Indispensable Tips for First-Time Traveling Medical Workers

There are as many as 25,000 traveling nurses in the USA alone, traveling the country, taking up jobs in order to gain some experience both working and traveling and exploring the world.

However, as traveling nurses are predominantly young people, there are some questions that generally pop up when they apply for the first time. Things like where they will live, what they need to pack for the first month, how much money they need per week, and the list goes on and on.

Find a Recruiter

That’s why we compiled a handy list of tips for first-timers in this business. Most people deciding to join this kind of program are friendly and extroverted, which is a great plus, even before you start working.

Your first step is to find a recruiter you can trust and with whom you have a good rapport. This relationship will probably make every subsequent step a lot easier, as you will be freer to ask the right questions.

Good recruiters will never leave you waiting for an answer for longer than a day and should have the answers to the majority of your questions at hand.

Review the Traveling Nursing Contract

As a medical professional, chances are that you signed a lot of contracts over the years. However, traveling nursing contracts are somewhat less standard. Depending on the employer and agency, things like a drug test or a background check might be required, but make sure that these items are on your contract.

  • Your full name (make sure to include your middle name, especially if you have a somewhat common name)
  • Start and end date of your contract (clearly stating these dates is important to resolve payment issues if they ever arise)
  • The pay you can expect per day/week/full contract
  • How holidays and overtime is handled (both in terms of work and pay)
  • Specific unit or units where you will be working (some units are more stressful than others, as well as potentially requiring special skills)
  • Number of days off you’re entitled to (some contracts require you, or allow you, to fill in these in advance)
  • Number of hours/days/shifts you will be expected to work
  • Does the employer guarantee those hours, or are you susceptible to shift cancelation (and the loss of expected income)

Keep Track of the Paperwork

Staring a new job at a new place will invariantly involve a lot of paperwork. Even though the majority of ‘paperwork’ you will be asked to collect is now digital, keeping track of it is still a chore and one you will need to be proficient in.

Fortunately, with a few organizational skills, your Google Drive or iCloud storage (which comes with most modern phones) can store all of your valuable documentation.

Ask the Recruiter to Help with Housing

Perhaps the most important question, and certainly one of the first questions you should ask is where you will be staying. You should ask the recruiter to give you some options. In most instances, the recruiting agency will already have some options in place, especially if they have recruited people for the area where you are going before.

The majority of traveling nursing jobs do come with an allowance specifically for housing. What that means is that your housing will be subsidized by the government. Here is a helpful resource to find the housing allowance in the zip code you’re going to.

Side Tip: The housing cost should tell you roughly how expensive it is to live in that area.

Find a Short-Term Accommodation First

If you’re new to the area, you may be tempted to go right ahead and get long-term housing sorted as soon as possible. That might not be the best solution, though.

Our experience has shown that it is far better to find a short-term option first and explore your new town first, talk to your colleagues and your manager about the best housing options. After all, they live there, they could share some valuable tips with you, like which areas are safe and which should be avoided, as well as potential housing options they personally know.

Side Tip: This conversation topic might be a great icebreaker to start a conversation with people at work about things other than work, great for making friends.

What to Pack for the Trip?

Now that you’ve sorted your documentation and housing (at least temporarily), you need to figure out what to bring with you.

Unless you’re traveling to a particularly cold region during the winter, chances are that you will be able to pack relatively compactly. All you will initially need is some clothes and cosmetics for a few days. Don’t forget to pack your chargers along with your electronics, too.

Aside from the basics which you would pack for any trip, here are some tips coming from the experience shared by our nurses.

  • Consider bringing your own sheets, especially for short-term accommodation.
  • Comfortable shoes to work in, I cannot stress this enough!
  • Buy your own scrubs beforehand, it will likely save you some money.
  • Money, specifically cash. There are a number of things which may go wrong, so having cash with you is always a good idea.
  • Always pack for at least one more day than you planned, something will come up, more likely than not.


For first-timers, travel nurse jobs are in equal measure a thrill and stress. However, with proper planning and a little help from your recruiter, you will be able to get through the onboarding process relatively easily.

Many of our nurses are returning clients, showing us the importance of the first contract going well. Our dedication to creating the smoothest initial traveling nurse experience recommends us the best.

Contact us at or at (402) 509-5532



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