6 Tips for Coping with New-Assignment Anxiety

Written by Rose Torrento on Thursday, December 09, 2021 Posted in On the Job


Even for experienced travel nurses, new assignments can spark anxiety. It’s not necessarily bad. Many would compare it to the nerves you’d get on the first day of school. You can have all the confidence in the world in yourself, your skills, and your ability to adapt, but there’s always going to be a little bit of anxiety. And that’s okay! What matters is your ability to work through it and get comfortable in your new position quickly, so you can contribute immediately.

Many nurses are well-attuned to new assignment anxiety. Others might suffer from it without recognizing its symptoms. In any case, it’s important to realize when the butterflies you’re experiencing are normal and when they might be holding you back.

Recognizing the signs of anxiety

New assignment anxiety can manifest in many ways — and if you’ve been a travel nurse for long enough, you’re probably familiar with the more overt symptoms: butterflies in your stomach, loss of appetite, a flood of doubt in your abilities. These are all common and easy to recognize as anxiety, and often, they fade with time and on-the-job familiarity.

Other signs are more difficult to spot but nonetheless representative of anxiety. Irritability and lack of patience, especially with yourself, is a sign — as are a tendency to double and triple check things that normally come second nature and/or tunnel vision when focusing on a single task. Most of the time, nurses will just feel “off” and wait for it to pass. And, in time, it does.

travel nurse anxiety

How to squash new assignment anxiety

Whether your anxiety is small and fleeting or a major disruptor when you begin a new assignment, it’s important to manage it. These six simple forms of self-care can help to keep your anxiety low and smooth the transition between assignments for more confidence in your new role.

  1. Get a good night’s sleep. Drink a soothing cup of tea before bed. Play relaxing music. Do yoga or stretch. Whatever works best to calm you down and lull you into a good night’s rest.
  2. Be early on your first few days. If your shift starts at 7:00 a.m., try to get there by 6:30 a.m. to give yourself enough time to get familiar with the facility and its shift change processes. Being early will also alleviate the tension and stress of navigating a new city.
  3. Get familiar with the facility. Spend some time before or after your shift — or on your breaks —  getting familiar with the facility. This is especially important for float nurses, and it will give you the confidence you need to get to where you’re going each day.
  4. Eat well and hydrate properly. You might not feel hungry, but even a little bit of food goes a long way. Eat a healthy breakfast or a nutritious snack to keep your energy and spirits up.
  5. Rely on your routine. Seasoned travel nurses likely have a routine for bringing regularity to their days. Build routine into your days. While it might need slight changes from one assignment to the next, leaning on familiar practices helps soothe anxieties.
  6. Decompress and relax. If you spend all your time pent up with stress and anxiety, you’ll make it worse. Find opportunities to relax—whether it’s going for a decompressing run, taking a hot bath, reading a good book, or chatting with a new friend.

Anxiety shouldn’t be prohibitive

Everyone gets anxious in the face of something new — sometimes it’s nervous excitement, and others, it’s nervous dread. Feeling anxious isn’t unusual even for seasoned travel nurses. Make sure to take the time to recognize your anxious tendencies, and develop strategies for managing them, so you can start every new assignment on the right foot.

Learn as much as you can about your destination to manage new-assignment nerves. For more information about your next assignment, and answers to all your questions, reach out to your Health Providers Choice recruiter. Contact us online or call us today at 888-299-9800, and let us put your mind at ease about your next assignment, no matter where your travel nursing career takes you.

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About the Author

Rose Torrento

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.