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10 Tips for Fitting In and Thriving with Established Staff on Contract Nursing Assignments

February 8, 2024

Every contract assignment is an open door, inviting you to explore new horizons, broaden your clinical expertise, and connect with diverse healthcare professionals. But stepping onto a new unit with an established team of staff nurses can be daunting. Building rapport and fostering partnerships with staff nurses isn't about changing who you are to fit in— it's about embracing the chance to learn from their experiences, share your own strengths, and collectively elevate the quality of patient care. 


Whether you're a seasoned traveler or just dipping your toes into the world of contract nursing, finding your place among established staff nurses is essential for a successful and fulfilling assignment. Here are our tips for building genuine connections and getting the most out of your assignments: 


1. Initiate Conversations

From the moment you step foot onto the unit, take the initiative to introduce yourself and get to know your new coworkers. On your first day, try striking up a conversation with someone by the coffee machine and ask them about their favorite part of working at the facility or their weekend plans. This can be tough if you’re more of an introverted type, but stepping out of your comfort zone and being friendly can go a long way! 


2. Show Interest, Listen, and Learn

When talking with coworkers, really listen to what they have to say. Whether it's listening to personal stories, learning about how tasks get done efficiently, or getting advice on handling challenges— people can sense when you’re truly curious and listening to what they have to say. Active listening is a great way to build trust and teamwork while also getting to know your coworkers and picking up useful tips for your time on the unit! 


3. Be Respectful and Professional

Starting any new job is exciting, but remember, you're entering someone else's space. So, bringing your best professional self and respecting the established routines and people is important. Dress professionally and arrive on time for your first assignment. Be polite and courteous to everyone you encounter, from patients to doctors to environmental service staff. Observe how the nurses typically hand off report and patient updates. By demonstrating professionalism and respect, you'll create a positive first impression and set yourself up for a successful and rewarding experience. 


4. Offer Assistance

One way to combat any preconceived notions that contract nurses may disrupt the unit's flow is to be as helpful as possible. Make sure you adequately prepare for the assignment and spend the first days getting a good sense of what burdens the staff nurses and help in those areas to be an asset on the unit. During your orientation, ask if there are any specific tasks you can assist with, like stocking up supplies. Your coworkers will appreciate your efforts and see you as part of the team! 


5. Learn and Adapt

Take the time to learn how things work in your new environment. Ask your preceptor to explain the unit's specific protocols for handling emergencies or responding to patient concerns. Get to know the rules and routines, and be willing to adjust your approach to keep things running smoothly. Being flexible and open to new ways of doing things shows your coworkers that you're easy to work with and helps you become part of the team more quickly. 


6. Communicate Effectively

Good communication is key to working well with others, especially in a fast-paced environment like healthcare. If you're unsure about something, don't hesitate to ask questions. Speak up if you encounter a problem or need help with a patient. Keeping the lines of communication open helps you and your coworkers work together more effectively. 


7. Be Flexible and Adaptable

As you know all too well, things can change quickly in healthcare, so it's important to be flexible. If your assigned patients change or your schedule gets shifted, roll with it and maintain a positive attitude. Be ready to adjust your plans if things don't go as expected, and be willing to work with your coworkers to find solutions to problems. Your ability to go with the flow and adapt to new situations will help you fit in with your new team. 


8. Show Appreciation

Take the time to thank your coworkers for their help and support. Acknowledge their hard work and let them know that you appreciate everything they do. After a coworker helps you with a challenging task, express your gratitude verbally and even consider writing them a thank-you note if it applies to the situation. A little gesture goes a long way in building positive relationships and making everyone feel valued. 


9. Participate in Team Activities

Join in on team events and activities whenever you can. If there's a potluck lunch, bring a dish to share. Attend a department social event or volunteer for a charity initiative with your coworkers. Participating in these activities helps you bond with your coworkers and become part of the team. 


10. Be Patient

Building relationships takes time, so be patient as you get to know your coworkers. Remember, it takes time to build genuine connections. Don't get discouraged if it takes a few weeks to feel fully integrated into the team. Stay positive and keep putting yourself out there, and eventually, you'll find your place on the team. 



As your contract nursing journey unfolds, remember that integrating with staff nurses isn't just about fitting in but also expanding your horizons. Embrace every interaction as an opportunity to gain new perspectives, refine your skills, and ultimately deepen your impact on patient care. With an open mind, a collaborative spirit, and a dedication to continuous learning, you'll not only thrive within each team but also emerge from each assignment a more well-rounded, more knowledgeable, and more confident nurse. So, step out, connect, and allow yourself to grow both professionally and personally alongside the amazing staff nurses you encounter on your contract nursing adventures.

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