Prioritizing ‘Me Time’: Tips for Travel Nurses With Busy Schedules

A career in travel nursing presents unique benefits. You get to see the world, experience different cultures and customs, and take pride in knowing you’re making a difference where it’s needed most. While travel nursing assignments are typically only a few months at a time, it’s easy to get burnt out during those months, and it can be difficult to readjust to normalcy when you turn home.

To help mitigate the risk of burnout, time management is essential. You can integrate health and wellness practices into your daily routine that will help you get more out of your day. So, you can conquer the common challenges travel nurses face, and prioritize “me time” while on the move.

If it sounds easier said than done, you’re not alone. It’s not always easy for a nurse to practice self-care. But, it’s not selfish – it’s a necessity. Let’s cover a few time-saving health practices you can introduce into your life that will impact your overall well-being, and reduce the risk of burnout.

What Challenges Do Travel Nurses Face?

Some of the greatest benefits of being a travel nurse can also end up being some of the biggest drawbacks. You get to be in new, interesting locations for months at a time, but that means you’re away from friends and family. You might have to work in dangerous conditions. You’re always “on” when it comes to taking care of patients and might feel like you don’t have room in the day for an adequate break.

You might also not make the best dietary choices because you’re constantly moving. It’s easy to pick up an unhealthy snack from a vending machine, food cart, or fast food establishment. Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, you are what you eat. Poor dietary choices can negatively impact your energy levels, contribute to fatigue, and can even damage your teeth and gums.

Time management is, perhaps, the biggest challenge travel nurses face. It can be difficult to find a healthy work-life balance when you’re away from home. You might have to work longer shifts than you’re used to or work odd hours more often than not. Poor time management can lead to a lack of productivity, extra stress, fatigue, and burnout. When a nurse starts to experience burnout, it can impact their job in a variety of ways. You might start to lose motivation, and you could even start to take your frustrations out on your patients.

Tackling Time Management Skills

You might think you don’t have any room in your busy schedule for ‘me time,’ but there are plenty of skills you can use to manage your time and make room for a better work-life balance.

Start by making sure you’re with the right employer. Who manages your travel schedule and itinerary? Do they care about flexibility and promote their employees’ mental well-being? Don’t be afraid to talk to your employer about your needs, or consider making a switch if your current place of employment isn’t willing to work with your needs.

When you’re traveling, you can better manage your time by:

  • Prioritizing your daily tasks
  • Utilizing a planner or digital scheduling app
  • Taking breaks

It’s also important to seek support when you’re in a new location or at home. You can’t do everything on your own, and while there are some tasks that can only be done by you, it’s okay to lean on your support system for other things. In the field, do what you can to delegate tasks, or ask for help when it’s needed. At home, the same rules apply. Ask family members and friends for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Maybe they can assist with getting your kids from school or making a grocery run for you. The people who love you want to see you happy and healthy, so lean on your support system.

Making Room for Self-Care

Finally, remind yourself that self-care isn’t selfish. It’s been misrepresented in recent years, but it’s not something that needs to be lavish or even take a lot of time. By implementing a few healthy practices into your daily routine, you can take advantage of the wellness benefits of self-care. Some of the easiest ways to start incorporating it into your life include:

  • Practicing mindfulness and meditation
  • Staying physically active
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Prioritizing sleep
  • Socializing

Self-care can look different depending on your stage of life and what you need and want. But, no matter your age, it’s important to be able to manage stress. Things like meditation, journaling, or even working with a therapist remotely are all great ways to reduce your stress, no matter how busy your schedule is.

Taking care of yourself with a bit of healthy pampering can also promote relaxation. For example, do you have a skincare routine? If not, it could be time to establish one. Skincare is important for everyone but is especially crucial for travel nurses who are exposed to a variety of different environments. Taking care of your skin through hydration and the right products can boost your physical well-being, and when you turn it into a routine, you can feel like you’re giving yourself a spa treatment every day.

