The Travel Nurse Recruiter—Your #BFF on Assignment


By Ruth Braga MSN, RN

I recently taught a group of medical students about the different roles of personnel in the operating room. When it came to the scrub nurse, the first thing that flashed up on my PowerPoint screen was ‘#BFF’. Some of them laughed, but I went on to explain that in order to have a successful experience scrubbed into the OR, you needed to become ‘best friends forever’ with the scrub nurse.

Why? Because that person is going to help you understand, stay sterile, participate, properly handle equipment, and keep you sane in a fairly insane environment. You will need them to have your back. But who’s the BFF of the scrub nurse, or for that matter, the travel nurses on assignment?

I learned who my BFF is on my very first assignment. As a nurse with only 2 years experience, I decided I wanted to be a bit crazy and try my hand at travel nursing. I responded to an ad I saw on a website and was almost immediately contacted by Sarah from the travel company.

We discussed my experience, what I wanted to accomplish during my travelling nurse jobs, and where I’d be comfortable. A large trauma center in a major urban setting was in need of some extra OR staffwhile a few nurses were out on maternity leave. It turned out that despite my few years of nursing, I had been trained in transplants—a hot commodity. After interviewing with the manager, taking online competency exams and submitting all of my paperwork, I was hired.

More than 5 years have passed and I can still tell you where I was when Sarah called me and offered me the job. I’m not sure who was more excited.

Just as the scrub nurse, for 13 weeks, Sarah became my #BFF. I think I talked to her 2-3 times/week. She lamented when I got yelled at by a surgeon and laughed at my silly new-but-not-new mistakes.

Being a Good #BFF

Like Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her stages of grieving, Sarah knew that there would be phases to my travel experience and she was prepared for every one of them. She nursed me through the following phases:

  • ‘Questioning My Training’ phase (was I ever truly taught to do this? I don’t remember it…),
  • ‘I Must Have Lied On My Application’ phase (Did I really tell them that I could do this? I don’t think I checked that box!),
  • The pinnacle ‘I’m An Absolute Mess, I Want To Go Home, I Don’t Know What I Was Thinking’ phase (self-explanatory), and
  • Finally, that climactic moment of the ‘I Can Actually Do This!’ phase (HA! I knew all along I could do it, I’ve taught their staff some new tricks, they’ve taught me valuable lessons that I will always remember and wow, 13 weeks goes by fast!).

Like the scrub nurse to the med student, Sarah had my back.

For 13 weeks, Sarah was not only moved to my home screen contacts, she was my anchor and my #BFF. I wasn’t the only nurse she helped—I’m certain we were all treated the same. I didn’t travel again, but Sarah and I remained in contact until she left the agency.

My friend has been a travel nurse for a few years, and loves her recruiter. The recruiter knows what type of housing she likes and the areas she wants. Other companies entice her with special offers, but because of her loyalty, her company ensures she is well cared for.

There are many things in life worth switching around. But just as we find comfort in our favorite jeans or a beloved family doctor, there is something to be said for sticking with your travel company and recruiter. You never know when you will find (and need) your #BFF.