Being a nurse is a calling. No one said it would be easy. In fact, chances are, your professors and experienced nurses that you met while you were still in school probably warned you about the difficulties and stress that nurses have to endure in their job. But despite the warnings, you still went ahead and became a nurse anyway. Why? Because, as stated, it’s a calling and you love what you do.
Unfortunately, stress is part of work, regardless of one’s profession. That’s just the way the system was set up. But somehow, nurses—especially those who take on travel nursing assignments—experience stress at a higher level than most. Travel nurses have to deal with the stress permanently employed nurses deal with: long hours, insomnia, inconsistent diet, skipping lunch breaks, physical pain, office politics, just to name a few.
Then there is the added stress that only travel nurses can appreciate: preparing for a new assignment, moving to a different state every thirteen months or so, reorienting oneself with company policies at every new location, finding new friends, getting acclimated… you name it, chances are, travel nurses have to deal with it.
Sadly, many nurses try not to pay too much attention to these issues. They trudge on with the work that’s in front of them even if it means putting their own health at risk. Somehow to think about one’s own wellbeing isn’t very nurse-like. After all, nurses are known for nurturing other people back to health.
On the contrary, it’s not selfish or unfitting of a nurse to want to take care of oneself. The American Nurses’ Association even dictates that it’s as important for nurses to take care of their mental and physical health in order to better perform their duties.
Travel nurses have to learn to properly balance their work and personal life so that they can enjoy the best of both worlds. After all, there’s really no point in moving from state to state, jumping from one assignment to the next, if you’re unable to enjoy the perks of travel nursing to the fullest.
There are, of course, many ways for a travel nurse to cope with stress while at work. Some of them may seem intuitive but bears repeating. For instance, when dealing with coworkers, be a professional. Try to communicate your thoughts without letting your emotions get in the way. Just because a coworker or a patient rubs you the wrong way is no reason for snide remarks from you. Develop a reputation for being approachable. You’ll see how much easier it is to deal with people if you yourself are easy to deal with.
One advice to keep at heart is that you must make time for yourself to convalesce from the day’s hardship. With travel nursing, it’s easy enough to find time to sight-see and seek new adventures. That’s great but you mustn’t overdo it. Many travel nurses seem to think that sight-seeing is the end-all and be-all of their career path. Sure, it’s great to explore new places but these activities can be exhausting so much so that you sometimes end up getting tired from the experience instead of rejuvenated. Instead, sometimes it’s much more relaxing to stay home and read a book.
Be on the lookout for compassion fatigue. Meditate, do yoga or take up a hobby that lets you have time to reflect on yourself and your life. Understand that you’re not required to give yourself fully to every patient or case that comes your way. Effective travel nurses learn to “save something for themselves” and you should too.
There are hundreds of ways to relieve stress in the workplace but all of them point to a paradigm shift in the way you think about work. You could look at nursing as your entire life or you could look at it merely a part of the whole. It’s a very important part, yes, but by no means must it define who you are as a person. Learn to ward off stress not just for your sake but for your patients’ sake as well. Remember, the healthier you are mentally, physically and emotionally, the better you are at taking care of others.