Just like nursing, travel nursing can be stressful. Aside from providing patient care, travel nursing brings on a whole new set of challenges. Let's review the realities of travel nursing and common ways travel nurses reduce stress.
Realities of Travel Nursing
Being a travel nurse poses its own challenges. First, the nature of travel nursing is that many travel nursing jobs are away from home. After a long day of work, it's relaxing to return to the comforts of your own home. Unless you accept a local assignment, this is not the case. Sometimes travel nurses have difficulty sleeping away from home as well.
Just like nursing, travel nursing can lead to burnout and fatigue. Travel nurses help fill the gaps in staffing shortages or areas where patient volume or acuity has increased. Due to increasing demands in healthcare, nurses are receiving heavier workloads. Depending on the assignment, you may receive a heavier workload than a staff nurse. This is because some healthcare facilities try to give their staff nurses a little reprieve from their workload. However, this is not always the case.
Travel nurses typically change assignments every 13 weeks. Understanding this, you will need to search for new travel nursing jobs regularly. Once you have signed your new contract, you also have to plan for housing and travel and move to your new assignment location.
Once you've started your new assignment, there is a strong initial learning curve. You have to learn your new healthcare facility's charting system, processes, protocols, and procedures. In addition, you will be meeting new people and other healthcare team members, all while remembering their names and roles.
Stress Management Tips for Travel Nurses
Prolonged stress can cause a variety of health conditions, including elevated blood pressure. There are several stress and fatigue risk management strategies that travel nurses can use to lower blood pressure and prevent burnout. Let's review some common ways travel nurses reduce stress below.
Create a Routine
Creating a new routine for your assignment is an easy way to help manage stress and lead to a healthy work-life balance. This is especially true for those hectic mornings when you may be running late! Try to wake up at the same time every day and prepare your meals in advance. As a travel nurse, meal planning is a great way to establish a routine. Plan and prepare meals on your off days. This will save some time on the days you work. It will also potentially lead to you eating healthier since you probably won't be stopping in the fast food on your way home.
Part of creating a routine is getting organized and making sure you have everything ready, especially if you are working a batch of shifts in a row. If you have errands that you need to complete, do these on your off days. If you have appointments that you need to schedule, set reminders on your phone.
Get Enough Sleep
It's recommended that you get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Getting enough sleep, especially after working 12-hour shifts can be difficult. Stick to a sleep schedule as much as you can. Meaning that you need to go to sleep and wake up around the same times every day. Yes, that means waking up at the same time, even on your off days! To make you more comfortable, bring items from home, such as pillows or blankets. If you have trouble with noise or light, then purchase headphones or a sleep mask. There are plenty of sleep health tips out there. Try what works best for you to feel well-rested.
Make plans for your off days, so you can have something to look forward to. As soon as you have your schedule, make plans for yourself! Book a relaxing spa day or plan a day hike somewhere local. You may have met coworkers or fellow travel nurses at work. If socialization energizes you, make plans with them outside of work. If you're missing family and friends and you haven't seen them in a while, then plan for them to visit. Or vice versa, if you have a few days off, maybe you can return home to visit friends and family.
Exercise is a great way to lower blood pressure and reduce stress. Yes, it can be difficult to stay motivated on your off days to go exercise. However, exercise is good for your physical and mental health. It doesn't always have to be a strenuous activity. Try less strenuous activities like taking a walk at a nearby park, riding a bike, or swimming. If you enjoy outdoor activities like hiking or mountain bike riding, find a local group to meet up with. There are several outdoor enthusiast groups through MeetUp and Facebook to choose from.
Another great way to reduce stress and improve your mental health is to practice yoga. Practicing yoga can also improve your physical health and aid with anxiety and depression symptoms. Search for local yoga classes or try a yoga app. If you find that you don't like yoga, there are plenty of other activities to try. It may take some trial and error to find what you like.
