It depends on your specialty:
-What is your RN to patient ratio? How many LPNs/CNAs are in the mix and how are they utilized? Do RNs have to signoff on LPNs work? What are the variations from night shift to day shift? Are weekends staffed differently.
- Do they have an IV/phlebotomy team, and what are their expectations regarding your skills in that area? Depending on the specialty, what kind of IV accesses are used on the floor ? (I am hemo/onco so this is key)
- Do nurses carry beepers/locators/phones?
- Ask about low census/float policies. Are travelers first fto loat, and about how often do they float? Do you float them for a full shift, or 4 hours here, 4 hours there, 4 hours the other? Are your hours guaranteed? Are you subject to mandatory OT rules? And if so, how often do people get mandated? Where areas do you float to?
- If you as the traveler have special needs, ask questions to see whether they can be reasonably accommodated. If you need a certain date off, tell them upfront and have it written into the contract. If you have to leave early, due to child care concerns, will there be problems with that being accomodated and also write that into contract? This sometimes may keep you from being hired, but also keeps you from getting bounced when you go to assignment, thinking you can leave 15 minutes early to take your kid to work, and someone gets ticked about it.
If you are diabetic, ask about breaks and meal times, whether employees go off the floor or always bring their own food in. Find out if the cafeteria is open at night or not. I have UC in remission,(I also prefer to change clothes at work) so I ask whether there is a BR on the unit for employees. You may think that I am kidding, but one assignment, the staff had to hike to Ortho or the ICU waiting room to use the BR - it was quite a hike and also a bit lacking when you have to wait in a line of visitors. If you have back issues, do they have lift assist? Is it a small or a large unit (large units usually have more staff - and more assistance available for heavy lifts - small units may only have two RNs at night and that can be a killer with a flaccid 300# patient).
These will not make you popular, but passing out on the Unit from Hypoglycemia does not make a good impression either. And you need your back for the rest of life.
- Computer or Paper? What is on paper and what is on computer and how will you be oriented to it?
- Standing orders? Do you have them?
- Teaching hospital or non-teaching hospital? Do you have facility Hospitalists or Intensevists? Are NPs/PAs/Med students/interns/fellows/residents permitted to order Chemo/cardiac drugs/drips etc.
- Dress Code, weekend schedules, day/night rotations can be slipped in at leisure. If you have cultural/religious issues such as clothing rules, or limits to weekend work, these may be more important.
- Ask how many of your travelers re-sign because the answer can be quite telling.
- Will you have to charge? Will you carry the code beeper? Can you give chemo? What specific skills are needed to work on your floor? (This should be one of the first questions). How much orientation do you give travelers? Classroom, or on the floor? Are there any mandatory tests to pass (PBDS)?
- Is this a union facility - for RNs, LPNs, support staff? Personally, I do not mind RNs or LPNs being union, though prefer nonunion facilities. Support staff unions, though, can drive me to drink. Also, I will not work strikes. If they have one upcoming, I will not work there. These are some of my personal issues.
-There are other questions one would to ask but cannot diplomatically do so, and generally would not get an accurate answer from the interviewer, anyway. On that topic......
The hospital that said that they had a tube system - didn't say that they had NO tubes for it nor did it go to the lab or the pharmacy.....rendering it one of the bigger wastes of money I have ever seen.
That Pharmacy runners came by on an hourly basis, and anything STAT could easily be faxed to the pharmacy. The runner actually came once, maybe twice a shift, and no one had the code to use the fax was the manager and she didn't know how to use it. Which meant we made dozens of trips to the pharmacy and wait for meds. When your policy is admission to floor for neutropenic fever to antibiotic started in 60 minutes or less, this is a problem. Let's see nurse gets patient (with her allotment of 6-8), has to draw labs and blood cultures, send them, get a BUN/crt (by hand delivery), get order for ABX - hand deliver the order - wait for the drug - just to have them reject it a demand a change as that ABX is "not approved" for this and needs ID approval. Etc, you get the idea. The NF policy is awesome, but impossible to accomplish because of the conditions.
We won't even go into the "well-supplied" unit that had dozens of bags of D5-1/4NS, but perpetually ran short on NS....what adult onco unit needs that many bags of a specialty fluid? We also routinely ran out of toilet paper on the weekends, and it practically takes and Act of G-d to get one single roll.
Those are the things that really can't be asked, but would really be helpful to know.