Being a caretaker is much harder if you don't take care of yourself as well. Nurses often forget to check in on themselves because they spend so much time focusing on their patients. It's also why nurses have much higher burnout rates than those working in other professions.
An empty pitcher can't fill anything
It helps to think of yourself as a pitcher of water and your patients as glasses. As you go through your work day, you pour your energy into those glasses. The longer you work, the emptier you get. You "refill" your pitcher by sleeping, eating, exercising, and socializing — all fundamental parts of self-care.
When you're away from home, refilling your pitcher can be a harder task.
Getting started with self-care
Being a travel nurse is exciting and fulfilling but moving to a short-term assignment and being away from your usual support system can take a toll on your health. If you already have a self-care plan, you might simply consider modifying it for your new assignment. If you don't have a self-care plan, now is the perfect time to start. This isn't just for your physical well-being; this is about your mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well. Start by asking yourself:
How does my body react when I'm upset? (Physical)
What kinds of thoughts do I have? (Mental)
How do I feel about my current situation? (Emotional)
Do I feel disconnected with myself? (Spiritual)
In addition to getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy diet, using deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness exercises to activate the parasympathetic nervous system can help relax your body and reduce your stress.
Most important, find a plan that works best for you and your schedule, especially when you're on the road. Aerobic activities are especially helpful because they trigger a release of positive neurochemicals and can calm the nervous system.
Eating healthy on assignment
While away on assignment you might be tempted to skip cooking for yourself. It's easy to fall into a "tourist" mindset. You should, of course, try new restaurants when you're exploring new cities, but keep it to a minimum. Think of your cooking and eating schedule on assignment just like you would at home. Consider meal delivery services: As these services become increasingly popular so do your options, too! Plus, it can mitigate the need to grocery shop, which can be hard to fit into a traveler’s busy schedule.
Staying active on the road
It's much easier to maintain an exercise routine if you already have a membership to a gym with nationwide locations. But sometimes that option isn't available. That's okay, because you can try new things unique to the area you’re staying in! If you're on assignment at the beach, why not try surfboard yoga? Or if you're closer to the mountains, maybe take up rock climbing or biking.
Remember, you don't need a class or a gym membership to exercise. Evening walks in your temporary city might be a great way to de-stress and get a little exercise in. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Make your own at-home exercise routines you can do before or after work. Often times, you can get a good workout in from the comforts of your temporary home with little to no equipment: Consider using body weight exercises, dumbbells, and resistance bands.
If you need a little more structure in your exercise, many free fitness apps are available to download on your phone to help motivate, inspire, and track your workouts. Summer is a great time to re-evaluate your health and fitness goals, and travel nursing perks include getting out and exploring new places — in nice weather! Remember, getting started is half the battle. So just maintain your routine and you'll find that staying fit and healthy on assignment is easier than you think.
At HPC, we care about the health and well-being of travel nurses. For more information about how to make the most of your time away, contact us online or call 888.299.9800. Ready for a new adventure? We make it easy to find your next assignment!
Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.