Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Equipment Overload: 5 Tips for Nurses to Master the Unfamiliar

By Aaron Moore, MSN, RN-BC, travel nurse expert

Did you know that there are more than 10 companies that make IV infusion pumps? Just think how many pumps you might have to figure out how to use if you work as a travel nurse for a while--especially if you go across the country like I did.

In the modern healthcare setting, we have electronic equipment for everything from peritoneal dialysis to left ventricular assist devices. All of these devices require knowledge and skill before you can feel confident working with them. The sheer number of possibilities can produce anxiety in the most tenured of nurses, but there are several resources that can help.

Below are a few tips I picked up over the years to find these resources and make life a little easier when it comes to figuring out unfamiliar equipment.

1. Most units have a nurse educator; locate this person at the beginning of your assignment and use him or her as a resource when needed. Ask during orientation to have the educator go through any equipment you don’t know or haven’t used in a while; this is their job, so they should be more than happy to help you.

2. Do and see as much as you can during orientation, whether it lasts for one day or one week. If the person you’re assigned to shadow has easy patients, ask to follow someone else so you can experience how things work in the unit.

3. If you are assigned a patient who is using equipment for his care that you are not familiar with, don’t be ashamed to ask for a different assignment. If “just-in-time” education will work, then be a team player and help out. Ultimately your license is on the line, and the care of the patient comes first. So protect the patient and yourself by practicing within your scope and not doing anything that doesn’t feel safe.

4. Most equipment has online manuals. Look up the companies’ websites for helpful tips, videos, and PDF documents on how to use them. Many companies now have 24-hour help lines you can call, as well, and some companies post instructional videos on their own sites or on YouTube.

5. Most importantly, ask questions. The full-time staff at your current assignment know their equipment and will gladly share tips and tricks with you. I know there is a certain level of pride when it comes to admitting you don’t know something, but this is too important. Swallow your pride and ask someone.

In travel nursing, you must quickly learn how to use the resources available to you. A lot goes into being a competent nurse, and travel nursing increases the number of things you need to know. So take care of yourself and use your resources!

Do You Have a Question About Travel Nursing?
Submit a question to Aaron, our travel nursing expert, today.
Or apply now to get started on a travel nursing assignment.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

MRSA, VRE, EVD and C Diff, Oh My!

By Aaron J. Moore, MSN, RN-BC, travel nurse expert

Staff nurses have it hard enough, keeping up with all of the protocols, guidelines and best practices required by their facility. Travel nurses have the added pressure of having to deal with many changing protocols every 13 weeks or so, as they move from one facility to the next.

Some of these protocols can be tough to deal with, such as transferring of patients from tertiary facilities. Some are easy, such as AHA guidelines for stroke or heart attack patients. And others, such as infection control guidelines, have become extremely hot topics since Ebola showed its ugly head in the United States just a few weeks ago.

Below is a basic outline of what standard, contact and droplet precautions for infection control might look like at your facility. Always make sure and refer to your local policies and procedures for updated information and click here for more details from the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Standard Precautions: Standard precautions are used to care for all patients in all healthcare settings and apply to blood, all body fluids, secretions and excretions (except sweat), non-intact skin, and mucous membranes. Standard Precautions involve procedures to prevent transmission of infection through use of hand hygiene; personal protective equipment; respiratory/cough etiquette; special care in handling used equipment, linen, eating utensils; proper patient placement; cleaning and disinfection of surfaces; and safer sharps practices.
Equipment needed: As appropriate, gloves, gown, etc., including standard hand hygiene supplies and reminders.

Contact Precautions: These precautions should be used for specified patients known or suspected to be colonized or infected with epidemiologically significant microorganisms that can be transmitted by direct contact with the patient or indirect contact with environmental surfaces or patient-care items in the patient's environment. These measures are used in addition to Standard Precautions.
Equipment needed: Gloves and gown are mandatory here, folks!

Droplet Precautions: These precautions are used for a patient known or suspected to be infected with microorganisms transmitted by droplets (large-particle droplets that can be generated by the patient during coughing, sneezing, talking or performance of procedures). These measures are used in addition to Standard Precautions.
Equipment needed: Gloves and gown along with a standard mask that covers your face; this may include eye protection when appropriate. Note that the CDC’s updated Ebola protocols for personal protective equipment are much more detailed, and require more than a standard surgical mask.

