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The Plight of the Traveling Wound Care Nurse

October 17, 2013

By Lydia A Meyers RN, MSN, CWCN

There is a traveler coming to your hospital who will only be working for 13 weeks, eight weeks or however long the facility needs that nurse. As a nurse working in the hospital, how does working with this temporary staff member make you feel? What does the organization have in store for that nurse?

Some ingrained attitudes and work culture habits may be associated with the onboarding of this temporary team member: this travel nurse is not important, so let us give him/her the hardest patients we have; this travel nurse makes more money, but does not have the same specialty or knowledge we have and is just here for us to take advantage of; what is that nurse to us – someone just to fill a need until we find someone with a better understanding of us and our facility.

Temporary nurses, or travel nurses, are here for a reason and their importance on the team is not always considered in terms of what they can bring to a facility or business. Nurses have a reputation for "eating their young." It is no different for the travel nurse as it is for nurses new to a floor, hospital, agency, or to the profession in general.

A travel nurse often leaves his or her home to venture to a new area. There are as many reasons for why a travel nurse chooses this type of job as there are nurses in the world. My reason started as a chance for adventure. My decision was based on my desire to get to know the hospitals and places of my new home state. My travels have lead me to some excellent facilities, and also some places that need a great amount of help. I have met some great doctors, caring doctors, and doctors that respect nurses. I have met nurses that are also great, caring, and respectful.

The lessons I have learned with travel nursing are many. In my experience, I have learned that most hospitals do not seem to care what you have to offer as a traveling nurse. The administration seems to only see you as a temporary fill and nothing more. From the hospital administration to fellow workers, there is little respect demonstrated for travelers. As a traveler, you have learned much about health care and bring that information with you everywhere you go, but you may be resented for that knowledge and feel unable to provide what you really have to offer to a hospital or agency.

As a wound care nurse traveler, I have faced even stronger resistance due to my specialty and worked very hard to prove myself. Like most of us I have made mistakes, but I have always worked hard to repair and improve what I could and try to change my behavior. I continue to try to educate the patients, nurses and people I work with.

What can make this a better, more meaningful experience for everyone? How can the nursing administration and travel agencies help the travel nurse provide the full benefit of their skills and expertise to a facility? What needs to happen? I do not feel legislation is the way to make changes. The changes need to come from education and acceptance.

Do not assume that that nurse is only here for a short time. That nurse might be interested in something else, maybe accepting the great things that hospital has to offer. Has anyone taken the time to ask that nurse what she wants? Has anyone asked about that nurse’s plans or why that nurse went into travel nursing? Is every travel nurse the same? What special skills might the travel nurse bring to the facility? I share with you the following tips to help integrate the travel nurses into your team:

  1. Respect the travel nurse and treat them as a member of the health care team.
  2. Interview and treat each travel nurse as if they could be a permanent employee.
  3. Consider what that travel nurse can do to help you or promote your business.
  4. Find out about the travel nurse: Is that nurse only here until the next assignment comes along or is that nurse looking for a permanent position?
  5. Never assume each travel nurse is here for the same reasons.

About the Author
Lydia Meyers RN, MSN, CWCN has been a certified wound care nurse for over 15 years with experience working in home healthcare, extended care facilities, hospice care, acute care, LTAC, and wound clinics. Her nursing philosophy to "heal wounds as quickly as possible" is the guiding force behind her educational pursuits, both as a teacher and a student.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, HMP Global, its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.