By Lee Nelson
“Being away from friends and family during the holidays is something most nurses knowingly accept when they begin adventures in travel nursing,” says Josh Paul — a travel nurse for the last four years through Premier Medical Staffing.
“However, I don’t think this makes it any easier being away for the holidays,” he explains. “It can be lonely, and you miss traditions with family members.”
But, even if you’re not close to home, you can still make the most out of your holiday. Here are a few suggestions for surviving the holidays as a travel nurse — from fellow travel nurses who have already survived a holiday far from home.
Chances are there are other travel nurses at your hospital that are in the same situation. Arranging celebrations, even small ones, with your work family can help lessen the loneliness of being away from your actual family.
Travel nurse, Jason Hageman, already knows he’s working Christmas Day away from family and friends. “I find the support amongst travelers is amazing because we take solace in knowing we are in the same boat.”
Some ideas for celebrating together:
One of the hardest things about be not being home for the holidays is missing out on the traditions that you look forward to every year. For some, keeping up those traditions can help you still feel connected.
Decorate your home away from home. Paul suggests getting a small tree, lights, and a few ornaments. “This little touch can really bring the feeling of the holidays to you.” Nicole Roost, a talent acquisition manager at Premier Medical Staffing, told us that she knew a travel nurse that would go to a dollar store with $20 to get decorations and a mini tree and then after the holiday, she donates those decorations to a local charity. “This brings her joy twice,” says Roost.
Stay connected to family. While it’s easy to stay connected with social media, that may not quite do the trick when you’re feeling the tinge of homesickness. Paul suggests using Facetime to connect and catch up with loved ones. “It will feel like you’re right there enjoying the holidays with your family.” The hugs might be virtual, but you can still enjoy opening presents and catching up with your Aunt Sue.
Pick your favorite tradition. Whether it’s watching It’s a Wonderful Life, listening to a particular holiday album, or sampling Grandma’s famous holiday confection, recreating your favorite holiday tradition may be just what you need to feel connected to home. (Now, all you need is to convince Grandma to give up her recipe.)
Taking advantage of being in a new place can put a positive spin on spending the holidays away from home. And, if focusing on the holidays is too much for you, then it can also be a great way to distract you.
Volunteer at a local charity. In addition to doing good for people or animals, volunteering can be a wonderful way to connect with new people. “There is nothing more rewarding than volunteering at a soup kitchen to help the less fortunate. I also find it interesting to learn about people’s history and what life has brought them,” says Paul.
Find nearby holiday events. Hageman tries to find local holiday events that help him get in the spirit. This season he attended a special event called the Festival of Trees promoted by his hospital in Tacoma, Washington. Look up your city’s tourism and visitor website for information or grab a local neighborhood newspaper for events near you.
Search for others in your area. Groups like MeetUp are a great resource to find people and events that align with your hobbies or interests as well as searching events through social media apps.
No matter which way you decide to celebrate your holiday away from home, remember to embrace your travel nursing adventure!