By Marcia Faller, PhD, RN, Chief Clinical Officer, AMN Healthcare
Travel nurses are a critical component of our national healthcare landscape, particularly given the workforce shortages that are challenging providers across the country. Today, travel nurses can be found in most hospitals and other healthcare settings.
In choosing a nurse staffing partner, it’s important to look for one with a large database of highly qualified candidates who have been carefully screened to ensure proper certifications, training and clinical competencies. In addition, a staffing partner should work closely with a healthcare organization to understand its culture, operational style, and specialty needs to supply candidates who will be an excellent fit.
While travel nurses provided by quality staffing companies will arrive with the knowledge, expertise and attitude needed to do a good job, there are several actions a healthcare organization can take to ensure their success.
- Embrace the Traveler as a Welcome Addition. When travel nurses arrive, they are coming into an organization where they don’t have a history. It’s important to introduce and welcome them, and then validate in staff huddles and meetings that they are valuable team members. Creating a supportive atmosphere, where raising a hand and asking questions is encouraged, will help travelers more quickly acclimate.
- Enhance Traveler Orientation With a Personal Touch. Getting travel nurses up to speed quickly begins with an effective and thorough orientation. Most healthcare organizations have standard orientation processes; an extra step that nurse managers can take is to connect with travelers during the orientation. Nurse managers can introduce themselves, welcome the traveler and provide contact information. This also gives nurse managers the opportunity to say, ‘please call me with any questions.’ This brief, but important encounter lets travelers know they are part of the team.
- Ensure Staff Alignment through Orientation Check List. The orientation check list, provided by the unit educator or nurse manager, enables nurse leaders to ensure that travelers have mastered the information and procedures for their work unit. The nurse manager, nurse educator, and the travel nurse should agree up front on the timetable and verification processes for completing the check list.
- Periodically Check In on the Traveler’s Progress. Nurse managers can schedule a meeting with the traveler at the end of the second week to see how the traveler is progressing. This can be an excellent time to review the orientation check list and answer questions. It can also be a time for discovering strengths and weaknesses – and implementing changes. After this initial meeting, the nurse manager should continue to check in on the traveler periodically.
- Provide Feedback to the Staffing Agency. A quality staffing partner will seek feedback from the healthcare organization on their traveler’s performance. Typically, nurse managers will be asked to complete a mid-assignment evaluation to assess the travel nurse’s success. Working together, the agency and provider can develop a plan to help the traveler resolve any issues.
- Create an Atmosphere of Inclusion. If there is a holiday party or awards celebration, invite the travel nurses. By creating an environment where everyone is welcomed and valued, it strengthens the entire unit. Healthcare, after all, is a team sport. Setting an inclusive tone will create a united clinical environment where high quality care can flourish.