You’re used to taking care of everyone else but don’t allow yourself to become an “empty cup” as a travel nurse. Keep these ideas in mind to prioritize your time and well-being, no matter your schedule.

Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, activism-related content. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter. 

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

5 Reasons to Give Travel Positions a Try

For those with a sense of adventure, travel positions need no other selling point. If you don’t have a natural love of travel, though, here are five other reasons to consider travel assignments.

Not a lot of careers come with the ability to travel the country and get paid for it, but there are quite a few in the healthcare arena that do. Physicians, advanced practitioners, nurses, therapy professionals, and more are afforded the unique opportunity to accept contract positions, often also referred to as locum tenens, at hospitals and clinics all over the United States, from sea to shining sea. For those with a sense of adventure or a love of travel, this needs no other selling point. However, here are five scenarios in which you may want to give travel assignments a try, if you need more convincing.

If You’re Relatively New

Travel positions provide a good opportunity to figure out what you want to specialize in, in which setting, or even what area of the country you want to live in. Since travel positions are predominantly contracts that are two or more months long, you’ll have plenty of time to see what you like, or don’t like, before fully committing to a permanent position somewhere and setting down roots.

If You’re Feeling Burnt Out

A change of scenery can do wonders for the seasoned clinician who is struggling with the all too common pains of burnout. Working with different populations of patients, or even different coworkers, in different places can help to alleviate the feeling of stagnation. Travel positions typically also afford more work-life balance and less intensive schedules, which allows you to focus more on the things that truly matter in your life—not just documentation.

If You Want More Money

Locums positions typically offer higher salaries than permanent positions, sometimes as much as 30-50 percent more. If you are trying to pay off a student loan, or just want to tuck some money away for a rainy day, signing on for a few travel positions is likely to get you out of the red.

If You Want a Trial Run

Travel positions allow you to try out a wide range of settings and patient populations, often with the option to take on a permanent role within the practice you are filling in at. If you are thinking of pivoting in your career, this is a good way to “try before you buy,” so to speak, that will allow you to make an informed decision about where you want to settle in for the long-term.

If You Want to Make a Difference

Locums positions are often available in remote and underserved areas, allowing you to significantly impact the lives of people who need your skills the most. From the most secluded towns in Alaska to small town America, you’ll be able to provide quality care for those who would not otherwise have adequate access to care.

Ready to give it a shot? We have over 40,000 travel positions available on our site right now, if you want to take a look.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

One Nurse’s Take On Travel Nursing

Jennifer Corona, BSN, RN, CCRN, sat down for an interview with us to offer some insight into the trials and triumphs of her experience with travel nursing.

We spoke with Jennifer Corona, BSN, RN, CCRN, about her decision to give travel nursing a try. Read on for some insight into the trials and triumphs of her experience.

Why did you decide to get into travel nursing?

I worked as a nurse in Connecticut for 5 years, splitting my time between Medical-Surgical nursing and Intensive Care nursing. As I was going through the nursing program, I’d encountered several experienced nurses who taught me about what travel nursing entailed. It intrigued me, as a single woman, to go see the world and enhance my career while traveling to different areas, and seeing how policies/procedures may differ. For me, the straw that broke the camel’s back was a particular shift I had in the ICU that led me to actually start researching travel companies. I got tired/burnt out of having, at times, 3 ICU patients. No matter how critical, if it’s your turn to triple, it’s your turn. We did not have laws regarding nurse/patient ratios, nor a union to fight for such a law. Later, I learned this to be true in other states.

Could you us a bit about your first assignment, and what the process was like?