Have a Strong Support System
Having a strong support system is also key when you're a travel nurse. Travel nursing can get lonely at times, and you'll want to talk to friends and family to feel connected. It can be hard to make time to talk to them, especially if you're in different time zones. Or working 12-hour shifts and working night shifts can make it difficult as well. To combat this, schedule phone calls a few days ahead of time and stick to your plan.
If your missing seeing your family, plan a trip for them to come and visit you, or vice versa. Even if it's a short few days, you will feel re-energized. If you feel like you're really struggling, don't be afraid to reach out to mental health professionals or even online support groups. There are plenty of support groups for travel nurses, that have fellow travel nurses who are in the same boat. Who knows, you might find someone local that you can become friends with!
It's imperative to practice self-care as a travel nurse. Self-care means anything to improve your mental, emotional, or physical health. Self-care activities look different for each person and can vary depending on the day. Some activities include reading a book, exercising, taking a bath, or spending time with family and friends. It's whatever makes you feel less stressed. Self-care activities should be completed daily. This can be as simple as taking a walk around the block or reading a book before bedtime. Do what works for you!
Take a Break
If you're feeling burnout or stressed, it may be time to take a break. If your finances allow it, it may be wise to take time off between assignments, even if it's just for a week. Or maybe you take several weeks, which allows you to take time for yourself and time to see family and friends. Taking time off is also important during the holidays or when you have pre-planned family activities. This way, you can feel reconnected and don't feel like you are missing out. If you have made plans ahead of time, make sure to mention this to your travel nurse recruiter. Your recruiter can add these requested off days to your contract to ensure you have them off.
If you're feeling stressed during your current assignment, try taking several days off in a row. This means working several shifts in a row but will give you the extra time to relax on your off days and reset. If your travel nursing agency offers paid time off (PTO) accrual, then use it when necessary.
As a travel nurse, there are several ways for you to reduce your stress levels. Practice stress and fatigue risk management strategies to prevent burnout and tension. Remember, your overall health and well-being come first!
Frequently Asked Questions
Now, let's review some frequently asked questions of travel nurses about stress.
Is travel nursing less stressful?
Many travel nurses find that travel nursing is less stressful than working as a staff nurse. This is because you will have little to no involvement in workplace politics. Also, if you don't like your assignment, then just remind yourself that there is an end date. Most travel nursing assignments are only 13 weeks, so you can make it!
How can a nurse overcome stress?
There are several strategies to overcome stress as a travel nurse. Some of these strategies include getting organized, making sure you have a routine, and getting enough sleep. Also, it's crucial that you practice self-care each day. Your mental, physical, and emotional health are all equally important.
How do I save as a traveling nurse?
As a travel nurse, it may be easier to save money. However, this doesn't happen without proper budgeting and planning. Although you may be receiving a higher base pay, this is taxable. So it's also important to account for the tax-free stipends, such as housing and meal, and reimbursements that you will be receiving. Look for housing that is less than your housing stipend, so you can pocket the extra cash.
Are travel nurses happier?
Travel nurses have the opportunity to earn a higher salary than staff nurses while traveling throughout the United States. If you love to travel, then travel nursing would most likely make you happier as a nurse. However, travel nursing can be stressful because you will be changing travel nursing assignments about every 13 weeks. This means meeting new people, adapting to new environments, and learning new charting systems and unit procedures. Overall, most travel nurses are happy that they started a career in travel nursing.
What is the most stressful type of nursing?
While there is not one particular area of nursing that is stressful, there are a few areas that have high patient acuity, where intense situations can arise. The areas include the intensive care, emergency room, operating room, and neonatal intensive care units. However, depending on the unit, you may find that these areas are not as stressful for you because of the amount of teamwork and support.
Learn More about Health Carousel
Want to learn more about Health Carousel Travel Nursing or see what travel nursing jobs are out there? Click here to search our job board. With our On Demand platform, we make searching for assignments easy. You can search, apply, and track your application status using the app.
HCTN offers many benefits to our travel nurses. With our full circle of support, you can read about the many ways to use your benefits.