Healthcare Professionals

What I learned from the “Worst Travel Assignment Ever”


September 14, 2022

Okay, so maaaybe that graphic is a little dramatic, but taking a new assignment in a new hospital means you’re putting a lot of faith into the hands of your recruiter and the staff that’s already employed at that facility. Until you clock-in for that first shift, you don’t really know what it will be like. Most times all goes well, but occasionally, you’re faced with an impossible situation.  

Although terrible assignments happen, they also provide good insights and learning experiences (no matter how awful they seem in the moment). In her 18 years of traveling, Kay Slane, has had two challenging assignments that have stuck with her, here’s her story…

Here’s what happened

The worst was in Oklahoma City, which is funny because I was born an Okie and lived there for 29 years.  It’s a prime example of miscommunication in an interview and one that taught me the importance of clarity and details!


  • Unit Manager: “Have you ever done post-catheter care on prior Telemetry Units?”
  • Me: “Yes and I have no problem taking care of those types of patients.”


Fast forward to my first patient, the charge nurse and I went to get the report and welcome him. When we pulled back the sheet to assess the groin, we discovered a green piece of plastic sticking outside of the patient’s leg.  In my head, I’m like, “So, this is what a sheath looks like.” When we got to the nurse’s station, I told the charge nurse that I had NEVER pulled a sheath.  Then to my surprise and embarrassment, the Unit Manager scolded me.

  • Unit Manager: “I thought you said that you had done post-cath care?!’”
  • Me: “Yes, I do have post-cath care experience, but all of our patients came back with an angioseal, not a sheath.”

From then on, the situation during those 13-weeks was toxic with negativity and jealousy. I’d hear others put me down with jabs like, “Kay doesn’t pull sheaths, but is making all the big bucks as a traveler.”  It hurt and was not an accurate representation of my skills and dedication to my job. Never once did I refuse to be the second nurse in the room.  With my Telemetry and ER experience, I was more than qualified to be that second nurse and learn from the primary nurse.

At the time I knew nothing about pulling a sheath, except that they did it at the heart hospital. By the end of those 13-weeks, I was doing my own ACTs and pulling sheaths like a champ! The road to independence was long and unpleasant but I walked away with my head held high, full of new skills and pride for what I accomplished.

How to overcome a bad situation

A 13-week assignment may feel extra long when stuck in a tough situation. Here are a few ways that might help you power through or decide if it’s time to throw in the towel:

  1. Start out the day with a positive attitude and a smile. It’s going to be a great day!  At least for the first 30 minutes of report!
  2. Get rid of the leeches!  You know who has a personal vendetta against you.  Just stay away from them and in your patient rooms.  Always be in a patient’s room doing something to improve that patient’s stay.
  3. Keep your frustrations away from the patients.  Confide in a friend or partner instead.
  4. If things go from bad to worse and you feel like your license is in danger.  Have a talk with your recruiter and give the appropriate notification. Usually, you can provide two weeks’ notice.  Of course, if you feel like your nursing license is in danger, talk to your recruiter about getting out of your contract.
  5. Find the light amid the darkness. Find something that makes you happy and surround yourself with it. Go on a bit of a shopping trip and get something that you have always wanted. Find a place of serenity and immerse yourself in meditation.
  6. Count down the days. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is always refreshing. Mark on your calendar the number of weeks left or even the number of shifts left. Twenty-seven days sounds a lot better than two months!

Not every travel assignment is rainbows and unicorns, but it is ALWAYS an opportunity to learn, grow, and demonstrate your resilience. As we say in Oklahoma, “if you get bucked off of your horse, get back on and show him who’s boss!”

Best of Luck my Traveler Tribe,


Thanks to Kay Slane, RN, BS, CGM, CEO of Highway Hypodermics for contributing to the content of this post. The matriarch of travel nursing that helps you find the best assignments with the information from her websites.  For general information on travel healthcare, please visit For instructions on how to get started in travel healthcare visit  If you just want to be a part of a super cool Facebook Group on getting your career started, come on over and chat!

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