Even though infection control guidelines can seem like standard protocols across all hospitals, there may be a little change here and there. So make sure and ask during orientation about what to do in all these cases, and where you can find the equipment you need. Even though the chances of you seeing an Ebola patient are very small, the chances of you taking care of a patient with Influenza are very high. So know your protocols and isolation precautions … and, as always, don’t forget to wash your hands.

Do You Have a Question About Travel Nursing?
Submit a question to Aaron, our travel nursing expert, today.
Or apply now to get started on a travel nursing assignment.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dress Code, What Dress Code?

By Aaron J. Moore, MSN, RN-BC, travel nurse expert

As nurses we know we have the overall best uniforms when it comes to jobs. I have heard them referred to as suits or pajamas. To me they’re just simple and comfortable. But in this day and age, even a simple thing like scrubs can be made complex with different colors and styles. Especially for non-style experts like myself; most non-work days I can be found in shorts, T-shirt and flip flops.

I have found that most hospitals are pretty easygoing when it comes to dress code. Any pair of clean scrubs will do. They are more worried about hand washing and a properly displayed name tag than what colors you are wearing.

Some, however, have taken dress codes to the extreme. I have worked at some hospitals that mandate embroidered scrubs in only a limited line of styles and colors that are bought through them. As a traveler, I have worked for this type of hospital. I was a little shocked the first day when I showed up to orientation and saw everyone else in these “designer scrubs.” I quickly went to the manager and asked what my dress code would be. Luckily, I only had to wear the light blue color that the other staff had and in any style.

This was the last time I made the mistake of not asking about the dress code at the unit ahead of time. Of course, I always waited until after accepting the job to ask simple questions like this, but overall it helped me better prepare myself for the first day.

I would rather avoid surprises on a travel assignment, and you can apply this process to any questions you may have. If you have a major question about your work assignment, ask during your interview. When it comes to smaller inquiries like dress code, keep these for after you’ve locked up the job.

In regards to scrubs, I always carried a random assortment with me. If I had to buy a certain type or color, I kept them after the assignment, since you never know when another job might call for the same type. Or you may just go back to that hospital system again in your traveling future.

So pull on those pajamas ... uh, I mean professional work attire called scrubs and call your recruiter about a job. Live your own adventure this fall--in comfort and style--with travel nursing.

Do You Have a Question About Travel Nursing?
Submit a question to Aaron, our travel nursing expert, today.
Or apply now to get started on a travel nursing assignment.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Keeping Up on the CEUs

By Aaron J. Moore, MSN, RN-BC, travel nurse expert

Every state has different requirements for getting a nursing license.  This can be frustrating for all nurses, especially travel nurses who work in multiple states.  But the one thing that binds us together--besides the RN behind our name-- is the fact that we all need to get continuing education units (CEUs) to keep that license active.

While the amount of units needed may change, the fact still remains that we need to keep our knowledge current by taking CEUs every year.

One of the easiest ways to keep up on current requirements is by checking your home state’s board of nursing website.  And when you hold multiple licenses and plan on keeping them for a while, make sure you check them all periodically, since requirements for each state are different, number-wise.

Having multiple state licenses can be difficult, but your recruiter can offer some advice.  I luckily only needed my additional licenses for the 2-3 year period that they were issued for and never had to renew them.  For those of you who plan to travel for a while, I would take a closer look at the requirements.  Most likely all your CEUs you take will work for any state, but the number required will differ.

To my knowledge, most states do not require you to send in proof of CEU when you renew, but many will perform random audits similar to the IRS.  But I would never recommend rolling the dice on this one.  Get your CEUs done before the month of your renewal; it will make your life so much easier in case you get audited.

Accredited vs non- accredited? There is a difference in the two.  Accredited CEUs are approved and peer reviewed by a body of nursing, either a state board of nursing or larger bodies like the American Nurses Association (ANA).  Non-accredited units are education that is offered in the field of nursing but hasn’t been officially reviewed or approved.  Most states will accept non-accredited units for some of your required numbers, but it’s important to check your state’s website to make sure, and to see how many you need.

If you’re hungry for knowledge and want to do everything you can to advance your career, no one says you have to stop at the required number of units.  Go ahead and get all the accredited CEUs you can.  Knowledge is power! (Or at least that’s what I’ve been told.)

My final word of advice?  Keep up with each state’s requirements, and make sure to pace yourself so you don’t get caught short when the deadline to renew your license rolls around. 