My first assignment was in Los Angeles. I was annoyed at first, because I wanted to be in San Diego, which was tough at the time of the year I was trying to get there. (November was when I had inquired about travel). I knew nothing about the areas. Did not know much about the hospitals at all. I took a CCU/ICU float pool travel position. I once flew to Anaheim, CA for a nursing conference while in nursing school, but didn’t know enough about anything in CA. I knew, however, with my short stay for the conference, it was definitely something I wanted to explore further. I just didn’t know when I would pull the trigger on actually going. Once I signed the contract, I was nervous and scared. That meant it was final, and that it was time to give my notice at my job in CT, which was hard because it was my first nursing job ever. It was where I met my friends and learned everything I knew. Just picking up and moving across the country alone isn’t easy. I kept telling myself, “It’s only 13 weeks. I could always come back.” In fact, I kept my apartment in CT, just in case I hated it, so I could move back. However, it worked out. 13 weeks turned into me living in LA for 6 years and meeting my husband.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of being a travel nurse? What was most challenging? Most rewarding?

The benefit of being a travel nurse is that nothing is permanent. You’re only there for as long as you signed your contract—8 weeks, 13 weeks, not forever. The most challenging is adapting to the new hospital. Nursing is nursing, no matter where you are. As long as you know where supplies are/code cart/med room and how to get a hold of the doctor, you’re golden. It can be difficult, if you don’t have a good team of people working with you, though. A good charge nurse and fellow nurses make all the difference. When a patient acutely declines, you cannot do it all, you depend on your fellow coworkers to help, and you have to instill trust in these people, who you may have just met when you started the day before. The challenge is trusting their knowledge. The rewarding factor is the same, no matter where you work. It’s the foundation of why we become nurses. It’s all about helping and advocating for patients. Guiding them through their hospital stay. Teaching them what needs to be done or what they need to watch out for when they leave the hospital. Rewarding is watching a patient, who you thought may not make it, or someone who just arrested in front of you, end up walking out of the hospital weeks later. Knowing you were a part of that puts a reward in your heart that can’t be explained.

What surprised you the most about travel nursing? What did you learn from being a travel nurse?

I learned you have to make sure you research your travel company to the fullest. The big names aren’t always the best companies. Some of them may try to withhold money from you. You have to be firm, more direct, when negotiating your contracts with your recruiter. If not, you may be walking away with the bare minimum for pay. We, as the nurses, are the middle people; we are the demand or the pawn, in the eyes of the recruiter/hospitals, so our moves are very important, as far as what we want in our contracts.

What advice do you have for those considering becoming a travel nurse? What questions should someone ask before taking an assignment? Any tricks of the trade? Any common misconceptions about travel nursing you want to clear up?

I highly recommend researching multiple companies. Write out what each is offering—bonuses, housing stipend, moving expenses, parking, etc. You can use what other companies offer as a bargaining tool. I suggest getting your own housing. Going with the housing offered through the travel company will usually use the entire stipend—a mistake I, admittedly, made. It was nice not having to worry about paying rent, because the travel company handled that, but if you take the housing stipend, they will send you a full check and you keep whatever is left over, even if your rent is cheaper. As a former traveler, you do get floated a lot. You’re normally first to go. That is a drawback. I didn’t know that when I signed up. Also, the hospital that I first signed with is notorious for such behavior—I would even float 3-4 times a shift. Not every hospital is like this, though. I strongly recommend travel nursing. You get to see the world—literally. What other position will provide the relocation, housing, and the job? None. I encourage nurses to take this opportunity and see how other hospitals function, other parts of the world. For me, I learned the West coast is the place for me, including their nurse/patient ratio laws. Hence the reason a 13 week assignment turned into 6 years for me.

Interested in sharing some insight about your specialty and experience with your fellow nurses? Email us to set up an interview.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Travel Nursing: The Answer to Curing Nurse Burnout?

Burnout remains a common problem within nursing. Is travel nursing the cure?

By Guest Author: Deb Wood, RN, NursesRx Contributor

Burnout remains a common problem within nursing, driving nurses from a rewarding profession and negatively affecting patient safety.

“This is an ongoing problem, and we have to do something about it,” said Diana J. Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior policy service professor at George Washington University School of Nursing in Washington, DC.

Vicki S. Good, DNP, RN, CPHQ, CPPS, past-president of American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), called burnout a “silent epidemic.”

