you can’t possibly know everything and will often need to learn on-the-fly during your shifts.

3. Start to Make Allies

Orientation is a good place to begin making friends, but more importantly allies. You’ll probably need these people to make scheduling trades with down the road. It’ll also be nice to have a buddy when you’re first let loose on the unit. Having a familiar face when starting at a new place on day one can make all the difference! For more tips on how to make friends and create allies with permanent staffers, be sure to check out Closing the Gap Between You and the Permanent Staff.


Before you leave orientation, you should have a grasp of the following concepts:

  • How to clock in/out
  • Scheduling
    • When and where your schedule will be posted
    • How to pick up extra shifts
  • Computer log-ins
  • Documentation basics
  • Basic overview of nursing policies
  • Dress code
  • Where to report for your shifts
  • Parking

Anything else is really going to be overkill and make you crazy if you worry about it. You already know how to be a nurse (and a good one at that), the rest is just “fitting in” to this particular system. Again, just take your time, be patient, and enjoy getting paid to sit and listen to someone talk for a few hours.

Best of luck on your new assignment!

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