[Editor’s note: If you are working as a travel nurse, you may have access to free, unlimited CEUs through your staffing company.  For instance, NurseZone’s staffing partners offer travelers more than 160 free CEU courses through RN.com.)

Do You Have a Question About Travel Nursing?
Submit a question to Aaron, our travel nursing expert, today.
Or apply now to get started on a travel nursing assignment.

Monday, March 10, 2014

What to Expect from Your Travel Assignment Housing

By Aaron J. Moore, MSN, RN-BC, travel nurse expert

I get many questions about what to look forward to when it comes to the housing provided by most travel nurse companies.  It can vary from location to location and you always want to double-check; don’t assume too much based on past assignments or what other travelers may tell you. 

But if you choose the company-paid housing over the housing stipend, there are some basics that you can expect to find in your new digs.  Other things may be negotiable.

Where your housing might be

Many travel companies have staff members whose only job is to locate and contract housing for travelers.  Depending on your assignment location and your agency, there may be multiple places to choose from or just one.  

Some locations seem to cater to travel nurses, like the apartment I had in San Diego, Calif., when it seemed like every traveler lived in the complex I did.  I actually liked it because you got to know people quickly and could carpool to work.

Generally a travel nurse company will put its workers within a reasonable driving distance from work.  However, this can be anywhere from right down the street to a 30-minute drive in traffic, so make sure your agency knows your preferences and how you plan on commuting.  If you are planning on public transportation, for instance, make sure they don’t house you out in the suburbs.  If you let them know in advance they can work with you to accommodate your needs. 

When I traveled to New York I passed on the car allowance to be housed in the city instead of the suburbs.  It was well worth it and in reality most people use public transit there.  Public transit can be your friend in a new city. 

What your lodging will likely include

Most travel nurse accommodations are private apartments with a single bedroom, or they might be a studio or loft-style housing in some areas.  A few companies may ask you if you would like to share a two-bedroom unit with a roommate, but this should be negotiable.  If you plan to bring along family or friends, you can also ask about larger accommodations that may be available at additional costs.

Agencies generally advertise that their housing is “furnished,” but make sure you know what that includes. In every apartment (or hotel) I stayed in I was provided with some basic furnishings and household items.  I always had:

  • A bed and dresser with drawers
  • A couch and chair and some side tables 
  • I usually had a kitchen table and chairs, too, depending on the size of the apartment.
But that is where the standardization ends.  A TV, microwave, and vacuum were always negotiable. 

Some of my places came with your basic kitchen attire (pots, pans, and serving apparatus for four).  But I learned to bring my own cooking stuff and then buy plates at the local thrift store and re-donate them before I left.  If plates and such were there when I moved into my new place, I considered it a bonus!  You normally need to bring your own bed and bath linens, as well.

If you are not sure what to expect, always check with your recruiter or housing representative.  And don’t forget to ask about things like:
  • Pets – many apartments allow them but some don’t, so make sure your agency knows upfront if you are bringing a pet with you
  • Parking and storage
  • Recreation facilities (some complexes have pools, gyms and more)
  • Laundry facilities
  • Nearby services, public transit, etc.
Overall, I was always impressed with my housing, and considered it all a part of the adventure that is travel nursing.  So pack you things and get ready to expand your career as a travel nurse.

Do You Have a Question About Travel Nursing?
Submit a question to Aaron, our travel nursing expert, today.
Or apply now to get started on a travel nursing assignment.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

All I Want for Christmas … A Travel Nurse’s Wish List

By Aaron J. Moore, MSN, RN-BC, travel nurse expert

Tis the season, as they say, so I thought I would lighten the mood with a short wish list of things that travel nurses are most likely to want and need -- and not just during the holidays.  I divided the things into five “must-have” items and five bonus gifts you might consider getting before beginning your travel nursing adventure.

Five Christmas “must haves” for travel nurses (please Santa, don’t be late):

1. An experienced recruiter with the ability to get me where I want to go.  Top of my list for sure.  Without a good recruiter you might never get that dream job.  Think of a recruiter like your agent; baseball’s Robinson Cano wouldn’t get millions without someone like Jay Z at his side negotiating the deal, after all.

2. A car with space for some junk in the trunk.  I had an all-wheel-drive wagon when I traveled and loved it.  Put the rear seats down and it fit three extra-large Rubbermaid containers and lots of extras including two suitcases, a DVD player and even enough room for my dog to lie down. Ahh, the road trips!

