As a nurse, your health should always be your top priority. You need to be in good health in order to be an effective caregiver to those in need, so you should never feel guilty about putting your own self-care first.
Traveling nurses who are on the road constantly might have a difficult time balancing travel, nursing, and self-care. Although it may be difficult to maintain healthy habits while traveling, it’s imperative in order to avoid the effects of burnout, which can severely affect your mental health and ability to be a good caregiver.
If you’re experiencing fatigue as a traveling nurse due to being away from home, working unpredictable hours, and traveling often, it’s time to adjust your daily routine. Here are a few simple practices you can implement in your day while you’re on assignment.
Constant travel can affect you in ways you don’t expect. When you are on assignment, you may not feel as comfortable as you do in your own home. Therefore, you can become anxious or nervous about your new surroundings, which can have negative effects on your sleep schedule.
Also, traveling, in general, can be quite exhausting, especially when combined with long, inconsistent working hours. It’s important that you maintain a healthy sleep schedule while you are out on assignment, as poor quality sleep can lead to poor quality health.
Improving your sleep schedule and environment has the ability to simultaneously improve your mood, overall health, productivity, demeanor, and even your immune system.
In order to get a healthy amount of sleep with a hectic travel and work schedule, you should try to plan your sleep in accordance with your schedule. If you are set to work inconsistent shifts, plan ahead of time when you should go to sleep in order to get 8 hours. Also, take advantage of your days off by turning in early or sleeping in later than usual.
Lastly, your environment is very important to your quality of sleep. Make sure the temperature in your bedroom is cool enough that you don’t get overheated, or plan to open or close your curtains depending if you plan to wake up early or sleep in later. Adjusting your surroundings will ensure better quality sleep and, therefore, better overall health.
As a traveling nurse, you may find it difficult to include regular exercise in your day-to-day. Between working long hours and getting necessary sleep, your exercise window may be limited. However, exercise is a very important aspect of a balanced self-care routine.
As a result, you may need to squeeze in exercise on your days off, before or after shifts, or in your limited downtime. Luckily, there are plenty of movements you can incorporate into your daily routine that don’t require a gym.
Working out from home or outside may be your best bet to stay consistently active. Consider exploring your assignment location on foot during long walks, while biking trails, or by running in local parks. You can also try doing quick metabolic or HIIT workouts from home. These workouts provide great results in a shorter amount of time, which is great for traveling nurses with hectic schedules.
Most traveling nurse assignments last about 13 weeks unless the nurse asks for an extension, in which case it can last even longer. When planning for your next or first assignment you will want to make sure you have everything you could possibly need to support your health. Of course, there are some things you can buy when you arrive at your location, but there are other things you will want to make sure you have with you before you go.
Since you will be sleeping in a new environment for a few months, you may consider bringing familiar items with you to help you sleep more soundly. You could bring your comforter from home or you might consider bringing a sound machine, which can play familiar or relaxing sounds to help you doze off easier.
Also, if you wear glasses you should consider packing prescription contact lenses that will last throughout the duration of your trip. When you are working long hours under bright fluorescent lights on limited sleep, your eyes are at greater risk of getting heavy, blurry, and dry. Having prescription contacts on hand can offer you relief and help you hydrate your eyes for better comfort throughout your shift.
Plan ahead and pack specific items that can help you practice better self-care during your assignment.
Along with packing the right items to support your health during your assignment, you will also need to make sure you have all of the proper documentation before you leave. This includes an updated license, health records, and copies of any recommended documentation.
Having this all together, updated, and ready to go will cause you less stress and make you feel calm and collected. Keeping your important documents in a safe, organized place will help your transition without any problems arising.
Putting your mental and physical health first will help you be a better and more efficient traveling nurse. If you don’t go about it in the right way your assignment can be more difficult than it needs to be.