If you’re a Registered Nurse getting ready to leave on your first travel nursing assignment, one of the first questions on your mind is probably what to bring. After you’ve gotten a few travel nursing jobs under your belt, packing will be a no-brainer, but for now, you could probably use some good advice from those who’ve been there and done that.
It’s easy to forget to pack something, and once you’ve arrived to your destination and started your travel nursing assignment, you’ll probably be far too busy to squeeze a shopping trip in right away. While some things are easy to replace, like a toothbrush, others can be a lot more difficult and could even result in your start date being pushed back, like necessary documents or your identification.
To avoid that, review this checklist not once or twice, but several times before you go, including one last time before getting out on the road.
The most important items of all are the documents required for your travel nursing job. As they aren’t easily replaced and you won’t be able to start without them, be sure to gather them together as soon as you can after accepting an assignment. Check again just before you leave, one by one, to be sure that you have them with you. You’ll generally need the following, but you should always check with your travel recruiter to find out exactly what’s necessary as it can vary by position and facility:
- Driver’s license
- Social security card
- Copies of all active professional licenses for states that haven’t gone paperless yet – be sure to photocopy the front as well as the back
- Titer results and/or proof of vaccines (check with your recruiter for specifics)
- Certifications such as BLS (again verify exactly what is needed with your recruiter)
- Proof of physical exam within the last year
- Proof of car insurance if you’ll be driving
- Contact information for your recruiter and travel nursing company
- Address, contact and other details for your lodging
While clothing is mostly a personal choice, you’ll need scrubs, of course. Check with your travel staffing recruiter to find out if you can bring what you already have or if you’ll need to purchase new scrubs to meet the facility’s requirements. Outside of your travel nursing job, you’ll want to bring clothing appropriate to the climate you’re heading to. Do a little research to find out what to expect – for example, you might think San Francisco would be warm in the summer, but often times it can be rather chilly and foggy – then, when fall arrives, temperatures often start to rise and you’ll see more sunshine. Bring a mix of casual wear, athletic gear and more formal items, but try not to pack too much, particularly if you’re flying as you don’t want to end up with an overweight bag at the airport which comes with extra fees and a potential backache.
Bring your cell phone, tablet, laptop, etc. – and, all of the appropriate chargers, something that can easily be forgotten. You’ll probably want to bring a camera too for capturing all of those picture-perfect moments for when you’re checking out the new sights.
Housing can vary significantly from location to location, and from agency to agency. Your housing might come complete with the majority of household items you need, like pots and pans, silverware, towels and linens, a TV, cleaning supplies and so on, but in some cases, it may come with only the basic furnishings. That’s why it’s important to ask your travel staffing recruiter exactly what your housing will include so you’ll know what you need to bring. Related: How to avoid travel nursing housing horrors
If you need a long list of items and are flying, it might make sense to have some things shipped before you go, as baggage limits can be prohibitive. While it can vary by airline, you’re generally limited to a checked bag of up to 50 pounds (you may have to pay a fee for this) and a personal item like a purse plus a carry on, which may not be taller than 22 inches, wider than 14 inches or deeper than 9 inches. Another option is to buy some of the items you need from a secondhand store when you arrive to your travel assignment.