3. A good laptop, or a tablet with lots of features. When you’re out on the road moving around, you have to stay in touch.  A good laptop with Wi-Fi capability will help.  And don’t skimp on the gigabytes (GBs); if you’re like me, you will take hundreds of pictures so you never forget this awesome trip … uhh, I mean job.

4. A reliable GPS.  I personally never had one, but I did get lost a lot, too.  Hmmm, interesting correlation, eh?  Get a good one you can update; it will come in handy. 

5. A good credit card with low interest.  You’ll be doing a lot of traveling and charging when you’re moving every three months.  Yes, you do get reimbursed, but that can take some time with faxes and receipts, so make sure you’re ready to go when you need it.  No one wants to get stuck in the middle of Wyoming on your way to California!

Five stocking stuffers for travel nurses (the little extras you hope Santa will bring):

1. A couple of good stethoscopes.  Yes, I mean a couple.  We all know these things walk away all the time on the job, so make sure you have more than one. You don’t want to end up running out to find a new store before your first night shift. 

2. A DVD or Blu-ray player.  The first few nights on assignment can be a little lonely, I’m not gonna lie, but this will soon end (I promise).  So bring along some favorite movies and a good player to make those first nights fly by.

3. A compactable suitcase.  You may be stuffing your things in Rubbermaid tubs on your way to and from assignments, but don’t forget the day trips and weekend warrior adventures at each destination.  Even if you live in a city, you’ll want to make time to venture out to nearby places and experience being a tourist.

4. AAA or another roadside assistance program.  The last thing you want is to be stranded on the side of the road.  Or imagine getting a flat tire and realizing your spare and jack are under the 200+ lbs of stuff you’ve just strategically packed into your trunk; you will wish you had some guy to come out and fix it for you.  Plus, it’s just nice to have peace of mind. 

5. A travel companion. Some travel nurses take a friend or family member on their assignments, or even their dog or cat.  I loved having my wife travel along with me.  (You can tell her I said that; I can always use the bonus points!)  Sharing your adventures with someone can make them even more enjoyable.

So, Merry Christmas to all you potential and already-traveling nurses out there!  Even if you are far away from home this year, don’t worry -- there are plenty of holidays to come; for now, enjoy your adventure and make some memories that you can talk about next year.

Do You Have a Question About Travel Nursing?
Submit a question to Aaron, our travel nursing expert, today.
Or apply now to get started on a travel nursing assignment.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Do You Have the Personality for Travel Nursing?

By Aaron J. Moore, MSN, RN-BC, travel nurse expert

After many years of travel nursing I’ve met all types of nursing personalities.  There are the outgoing nurses, the shy nurses, the confident nurses, the hesitant new grads, and many more that I can’t even name here.  In my opinion, nursing needs all of these personalities to keep our world/unit happy.

Too many outgoing people could cause some problems, but too many shy individuals would mean no one would ever talk.  A good mix is best, in my opinion.

Now in travel nursing you will have all kinds, as well.  But as a manager looking for a traveler, there are certain personality traits I would be seeking.  For instance, it’s important that a travel nurse always maintains professionalism with the manager and staff.

Travel nurses have to remember that even though you may be the hardest worker out there, your new supervisor and colleagues don’t know you personally.  They could take your easy-going, laid-back attitude to mean you might be a little lazy at work!  Especially considering that your manager meets you in a phone interview, which makes it harder to know what someone is really like on the job.

If you’re dealing with a manager who has had exposure to travelers in the past, however, he or she probably knows exactly what they are looking for.  So don’t be afraid to ask them what their needs are during the interview and then explain how you can meet those needs.

As I’ve often mentioned, travel nurses do have to possess a certain amount of confidence to come into a new place and quickly adapt to a different way of doing things.  But that doesn’t mean you want to come across as pushy and overbearing.  Sometimes being the quiet RN who comes in, does their work and goes home isn’t a bad thing.

If you think about it, the last thing that a manager needs to deal with is a travel nurse who makes others uncomfortable with their attitude, or who doesn’t work as a team player.  Managers have enough personality issues to deal with in their own staff.

So my advice isn’t that outgoing or shy personality types should avoid traveling.  It’s exactly the opposite.  No matter how you are wired, make sure that as a travel nurse you come off as a confident and hard worker who will get the job done and not be a hindrance to the personalities that already exist in any given unit.

Do You Have a Question About Travel Nursing?
Submit a question to Aaron, our travel nursing expert, today.
Or apply now to get started on a travel nursing assignment.