Whether you’re a seasoned travel nurse or an experienced veteran, just about everyone has experienced the fear of not “fitting in” with the staff at each new assignment. At some point, you’ve probably wondered what you can do to feel more part of the team and less like an outsider. Travel nurses are in high demand, but that doesn’t always translate into being welcomed with opened arms. From our experience working with travelers, here are a few ways you can feel at ease with the permanent staff.
- Invite someone to have coffee. If you’re not sure where to start, this is a great way to break the ice at your new facility. On the night shift? Even better – you’ll both be hankering for some caffeine by the end of your shift. You can learn much more about a facility from a colleague than the information you’ve been provided up front.
- Be flexible. You’re not there to make new processes, and staff nurses are notoriously annoyed when a travel nurse comes in guns blazing to make changes. Come do what you were hired to do – you’re there because they need you, but they don’t need you to make changes.
- Make plans with people. This provides you something to look forward to, especially if you’re prone to getting homesick or easily bored. Find out what people do in the area, whether it’s hiking, skiing or beach-going, and invite fellow staff members to join you. Go to dinner or a movie with a group after your shift (or brunch, depending on which shift you have). Don’t forget about the other travelers at your facility – they’re in the same boat as you, and likely want to get in on the fun.
- Remember the basics. The easiest way to establish rapport with your new co-workers is to find common ground, and strike up conversations about mutual interests. Hospital staff will only view you as “just passing through” if that’s how you view yourself, so take opportunities to get to know others, and they’ll do the same.
- Don’t live in fear of rejection. The proverbial phrase “you only live once” is the mantra of many travel nurses, inspiring them to continue the adventure that is travel nursing. This said, you might be surprised by how many travel nurses are willing to go live across the country, but are too afraid to invite themselves to a group activity. Hear word of an upcoming girls’ night? The worst they can tell you is “no”, but that’s improbable. Once the staff knows you’re interested in hanging out, you’ll likely get a formal invite next time.
- Find out what the “good lunch days” are in the cafeteria. Is taco day everyone’s favorite? Make sure to hit up the cafeteria on days infamous for having the best meals, because that’s when the rest of the staff is more likely to be there socializing.
- Be yourself. It doesn’t take a certain personality type to fit in with others – whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, your chances of making connections are equal no matter how good (or bad) your people skills are. You have at least one potential friend at every new hospital; they might not be the staff working closest to you, or even in your unit, but if you don’t find someone to befriend right off the bat, don’t give up hope.
- Check out staff events. Just because you’re there temporarily doesn’t mean you’re not part of the hospital staff. That means that social events and mixers, often advertised on bulletin boards all over the hospital, apply to you as well! This is a great chance to throw yourself into the mix and meet people in other units or modalities.
- Remember why you’re there. You are a nurse, and patient care is your ultimate priority. If this stays true for you, other nurses will respect you for it, and “fitting in” will fall into place. After all, the co-workers you want to be friends with are the ones who respect you for being a good nurse.
“I’m not here to make friends” might work for contestants on The Bachelor, but it rarely works in real life. While some travel nurses find enjoyment strictly outside the workplace on their assignments, many hope to find ways to ingrain themselves in the facility and its staff during their short stay. Use the tips that work for you, and you’ll be part of the team in no time!