First time travel nurse? Not sure what to expect on your psychiatric travel nurse first day? Nerves are an expected part of any first day on a new unit. Position yourself for success by knowing what to expect and how best to prepare. Here are a few things that we’ve found key for a first day on the job as a psychiatric travel nurse.

Getting Acclimated

A new facility may offer an orientation period as short as one day or as long as one week. Orientation may be comprised of formal classroom training, computer modules, and shadowing on the unit. Psychiatric travel nurse jobs may also include training on behavioral interventions and the facility’s policy on seclusion and restraints. One of the most valuable tools for the psychiatric travel nurse is adaptability. Expect to walk into a new facility and be expected to roll with the punches 👊. You’ll be a welcomed asset if you can easily adjust to the routine and workflow of your new unit. You can quickly achieve this by making the most of your orientation period.

Ask questions. Take notes and review them regularly. Determine the location of key items (i.e., crash cart, restraints, supply closet, important phone numbers, etc.). Learn the names and roles of various team members. Familiarize yourself with applicable state laws regarding involuntary mental health holds. If you will be facilitating educational groups, observe a coworker facilitate a group to get an idea of the format expected.  You’ve got this.

EHR Systems and Charting

While there may be nothing to prepare you for working with different EHR (electronic health record) systems, taking thorough notes 🗒 during orientation can be immensely helpful. Make certain  what you are responsible for charting each shift and how to access it in the record. Review your MAR and charting prior to the end of each shift. Your coworkers will be grateful they don’t have to clean up after you.

Patient Interactions

Patients on a mental health unit may seek to push boundaries and test limits when they realize you are new to the facility. Set firm expectations and err on the side of caution ⚠. When in doubt, seek the support of your coworkers. If a patient asks a question and you’re uncertain of the answer, let them know you will find out and get back to them. Patients are responsive when you are honest. You will be expected to swiftly respond during an incident involving an agitated and/or combative patient. Remember you’re training and remain calm. If you aren’t feeling confident in the specific procedures at your new facility, start by directing other patients away from the area to ensure their safety. It can be easier to watch how your new team operates in this type of situation rather than to take a hands-on approach during your first code.

Remember—you know what you are doing! You’re already a phenomenal psych nurse and those skills will make you a valued asset as traveler. 😊 If you have questions or concerns, you have a recruiter on the other end of the line. Pick up the phone, drop them a text, write an email. Your specialty-focused recruiter may have more answers than you imagine. Make sure to take advantage of that recruiter-nurse relationship.