If you are a travel nurse about to leave for your first assignment, congratulations! You are embarking on an exciting and rewarding journey unlike anything you’ve previously experienced. Despite all of the incredible things about travel nursing, though, it isn’t without a few challenges. Fortunately, you can keep the struggles to a minimum by packing everything you need.
Packing for an assignment can be stressful. Just about every travel nurse has at least one horror story about forgetting to pack something important and being unable to quickly obtain a replacement in their new city. It’s one thing if you forget something simple like a toothbrush or cell phone charger. You can pick those up anywhere. But forgetting something like your driver’s license is a way bigger problem. You don’t want to leave your favorite men’s print scrub tops behind, either, since you might not be able to find them in your new city.
To help you avoid these types of disasters, we’ve put together this packing guide that’s filled with essentials for travel nurses. Trust us, you don’t want to leave for your assignment without reading this!
Before you do anything else, make sure you pack all of the necessary personal documents. They tend to be extremely difficult — and often costly — to replace, so you definitely do not want to leave home without them. Keep everything in a secure location, and be sure to double-check that you have the documents you need before leaving.
As a travel nurse, you’ll need your:
- Driver’s license
- Social security card
- Travel documents
- Insurance policies
- Nursing license
- Professional certifications
Your staffing agency will likely have copies of many of these documents on file, but it never hurts to carry copies with you. Consider keeping digital copies on your laptop or phone, too, just in case anything gets lost.
Emergency Contact Information
You probably have important phone numbers stored in your phone, but you should pack a physical list of emergency contacts, too. In addition to the contact information for your staffing company, recruiter, and new employer, make sure you have phone numbers for:
- An emergency contact person (parent, close friend, significant other, etc.)
- Your regular doctor
- Your dentist
- Your insurance agent
- Your bank
- Credit card issuers
Toiletries and Medications
When it comes to getting fully stocked up on things like shampoo and deodorant, it might make more sense to shop after reaching your new destination. Even if you plan on purchasing most of your supplies upon arrival, though, it’s smart to pack enough to at least get you through the first couple of days in your new city. You never know what might come up, so it’s best to be prepared just in case you don’t have time to go to the store.
Toiletries you may need include:
- Soap or shower gel
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Body lotion
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hairbrush and comb
- Nail file
Consider putting together a basic first-aid kit, as well. Your kit should contain bandages, antiseptic, medical tape, gauze, scissors, tweezers, and over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen and aspirin.
If you take prescription medications, be sure to pack those, too. And make arrangements to transfer your scripts to a local pharmacy in your new city.
You’ll need clothes to wear to work and apparel for when you are off the clock. Check your new employer’s dress code, and pack scrubs and scrub dresses that meet the requirements.
You will also need:
- Casual attire
- Athletic clothing
- A formal outfit or two
- Socks and underwear
- Comfortable shoes for work and personal time
Where you’re going directly impacts what you need to pack. If you’re packing up for an assignment in Hawaii, you’ll probably want to bring your swimsuit. If you are heading to Montana in the wintertime, though, you can probably leave it at home. Be mindful of your destination and the climate when deciding what to bring with you.
Living without your electronics even for a day can be extremely difficult. Make sure you bring your phone, tablet, and laptop, along with their chargers. Don’t forget to pack accessories like earbuds and a mouse.
Depending on your preferences and lifestyle, other electronics you might want to pack include:
- Smart assistant (Amazon Echo, Google Nest, etc.)
- Video game console
In the days and weeks leading up to your assignment, pay close attention to the electronic devices you use most. You probably won’t want to leave any of the things you use daily behind when you head out.
Find out what furnishings and supplies are provided by the owner of your temporary housing. If you are staying in a fully furnished corporate apartment, most of the essentials will likely be provided for you. If not, you may need to bring several household items.
Things travel nurses commonly need include:
- Dishes and silverware
- Cooking utensils
- Bath towels and washcloths
- Kitchen towels and dishcloths
- Sheets, pillowcases, and blankets
When packing up for your assignment, don’t forget to include some reminders of home. No matter how much you love your new city, you’ll likely experience at least a few pangs of homesickness. Having a few personal items will help you feel connected to home when those feelings strike.
Some great personal items to bring include:
- Photos of friends and family
- A few of your favorite books
- Small gifts from loved ones
- Local art and photos
No matter how old you are, a special blanket or stuffed animal can provide a great deal of comfort when you are far away from home, too. Having one of these comfort items is a lot like bringing a small piece of “home” with you wherever you go, and it is nothing to be embarrassed about.
When preparing for your travel nursing assignment, refer to this guide often. Think about the things you use daily and wouldn’t want to be without. Consider problems you may face and what you would need to deal with those situations. With careful planning, you can prepare yourself for your trip without leaving behind anything important.