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Travel Nurse Perspective: How to deal with travel nursing stress

July 16, 2013

It’s easy to become overwhelmed and question your career choice with any job, but it can be especially true for a stressful job like nursing. Sometimes you can have a bad day where everything seems to go wrong and the only comfort is the end of your shift. Here are some tips from travel nurse Stasha Crawford to cope with work-related stress before, during and after your shift:

Before WorkMany travel nurses work 12 hour shifts. Add in time to get to work, meals, sleep and preparing for the next shift and you’re left with very little personal time. It’s important to make the most of that time and do something that helps you relax before your next shift. Whether it’s time for coffee and catching up on email, a walk in the park, reading a book or whatever you enjoy doing, it’s important to set time aside.

It’s also important to leave yourself plenty of time to get to work and get there a little early. We’ve all had those days where we leave work late, hit every traffic light, get stuck behind slow drivers and worry about getting a speeding ticket. By the time you get to work, you’re already in a stressed state and the rest of your day will only build on that stress. When you walk through those doors, you want it to be with a clean slate and a positive attitude.

During WorkRemember that you are only one person and sometimes at hospitals the patient ratios can be overwhelming. When your work load is starting to mount you must prioritize. If it’s not an emergency, it can wait. Don’t forget about your ancillary staff.  When prioritizing, count on them for help so you can do the things they can’t. Here are some other tips to remember while at work:

  • When you start to get overwhelmed, know it’s only temporary and take a short break when you have things back under control. A 5 or 10 minute break can really help bring down the stress levels and help you get through your shift.

  • Sometimes it feels like we spend more time on charting than patient care. Carry around a small notebook. The simple act of trying to remember something important has been proven to add stress. Write it down as you go and you will have accurate notes for charting and less stress.

  • Stay away from the “Negative Nancys”. These are the people who constantly complain and let everyone know around them how bad their shift is going and how much they hate their job. This negativity can spread like fire. Stay away from it and make sure you’re not that person!

After WorkAs important as it is to get yourself to work with a clean slate and positive attitude, it’s just as important to clear your mind and come home in the same manner. The stresses of work need to stay at work. Blast your favorite music on the drive home. Take a nice, long shower as soon as you get in the door. Focus on your upcoming adventures on your next stretch of days off. Write in a journal about your day and get everything off your chest. Do whatever you need to do to leave work behind and wash away any negative energy or bad feelings. There needs to be a very distinct line between work and home.

All nurses are going to have to deal with a lot of stress but it’s the way you deal with it that makes the difference. If you find yourself overly stressed and wondering if you made a bad career choice, try these tactics and you should see a big change in your stress levels. Remember no matter how bad your shift may be - it will end.  You are only one person and no matter how many tasks you have to get accomplished you can only tackle them one at a time.

As a travel nurse, Stasha Crawford has had the opportunity to travel coast-to-coast along with her husband Brad. While she concerns herself with the “nursing” issues, Brad likes to focus on the travel aspect. Together they have created TravelNurseHelp, a website designed to combine much of the info a travel nurse needs in one place.

Have some tips for dealing with stress you'd like to share? Tell us in the comments below!

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