How To Cure Homesickness as a Travel Nurse
The excitement of a new assignment for a travel nurse brings exhilaration and hope of new adventures. But the mental well-being of going somewhere you’ve never been and alone can also make someone feel homesick as they start out in a new place and a new job. It’s normal for humans to feel a connection to their hometown, family and friends left behind.
Many times this feeling of loss is temporary. Michelle McAfee, senior talent advisor for travel nursing company Liquid Agents, has been working with travel nurses as an advisor and recruiter since 2002. She has seen nurses go through many emotions when starting a new position when one is far from home.
“Familiar surroundings, as well as relationships, add a sense of security during this transition period and when that is removed it becomes very noticeable,” she adds.
Anxiety, loneliness and a whole bunch of other stressful feelings can happen.
“The excitement of the new assignment initially fills that void. But once a traveler settles into a more normal schedule, the feeling of homesickness sneaks up,” McAfee explains. “Experiencing your first night alone and your first solo meal away from the comfort of your living room can become daunting and magnify these feelings.”
Travel nurses begin to long for anything that is familiar, stable, or comfortable. It’s not even just “home” because they are always experiencing the constant shuffle. Some even begin to have pre-emptive homesickness in anticipation of the next assignment, she says.
What is one of the best ways a newbie travel nurse should pick their first assignments, so they won’t be homesick?
“A fantastic way to pick an inaugural travel assignment is to look at your bucket list. Where have you always wanted to travel?” she says. “The excitement associated with that location can ease some of the homesick anxiety and the positive mindset can also help a travel nurse embrace the new location.”
What are the best ways they can easily explore the area they are assigned to on their days off to make them feel better?
Create a list of places to see and things to do before you arrive to your new location. The visitors’ bureau and websites of the city you are heading to will highlight attractions. But even a simple walk through the neighborhood or a conversation with one of the town’s local citizens can provide great information of things to see and do, she adds. You can always find out the best restaurants and local hangouts by just talking to people. Talk with those in your apartment complex, gym and grocery store, or those at the nearby coffee shop.
How can a travel nurse better fit in to their new job and get to know people there to ease the homesickness?
“When a travel nurse starts a new assignment, it is sometimes hard to break the ice. But the best thing to do is embrace the new and invite a co-worker to dinner or happy hour,” McAfee says. “Do something outside of work that will begin to foster a friendship.”
How can they use social media to get more involved in the area to meet with new people?
Bumble BFF is an effective digital resource where you can meet your new friends or find a workout partner, so that travel nurses don’t have to explore their new area alone, McAfee adds.
You can also use Meetup for finding a group in your area that has the same interests such as biking, hiking, cooking or book clubs.
Would having friends and family visit off and on during the assignment help with that homesickness and why?
“Of course. Encourage friends and family to visit and explore the area with you. The shared experience will also help maintain your long-distance relationships,” she says.
What are some other ways the homesick nurse can feel more comfortable in their new surroundings?
McAfee suggests hosting a travel nurse dinner at your apartment and invite all of the travel nurses in the area.
Also when packing your bags to go to a new assignment, remember to put in a few keepsakes such as meaningful photos or a piece of jewelry that means a lot with you. Just looking at snapshots of your nieces or your mom and dad can give you a smile and get you through the day.
You can also buy or bring something special to add to your temporary home to brighten it up or to signify your new adventure. Maybe you can collect something small from each place you live and bring them to new assignments to remind you of where you’ve been.