Whether it’s your first contract, or you’re a seasoned traveler, there is always a laundry list of things to do before you start a new contract. I’m getting ready to start my 16th assignment in my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan! I chose to stay home for a “local contract” because we just bought a duplex and have some work to do on the house before we can start renting out the 2nd unit. Plus, Michigan is THE BEST in the summer. Talk to me around December and I’ll be singing a much different tune. So, I have a lot of stuff to do to get ready for my first contract since last year (I took some time off to do some volunteering, and international travel).
These are the Top 10 items that usually need to be completed between the time you sign the contract and you actually start work (if you have not had them in the previous 365 days). Once you start accumulating all of this paperwork, it’s also a good idea to get organized. I use an expandable file folder, but also have things scanned into my computer so that I can email copies quickly. You can also take photos of documents with your phone via a free app like CamScanner. Sometimes a hospital will want you to hand carry your license and certifications to verify, so I always make sure to bring them with me. As for the following items, ask your company which ones they will pay for, and/or reimburse beforehand.
1. Work Physical. This needs to be done at least once per year, and many (but not all) companies will cover the cost, so make sure you ask about that before you go. If you’re at “home” and are able to go to your regular health care provider (HCP), then do that. For most of us though, we will be somewhere on the road. You can always find an HCP via your health insurance website. I find it’s often easier to drop in at a free standing clinic like Concentra (see also, CVS Minute Clinic or the Healthcare Clinic at Walgreens). No need to make an appointment, but you may need to wait a little while to be seen. Also, keep your receipts and track of your mileage for all of your pre-work appointments!
2. Titers. Titers (thankfully) usually only have to be done once. Hospitals will want to make sure you are immune to measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, and Hep. B. They are also starting to check for antibodies to Hep. C (there have been hospitals with outbreaks of Hep. C which were linked to an employee who was diverting/injecting drugs and then putting the same needle back into a vial which was then used to give medicine to a patient. Whew! And mega scary). If a company wants you to get titers drawn for a second time, ask why, especially if you have your records (however, the records have to have actual levels of antibodies, not just “immune”). I’m not needlessly going to get poked and give my blood if I already have more than adequate documentation.
3. Urine Drug Screen (UDS). This one is self-explanatory. Over the past 5 years as a travel nurse, I’ve had at least 12 UDS. It’s not the scary kind where someone has to be in the room with you while you pee, but sometimes they make you wait a really, really long time before they actually let you pee in that damn cup. My company just sent me an overnight FedEx package with all of my paperwork requirements, along with a form for a UDS. I just have to set the appointment up via the website provided. Easy peasy.
4. Respiratory Mask (N-95) Fit Test. These are so much fun. I love getting the chance to possibly breathe in aspartame (an awesome chemical) or that horribly bitter tasting stuff while wearing a hood, mask, and reading some poem about rainbows while hanging my head upside down. But seriously. The masks and their fit is very important to protect nurses while on the job. What I don’t get is that some companies/hospitals want you to have a mask fit test before you start orientation, and not all hospitals have the same masks. So I can be fitted for a mask, but yet the hospital might not carry that same mask and I’m just supposed to guess which size I need? Sounds no bueno to me. So check with your recruiter and see if it is something you can do that first week at the hospital (before patient care).
5. An I-9. This is a document required by a company that proves that you are legal to work in the U.S. You have to have the form notarized and present at least your driver’s license and social security card, OR just your passport. Check out the local bank, as they sometimes have a notary on staff. For my upcoming contract I had to schedule an appointment online, and will be charged $50 if I don’t show. It can depend on your company how they want this accomplished, but it should be in the pre-employment stack of paperwork.
6. OSHA & HIPAA. For each and every new hospital you work at, you will most likely have to complete these awesome online modules. They include things like fire safety, proper body mechanics, personal protective equipment, and social media usage in the workplace. Never fun, especially the third time this year, but always required.
7. PPD or TB Skin Test. Most hospitals will accept one (negative) test within a 1-year period. My upcoming assignment wants 2 within a 365-day period, and I’ve had none in the time frame, so I get to have them done a week apart, just in time to start my assignment in 2 weeks.
8. Fingerprinting. This was a new one for me, specifically to start this contract. I have definitely had to have ink fingerprints to apply for several state nursing licenses, but in order to work as a contract/agency nurse in the State of Michigan, I had to have Livescan fingerprinting. My company sent me the info to make an online appointment, which took all of 5 minutes when I actually arrived.
9. Online testing. This varies from company to company and you will usually not get paid for the time you spend on this. Bummer, I know, but totally required to make sure you have minimum knowledge for the job you are about to start. I have critical care and dysrhythmia tests to take this week. Yay for tests!
10. Direct deposit. This is how most companies will pay their travel nurses, and is the method I prefer. Get this all set up before your contract, and your first paycheck should get deposited right into your account! All that is required is a completed form and a voided check.
So these are the Top 10 things I encountered while getting ready for my upcoming contract. If this is your first assignment, I know how overwhelmed you are. If you stick with the same company, then this list is much shorter the second time around. I tend to hop around with companies depending on where I want to work. I’m usually pretty location specific, which limits me in a way, but also restricts which companies I can work with, but also means I get to jump through all of these hoops a lot more.
Where are you headed for your first/next contract? I’d love to hear all about it! And, if you have other items you have had to do in preparation for a contract, let me know here, or on twitter by including the hashtag: #travelnurseprep