Hi all from the West Coast! I am currently on contract in southern CA working 72 hours a week. But! I wanted to post something about my personal onboarding experience. Onboarding for a travel nurse assignment can always be a bit hectic. There is a lot of paperwork, credentialing, policy review, and testing.
With the emergence of the rapid deployment crisis contracts due to the pandemic, this process can get even more complicated and can feel very rushed. I know a lot of travel nurses, especially those new to the field, can get frustrated with the lack of organization and it can feel a bit chaotic.
Many of the agencies that are sending healthcare providers in mass numbers to aid with the influx of COVID patients are learning as they go. At no time in recent history has there been such a demand for traveling healthcare providers, nor has there been this large of a burden placed on healthcare systems.
Rapid Deployment COVID Travel Nursing
With such an unprecedented need, there are bound to be some snafus and confusion along the way. I found my current job 2 days before I was required to fly out. I had less than 24 hours to complete my agency’s credentialing- sending them my certifications, immunizations, resume, and other required documents. I also had to complete four Prophecy tests, sign my contract, and fill out my payroll and tax documents. All of this took me about 8 hours total.
I arrived in southern CA and was told to report to orientation at 1000 on a Monday. As soon as I got to the hospital, I was directed to drive 45 minutes north to their sister hospital for my badging and COVID testing. I was told I could orient there since the hospital I will be working at currently only had ONE patient. Unbeknownst to me, I had signed up to work in a hospital that had been closed for a few years and was reopening due to the COVID surge.
As I drove north, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. When I signed into the other hospital, no one was expecting me and no one had any idea where I should go. I got bounced around from the house supervisors office, down to HR, back to the office, and back to HR, just to get a badge. Then, it turned into a scavenger hunt for the room where they were doing COVID testing. Not one person that I ran into seemed to know anything about new travel nurses arriving.
I asked if I needed a fit or urine drug screen, and was told no. This was a first for me, but since I have my own respirator, I went with the flow. Until…I was told I to do orientation on the psych unit. I had to go through about 10 different people to prove that I was an ICU nurse, not a mental health clinician. They tried to tell me that because I was a traveler, it was expected that I be flexible. I kept reiterating that I would not even be working at that facility and that they should NOT put me on any schedule there (as they kept trying to do).
COVID Crisis Contracts Demand Nurses to be Flexible
I reached out to my recruiter, but because he has been so busy placing other nurses (which, I TOTALLY understand!) it took a few hours for him to get back to me. So, it was up to me to advocate for myself.
I took part in a very informal orientation, and then was told that the hospital I would be working at did not have the same EHR or any similar processes. Hey, I still got paid for the day 🙂 Since starting at this newly reopened hospital (which is almost fully staffed by travel nurses), we have identified lots of patient and staff safety issues, and are working closely with administration to get them resolved.
Bottom line- onboarding and starting at a new facility is sometimes a lot of headache and fumbling around to figure it out. But, that is why they are paying travel nurses so much! We are there to help solve problems, not cause them.
Always speak up about safety issues, but understand that some things take time to fix. Expect a bit of chaos and disorganization when you first arrive, but trust the process and that it will eventually work out. If you are truly feeling unsafe, or are just so frustrated that you can’t take it anymore- REACH OUT TO YOUR RECRUITER! Please do not just quit and walk away. Travel nurses can work with their agencies to be deployed somewhere else, especially with a lot of these COVID response assignments.
Share your onboarding stories with me below in the comments section!