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Healthy Mind, Body and Wallet – Tips for the Road

July 24, 2015

Travel Nurse TipsTravel nursing has its many challenges and staying healthy while on the road is definitely one of them.

If you already have a healthy lifestyle, then staying healthy while traveling will be a snap.  If you are someone who hasn’t found the time to acquire healthy habits, then travel nursing is the perfect opportunity to do so. With careful planning and research all travel nurses can learn to manage stress, exercise and eat healthy while on the road.

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Tips on Keeping Your Mind Healthy

Moving to a new city, starting a new job and being alone are all very stressful situations, especially when they all happen at the same time. Avoiding a mental breakdown is key to becoming a successful travel nurse, or any nurse for that matter. My best advice to new and seasoned travelers is to plan, plan, plan, and prepare yourself for occasional boredom. Before starting a new travel assignment I highly suggest you:

  • Research the city you are going to. Fill your calendar with touristy activities and invite your friends and family to come visit you.
  • Get a Netflix account so you don’t have to set up cable service every time you move. Trust me there will be plenty of Netflix marathons and movie nights.
  • Introduce yourself to your fellow travelers in hospital orientation. Get their phone numbers and let them know you are open to exploring the city.
  • If you are in a city that is just too boring, working extra shifts is always an option. Remember, you are only there for 3 months, you might as well make some extra money.
  • Take plenty of notes when you start your new job. Write down all your passwords and door codes and have a phone number list handy. Make sure you have pyxis, computer, badge and glucometer access before you start working on the floor.
  • Keep an open mind and be flexible. Be prepared to float to other units and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Keep in mind that taking care of patients is virtually the same everywhere you go; at this point, it’s more about figuring out the equipment and learning where things are.
  • Include yoga into your weekly exercise regimen. Deep breathing techniques are especially helpful when it comes to stressful work situations. I can’t count the number of times I have stepped into the med room, away from some family members, to take a few deep breaths. Not to mention, that yoga at the end of your 3 shifts, feels absolutely amazing on your sore back.

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Tips on Keeping Your Body Healthy

Exercise by itself is a great way to manage stress. If you already have an exercise routine, then researching local gyms in your new area is all you really need to do. It tends to be a lot easier if you belong to a nationwide gym like 24 Hour or Lifetime Fitness, so you don’t have to pay initiation fees every time you move.

If you don’t belong to a nationwide gym, then I recommend looking on Groupon or Living Social to see about getting a discounted monthly membership to a group fitness gym. Group fitness is especially good for those of you who don’t already have an exercise routine and tend to be a little lost in the weight room. This is also a good way to meet people.

If you happen to be traveling to an outdoorsy state such as Colorado, then going to a gym may not be necessary, as there are plenty of parks and hiking that you can do for free; all it takes is a little motivation. I like to pick a local race that I can train for such as a 5k or half marathon. I did my first triathlon in Texas, which was a great training experience. I also brought my bike with me to all of my travel assignments. Making exercise a normal activity in your life takes time. Find something that you enjoy doing; there is no need to suffer your way through it.

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Tips on Keeping Your Wallet Healthy

Stress management and exercise are key components to feeling great, however nutrition, I believe, is of utmost importance. What you put in your body effects your energy level, your mood, how well you perform at work and changing your eating habits can seriously impact the size of your wallet. Eating healthy is probably the most challenging lifestyle habit to change and one that I have personally mastered, even on the road. Here are my suggestions:

  • Learn to cook. Cooking at home is not only healthier but it saves you money as well. Cook enough food to get you through 3 days of work. Once you finish all your leftovers, then cook enough food to get you through your days off.
  • Make sure you bring enough food to work to get you through 12 hours. You are your most vulnerable to fast food and junk food when you are starving and if this becomes a habit it can seriously impact your budget.
  • Try to only eat out a maximum of twice a week. Eating at restaurants is expensive and the portion sizes are much larger.
  • If you are meeting some people for drinks, eat before you go out. There are plenty of happy hours and social meet ups when you are a travel nurse. This can be especially costly to your pocket and your health if you are not careful. Drinking your calories is never recommended.
  • Eat your fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Eating high quality food leaves you feeling fuller longer and does wonders for your waistline and energy level, especially if you are a night shift worker.

Discover the country while getting paid!

Travel nursing provides you with a unique opportunity to get to know yourself. As a seasoned traveler you will have mastered navigating a stressful work environment, discovered what activities you enjoy the most and have hopefully become a somewhat decent cook. Take this quality time with yourself to practice what you preach and fine tune your own healthy lifestyle…your body will be forever grateful.

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By Crystal Gustafson, RN

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Crystal Gustafson is a Critical Care Registered Nurse who spent time as a travel nurse in various states including Arizona, Texas, Florida and California. She has recently accepted a system wide float pool position with Exempla Healthcare System in her hometown of Denver, Colorado and also has blog about prevention and education in healthcare. You can learn more about Crystal at Google+ or you can visit her blog at http://grassrootsprevention.blogspot.com/.