What’s stronger than the novel coronavirus pandemic? Answer: Travel nurses and other allied healthcare workers, who are saving lives every day despite difficult conditions.
Travel nurses and travel allied clinicians have left their homes to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, some on very short notice as facilities are hiring faster than ever, and states are loosening licensing requirements.
Under normal conditions, travel nurses have up to a few weeks to research their new assignment locale, and think about how to make the most of their 13 weeks. That timeframe has been shortened to days due to COVID-19 rapid needs, and rather than dreaming about what to do outside the four walls of the hospital, the reality of self-quarantining and potentially even self-isolating (if infected) is one that many travelers are facing instead.
Even so, this isn’t stopping travel nurses and healthcare workers from going where they are needed most (*cue the Superman theme song* ‘cause y’all are heroes). We’ve put together a list of resources for travelers to reference when they’re preparing for a crisis assignment and while on assignment during the COVID-19 pandemic to help you navigate everything from finding housing, to what to do with your time off, to what happens if your contract gets unexpectedly canceled.
How to find temporary travel nurse housing (fast!)
Finding housing is not as difficult as it seems, and due to the rising need of travel healthcare workers, it might be easier than ever in many cities.
First, know your options: agency-arranged housing or a housing stipend. Most Emerald travelers arrange their own housing using the stipend because it allows a little more control over the process, more flexibility, and ensures you have the location/amenities you want.
Ways to find your own housing during COVID-19
- A vacation rental property. These typically come furnished and include all housewares, utilities and internet. Check out websites like AirBnB and VRBO to get started – many property owners have special rates for essential healthcare workers at this time, so be sure to take advantage if available.
- Standard apartment or house for rent. In this scenario, you would bring or rent your own furniture and set up utilities, so this probably isn’t the right choice for an assignment starting ASAP.
- RV travel. If you already have an RV and the cash to maintain it, then you know what to do! Traveling by RV can be one of the most inexpensive housing options, but unless you’re fully committed to maintaining this investment even after the coronavirus crisis has passed, then it’s probably best to go a more traditional route.
- Extended stay hotel. With an all-time low number of guests vacationing at hotels, many hotels are offering their empty rooms for free or discounted rates to healthcare travelers during COVID-19. Some are even pet-friendly, and provide fully-equipped kitchens and Wi-Fi. Be sure to find out if your agency has discount codes (Emerald does!), and check to see if you can be offered a further discount as a healthcare worker.
Ideas for practicing self care during your off time
Having a job as important as RN in a time like this means you need to take care of you, especially off the clock. Here are a few ways you can care for your number one patient once the scrubs come off.
You’re drained right now – mentally and physically, there’s no doubt about it. So fueling up on food, whether it’s something healthy for your body or something you just love to eat, is important.
There are many companies in the food industry providing meals and other freebies for healthcare workers. On your days off, make sure to stock up on grocery items and even do some meal prep so that after a long shift you can come home to sustenance. When you just need a hot meal (that you didn’t have to cook), keep in mind that some delivery services are waiving fees, and many restaurants are taking special care of nurses and first responders.
Take care of your mental health
In addition to taking care of your physical health, you can use your time off to maintain your mental health. This may take the form of talking to a counseling professional, and there are many online counseling services to choose from. In particular, TalkSpace is one company donating free counseling services for healthcare workers and first responders.
Other things you can do to manage feelings of anxiety include turning off the news, trying yoga or meditation, watching funny videos, or just doing something that makes you happy.
Check in with your friends and relatives
While you may not be able to get out and about in your city, you aren’t isolated and you aren’t alone. Make it a priority to reach out to family and friends, and utilize technology to get some “face-to-face” time with your loved ones. Who knows, maybe you’ll have more contact with them while you’re away than when you were within driving distance!
What to do if your assignment is unexpectedly canceled
As COVID-19 cases ramp up or down across the U.S., travel nurse crisis assignments have ramped up and down as well. While demand remains high for healthcare workers at many facilities, flattening the curve means less influx of patients at others.
Nobody goes into a travel assignment knowing it will get canceled, but crisis assignments can have a slightly higher risk when it comes to cancelations. If this happens to you, you can file for unemployment immediately in the state you last worked. Here’s a list of how to file online in every state.
There is a new unemployment filing process as a result of COVID-19 that means some of the limitations on unemployment have changed. Read more about the CARES Act here.
If you do get sick, Emerald cares
The big question many healthcare workers have when considering a crisis assignment: what if I get diagnosed with coronavirus? Emerald Health Services is offering two full weeks of pay if required to self-isolate due to COVID-19 while on Emerald assignment.
When this virus has finally been beat, it will be in large part because of those clinicians who traveled where they were needed most. So thank you, traveling healthcare heroes! You are showing up for us all, and Emerald is committed to showing up for you.