How to Rock at Med Surg Travel Nursing
There’s a reason med surg nursing is the single largest nursing specialty in the country. As the foundation for all other specialties, med surg nursing gives you unparalleled depth and breadth of nursing knowledge. Both med surg and travel nursing take special skills. Here’s how to be a rock star as a med surg travel nurse.
Above all, as a med surg nurse, you’re a master of multitasking. You may have three call lights blinking, evening med hour dawning, and a pile of charting to do. At home, you may have unpacked boxes from your recent move, your next travel assignment to schedule, and a big vacation you need to shop for. On the unit and when you’re traveling, organization is the key to making sure everything gets done.
Each hospital you visit likely has a slightly different way of doing things. You need your on-the-job organization system to be flexible enough to accommodate each unique system but structured enough to capture everything you need to know for each patient.
Brain sheets are a great way to create this kind of organization. Get inspired by other med surg nurses’ brain sheets or create your own. It doesn’t need to be elaborate either — something as simple as a daily handwritten med cheat sheet can go a long way in keeping you on top of things, too.
Organization is also key to being a happy traveler. Create a “brain sheet” or checklist for organizing your documents and to-do’s for each travel nursing assignment, too.
With all that multitasking, you also need to be a superhero of prioritization. Along with organizing what information is crucial for you on a med surg shift, you want to have a clear picture of which activities are most important. Which patient’s call light should you answer first? Which medications should you administer first?
Though the range of patient need may be pretty similar from hospital to hospital, ward dynamics, unit politics, and hospital rules may change drastically. Along with honing your judgment on which med surg cases take precedence, it’s important to ask questions at each new assignment so you understand the unique priorities of your unit.
Prioritizing is also essential as a traveler. When you’re picking a recruiter, packing for a trip, and choosing new assignments, you’ll need to have a clear picture of what’s most important to you. Dig deep when you’re planning out your career. If a high salary and a schedule full of mids are the most important things for you, don’t lose sight of that and take a lower paying night shift gig just because it’s in an intriguing location.
Ace time management
You need to discharge a patient, admit a new one, and – surprise! – field a new surgical case, and you need to do it all… now. Sound familiar? The only way to keep your head above water when patient load is high and staff is short is to make your second nursing specialty time management.
Some med surg nurses value time management so much that they keep a daily schedule. The unexpected can always happen — your pneumonia patient takes a turn for the worse or your patient load spikes. But having a schedule that’s both detailed and flexible can help you stay on track no matter what.
The same is true for traveling. You can sketch out a schedule for how you’d like your year to look — two 13-week assignments in different hospitals in California, then a 4-week vacation in Costa Rica, then a longer stint in Maine before returning home for the holidays. But you also want to remain flexible in case you fall in love with an assignment and want to stay on or decide to extend that vacation for 2 more weeks. This will help you plan your assignments with your recruiter and make sure each year you spend as a traveler you get a mix of fun, challenging assignments and out-of-hospital adventures.
Make self-care your favorite hobby
As a med surg nurse, you have a lot on your plate. You care for acute and chronically ill patients, both of which can be taxing in different ways. To prevent burnout, make sure all your days off include some self-care. Whether it’s exploring the hottest spa in your new town, Skyping with your best travel nurse friend, or dancing with new buddies from your unit, relaxation, decompressing, and fun are mandatory for med surg nurses. Self-care is as important for your career as all the hustling you do at the hospital.
So there you have it, how to rock as a med surg travel nurse. Looking for more info for your specialty? Check out our med surg skills checklist.