Traveler stories

What to Expect During Orientation

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By Claire Brocato, feature writer

As a travel nurse, it is important to get acclimated to the workings of your new facility and unit as quickly as possible. While orientation can vary from one hospital to the next, each facility has its own way of getting you familiarized with your new surroundings and providing you with the tools you need to succeed during your assignment.

“Even before you arrive at your assignment facility, your travel company should provide you with some basic orientation and preparation,” said Renee Stoltz, clinical liaison for nurse staffing agency, American Mobile Healthcare.

Stoltz, who worked as a travel nurse for 11 years, explained that the leading travel companies employ quality management specialists. The job of these professionals is to alert travelers to the kind of orientation they can expect at their new facility and to take care of all the paperwork needed on the first day of an assignment. In addition, quality management specialists will work closely with each traveler to ensure that they meet specific facility requirements, including workplace safety and clinical tests.

Derrek Hidalgo, clinical liaison for travel staffing company Medical Express, also spent several years working as a travel nurse, before transitioning to his current job.

“As a traveler, you can expect to get a brief overview of the facility’s policies and protocols, a tour of the facility and the chance to meet other new staff and travelers, too,” he said. “On your unit, you can expect to be given instructions on charting, documenting, faxing, the unit layout, where to find supplies and you’ll also be introduced to your coworkers.”

Drawing on her experience as a travel nurse, Stoltz explained that most of the orientation she encountered was unit-specific, with a preceptor.

“I was given instruction on equipment like blood sugar machines, IV pumps, PCA pumps, monitors, ventilators and any other equipment that is commonly used in your unit,” she said. “It is also common to receive admission and discharge documentation, along with the unit’s policies and protocols.”

“It is important to know who the resource people are on your unit,” Stoltz continued. “Be sure to introduce yourself to the charge nurse and, once orientation is over, review the shift routine and assignment expectations with him or her. The unit secretary is also a great resource, especially when it comes to questions about the phone system, order entry and retrieval.”

If you are unsure about anything during your orientation, it is important to ask questions and receive clarification.

“Be sure to get the name and phone number of your preceptor,” said Hidalgo, “and ask them who you should call if you have further questions.”

Stoltz also recommends taking notes during orientation to help recall important information and getting a copy of the unit’s phone list with the most frequently called numbers, such as the pharmacy, laboratory and various physicians.  

“It is important to know where protocols are kept so you can refer to them,” she continued. “I also suggest asking for a copy of charting. This will insure that you follow the facility’s policies and protocols for documentation—a time saver if you familiarize yourself with it.”

Stoltz recalled that the first two weeks at a new assignment were always the most challenging but once she became accustomed to her new surroundings, she felt like an integral part of the team.

“With each assignment I got better at getting all the information I needed upfront,” she said. “Traveling was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had and I learned something new with each assignment I did.”

© 2006. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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