By September 16, 2009 0 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: How can I deal with the different personalities I will encounter as a travel nurse?

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A reader emailed wanting to hear more about “bully nurses” and “bully nurses in supervisor positions”. Although the image she conjured in my mind was rather sinister, I do have to admit that there are those in nursing that will not always be cheerful and welcoming.

Despite the mostly positive aspects of travel nursing, you will run into all kinds of personalities in your travels. While most staff members will be friendly and inviting, there will be instances when others have issues. Those issues might not even have anything to do with you, but you may still find yourself on the receiving end of their hostility. The sad truth is that many times, you might not find much that you can do about it as a traveler.

If you feel you are being mistreated as a traveler, the first person to speak to is your recruiter. It might seem logical to address the issue head-on with the person with whom you are having difficulty, but things can snowball quickly and I like the idea of having someone in my corner if the “fit hits the shan”.

Plus, when you speak with your recruiter, they can help you formulate a plan for addressing the situation. If you have a good recruiter, they are there to help you in these instances whether it be helping to develop a game plan, or even just listening to you vent. They can also be a barometer for the problem that you might be having; maybe you are overreacting a bit to the situation. We are ALL guilty of this from time to time and if you have a recruiter you trust, they can help set you straight if the issue is really not that big a deal. However, if they too feel that a resolution is needed, then you have validated your feelings and also hopefully gained an ally in getting the situation resolved.

When addressing an issue, work the chain of command. This means that you start at the bottom and work your way up the chain link by link. First, address the person with whom you have the issue. If that doesn’t work, who is their supervisor? If you don’t find resolution there, move up another link to their supervisor, and so on. If the issue is important enough, you could very well end up speaking with someone in administration that has a hand in running the entire hospital. However, this would be far up the chain and not the place where you should start.

I would say that it is seldom that confronting someone about the issue will be enough to warrant a change, but who knows, maybe you caught them on a bad day and it is something that can be resolved with a simple discussion. In my experience, it often requires moving up a link or two in the chain of command before anything is accomplished.

You must also remember that while conflict resolution should work the same for everyone, you might find resistance along the way if you are a traveler. Do you really think the same rules apply for a regular staff member as they do for a temporary employee that might only be there for thirteen weeks? They should, but most of us know that is not the way the “real” world functions.

In my book on travel nursing, I talk about the life of a traveler and how you sometimes need to keep your head down and “fly under the radar” while on assignment. When hospitals can let a traveler go at the drop of a hat, you really do need to choose your battles.

Travel nursing is all about adapting to your situation and occasionally that situation might not be all that ideal. You should NEVER stay in a situation where you are asked to practice nursing unsafely or feel physically “bullied”. However, some of the less drastic conditions might need to be endured until the end of your contract. Nursing is not always about figuring out how to deal with patients, it can be about figuring out how to interact with the people with whom you work and those in power that abuse that privilege.

Whatever the situation, get your recruiter in the loop. If it does come down to having to leave your assignment, you don’t want the situation to be a complete surprise to your travel company. You also want to understand all the consequences should you have to break your contract.

In my next post, we’ll take a look at some of those consequences and what happens if your contract is terminated.

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About the Author:

Hello everyone. I’m a travel nurse originally from Ohio who graduated in 1993 from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus. I completed a critical care fellowship at Riverside Methodist Hospital in 1994 and started traveling in that specialty a year later. My first travel assignment was in Maui and since that time I have completed close to 40 different contracts in various states with multiple travel companies. I am the author of Travel Nurse’s Bible (A Guide to Everything on Travel Nursing), in addition to my writings here and in the pages of Travel Nursing publications such as Healthcare Traveler Magazine and American Nurse Today. I am presently on assignment in Phoenix, AZ and travel anywhere from six to eleven months of the year.

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