A condition ACCN member Anna Rodriguez, BSN, RN CCRN, PCCN, began to experience while working at a hospital in Idaho. She began traveling, avoiding management responsibilities, colleagues calling off and hospital politics and, eventually, found a permanent position in Washington State she feels good about.

“[Travel nursing] was my way to recover from burnout,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriquez also blogs about burnout as a way for her and other nurses to become more resilient. She writes about patient compliments or something meaningful and then when she starts to feel burned out, she reads through it and reflects on what brought her to nursing.

Rodriguez is not alone in having felt burned out. Good reported that 30 percent to 50 percent of nurses exhibit characteristics of burnout, which is related to working in a high-stress environment. However, she added that most nurses do not realize when they are developing signs and symptoms of nursing burnout.

“Critical care nurses are at especially high risk for developing burnout syndrome, due to the high-risk and high-stress environment where they are asked to care for patients during a vulnerable time in the patient’s life, and often at the end of life, with the accompanying ethical issues,” Good said.

What is Nursing Burnout?

Burnout happens when clinicians are emotionally exhausted and feel alienated from their job-related activities.

“Nurses experience moral distress when they go home at the end of the day feeling that they were not able to do a good job, because they had too many patients and could not give them the care they needed and wanted,” Mason said. “Moral distress is tied with burnout and leaving [the profession].”

Many nurses experience burnout and leave nursing after one year, said Cynda H. Rushton, PhD, RN, FAAN, a professor of clinical ethics at Johns Hopkins University.

“Nurses’ work is intense,” Rushton said. “The suffering and conflicting values about patient care and the healthcare system can deplete people’s energy and make it difficult for them to feel they are making a difference.”

Nurses experience emotional, physical and spiritual depletion, Rushton said. People may shut down and go through the motions. Nurses may have difficulty sleeping or develop somatic symptoms or become cynical.

Repeated stressors lead to anxiety or disconnecting from work and losing passion, Rodriguez said.

“You lose whatever drive you had and you just don’t care anymore,” Rodriguez said.

Multiple research studies support that burnout presents a threat to patient safety. A 2016 paper from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported that it’s because of depersonalization that results from burnout.

What to Do About Nurse Burnout?

“A lot can be done, starting with recognizing it and secondly being open to learning new ways of managing,” Rushton said. “Nurses have to practice in a way they feel is consistent with their ethical values.”

First of all, take care of yourself. Eat healthy, get enough rest, exercise, meditate, take breaks during your shift and time off for vacations, and put things in perspective.

“The better shape you are in, the better able you will be to withstand the physical, emotional and intellectual challenges of the job,” Mason said.

Joy Jacobson, MFA, at George Washington Nursing Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement, and Mason have worked to develop reflective writing initiative for nurses to reconnect with the meaning and value of their work and cope with burnout.

“Reflective practice helps nurse cope,” Mason said.

Rushton recently developed the 24-hour, in-person Mindful Ethical Practice and Resilience Academy to give nurses tools to combat burnout.

“It focuses on building skills in mindfulness, ethical competence and resilience,” Rushton said. “This was designed to give nurses the skills they need to address the inevitable ethical challenges at the bedside and be able to do that with more ease and not so much cost to self.”

Rodriguez called early recognition of nursing burnout key to dealing with it. She recommended developing a good support system. She also suggested talking to others, reflective journaling, self-care, and making a change to a “different role at work or changing locations.”

That may be time to travel. Nurses can work with their recruiters to ensure they fill assignments in facilities that staff adequately and value their nurses.

“Many nurses like the idea of seeing other parts of the country, find a place they like and stay there,” Mason said. “There are so many opportunities out there.”

NursesRx is the industry’s leading travel nursing company. Get access to the largest database of high-paying travel nursing jobs in all 50 states along with competitive benefits and perks. Let our experienced team match you with travel nursing job that best suits your skills, experience, and preferences.