7 Tips on How to Handle the Stress that Comes with Being a Travel Nurse

Nursing in any capacity can be a stressful career. Add being away from home and in a new facility as a travel nurse, and it can become downright overwhelming. Don’t give up though; managing stress as a travel nurse is possible. With some planning and foresight, you can manage whatever comes your way. 

Plan ahead

Managing your stress begins before you even get on an airplane. Once you receive your assignment, the planning begins. Research your new location: what is the weather like? What outerwear will you need–or not? Learn what clothing you’ll need, not just for work but for other times as well. What stores are nearby? Will you be able to get your makeup, your favorite toothpaste, or other regularly used items easily? Pack whatever you will need with you that might not be readily available.

Now that you have your pay package details, take time to research and plan your taxes and other financial needs. Very little is more stressful than financial unknowns and emergencies, especially while away from home. Consider retaining a tax professional or other financial planner to keep up with your needs while you’re away. 

Get organized

Find out what paperwork you’ll need to have with you, and find a way to organize it so that it’s easy to find while you’re traveling. Consider including emergency contact information, travel documents, and other important items. 

Make a list of all the things you’ll need done at home while you’re gone. Do you need a pet sitter? What about someone to collect your mail? Water your plants? Make sure home is taken care of.

Organize your suitcase! Since travel nurse assignments can last for weeks or months, traveling as lightly as possible will make getting there less stressful. You want to be relaxed and ready when you arrive at your new facility, so take time before you leave to get everything ready. Make lists: clothing items, shoes, personal effects, favorite items you’ll want to have available. Make sure you have any prescription medications, and that you can get refills when you’re traveling. A little planning can go a long way toward saving you from the stress of not having the things you need. 

Set a schedule

Once you’ve begun your new assignment, create a routine for yourself. Your hours may change depending on the day, so consider having a calendar with you to keep track of your shifts. This can be an app on your phone, or if you’re more old-school a small paper planner might be your speed. And once you have one, use it! 

Once you get a sense of your work schedule, begin adding other items to your routine. Be sure to include sleep, exercise, time off, and any communication with friends and family back home. 

Exercise

Self-care is extremely important in your role. You spend your days caring for others, and if you are not taking care of your own needs it can become very difficult to provide excellent care for your patients. Although self-care can include things like massages and pedicures, it most often simply means caring for yourself. Finding a way to exercise while you’re traveling is crucial to remaining healthy. 

Exercise is key to managing stress. Consider taking up yoga or tai-chi or another form of relaxing movement. If your location allows it, walking is a great way to move your body and manage stress. Some gym memberships allow you to use their facilities in other cities; find out if your gym has this available. 

Rest

Don’t forget to rest. Include it in your schedule. Whether it’s reading a good book or binging your favorite Netflix show, intentionally taking downtime allows your mind and your body to rest from the extreme mental and physical exertion nurses often experience. 

Take your breaks while at work. Take your lunch break, and make sure you eat well. When possible, taking a quick walk outside can reset your emotions and your overall sense of well-being, allowing you to remain calm and effective during your shift. Be sure you have time off from work too. Nursing shifts can be long and grueling, and having a day or two to rest and recharge is important. 

This allows you another method of stress-management: explore! Resting can include taking in the sights and sounds of your temporary home, perhaps in a park or museum or other attraction.  

Sleep

To that end, make sure you get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation has been proven to increase response times and decrease mental clarity, two things you absolutely cannot afford to give up as a nurse. As much as possible, try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. If you find yourself on a night-shift assignment, you can still get into a good sleep routine; it may take some effort. Buy a good sleep mask and earplugs, especially if your housing assignment includes roommates or is in a busy area of the city. 

Don’t skimp on your sleep. You already know that as a nurse, you will encounter stressful situations throughout your day; being exhausted leaves you without the emotional strength you need to handle those things as they come up. 

Find a support system

Your support system can include friends and family at home as well as colleagues and new friends at your facility. Don’t try to go it alone! As tempting as it can be as a travel nurse to keep to yourself, making some friends at the hospital can relieve your stress in a couple of ways.

One, when things happen during your shift, and they will, having people who “have your back” can help you feel safe and supported. They can be a great resource when you don’t know what’s expected in the new environment, answering questions and giving you resources. Remember, the staff nurses know the ropes; you don’t have to reinvent the wheel!

Two, having a bit of a social life outside of work will help you manage your stress while you’re at work. We all need friends, and we all need to get out every once in a while. 

Lean on friends and family at home too. Maintain those relationships: schedule regular calls and video chats with the important people in your life. 

Life as a travel nurse can be exciting–and less stress. Taking the time and making the effort to manage your stress can help ensure that your time is and continues to be effective and rewarding. 

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