Working as a traveling nurse is all about seeing the world and helping folks in need.
However, working as a traveling nurse does come with its own unique set of health risks. While on the road, you’re likely to miss sleep and feel stressed due to logistical problems that may arise.
You may find it more difficult to look after your own health, too. A hectic schedule can get in the way of a consistent exercise regime, and you’re unlikely to cook up a nutritious meal when you’ve just finished a long shift.
Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to better manage your own health and well-being while on assignment.
The prospect of working as a traveling nurse is exciting. However, you may find that life on the road quickly becomes lonely as you are separated from your normal support systems and may not see your family for months at a time.
Strengthen your support systems by building community while on assignment. Find places to connect and focus on building relationships with your coworkers. You can do this by offering to cook for colleagues on your days off. Or, if you want to protect your free time, consider spending your breaks making conversation in common spaces.
Once you get settled in, explore your new town or city and try to meet folks who live in the area. Sunday markets are a great place to strike up conversations and learn about the culture of the community you are currently serving. Connecting with your community can help you overcome feelings of loneliness or isolation and improve your mental health.
Travel nursing is a fast-paced, deeply rewarding career. However, you can only expect to be at your best if you maximize your rest and recovery. This can be a little tricky if you work shifts, as you may struggle to get into a consistent sleep schedule.
Start by creating a bedtime routine that works for you. An effective bedtime routine can improve your sleep quality and reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Establish a ritual and stick to it. Consider sleep-inducing behaviors like:
- Take a bath
- Listen to white noise or calming music
Over time, your body will adapt to your ritual and learn that reading, low music, and warm water means you’re getting ready for some shut-eye. Consider investing in blackout curtains if you’re working nights and keeping your room between 60 – 67 Fahrenheit to help reduce your body temperature.
Stress is a fact of life when traveling nursing. Some forms of acute stress are actually useful and help you increase your focus and cognitive abilities when you need to perform. However, chronic stress can lead to burnout and derail your well-being. While working on the road, you must do your utmost to avoid long-term stress and improve your productivity.
Mitigate stress by establishing a pre-shift routine that works for you. There’s nothing worse than skidding into work a minute before your shift starts — you’ll feel as though you’re always behind and may be tempted to skip breaks. Mentally prepare yourself with a short journal entry and eat a good meal to keep your energy high throughout the day.
If you’re still feeling stressed, you may want to reevaluate your workflow. Optimizing your workflow can reduce your risk of errors, minimize the amount of time you spend on menial tasks, and help you find time for rest during the day. Communicate with your manager if you suspect your workflow is undermining your health, and brainstorm ways to improve operations.
Exercising When You Can
You don’t have to run a marathon or compete in the CrossFit games to enjoy the health benefits of regular exercise. Even light exercise, like yoga or a brisk walk, is great for your physical health and can help you destress during a busy work week.
If you’re new to exercise, consider joining local fitness groups or classes. This will help you meet new people while you work up a sweat. Most classes accommodate beginners, too, meaning you work to your own level of fitness.
If group exercise isn’t for you, consider a few easy-going exercise routines at home. Couch-to-5k programs are great for beginners and will give you a sense of accomplishment. Similarly, you can find yoga flows online that are available 24/7 and can be adapted to meet your needs.
Travel nursing can be a blessing and a burden. You’re living out your dreams but are likely to feel stressed while on assignment. Manage your own health and wellness by getting enough sleep and exercising during your time off. Try to connect with your new coworkers and community to alleviate loneliness and build a support system in the city you are visiting.