Crystal Gustafson
Crystal Gustafson
August 29, 2017 - 3 min read

Travel Nurse Burnout – Tips on How to Avoid it

The term “nurse burnout/fatigue” is unfortunately very common within the nursing profession. Burnout, according to The Free Dictionary, is described as “a mental or physical energy depletion after a period of chronic, unrelieved job-related stress characterized sometimes by physical illness.”

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That sounds like a typical 12 hour shift for some nurses. I think as nurses we can all imagine how this syndrome might affect each and every one of us at least once in our professional lifetimes. I would like to say that traveling to tropical destinations as part of your job is an easy fix to preventing burnout/fatigue, however, as many of you may know, travel nursing comes with its own set of difficulties.

Tips on how to avoid the dreaded nursing burnout

If we take a look at some of the common causes of burnout/fatigue, for example –  shift work, emotionally demanding patients and families, increased work load, constantly changing healthcare environment/new technologies, constant demands from administration and most important, not being able to manage stress, we can quickly assume that avoiding this phenomenon can be extremely difficult no matter where you work. The American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) has made one of its organizational goals to help nurses incorporate self-care practices into their daily work life to help combat nurse burnout. The AHNA recommends:

  • Incorporating self-care strategies such as good nutrition, exercise and getting adequate sleep
  • Understanding and recognizing when you are stressed and how much you can handle
  • Understanding that you can’t please everyone and learning to recognize your limitations
  • Acquiring stress reducing strategies such as taking frequent breaks, breathing techniques, aromatherapy and meditation
  • Maintaining a strong support system made up of friends, family and co-workers you can talk to

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Travel Nursing brings a new set of challenges in combating burnout

Travel nursing opportunities | travelnursing.orgI found the lack of supportive work environment very challenging when I first started travel nursing. There are many instances when you will be second guessed and made to feel incompetent; you might have to defend yourself for decisions you have made regarding patient care; your skills might be questioned. This type of environment may lead to a lower self-esteem and absenteeism from work, which are some of the many consequences of burnout. I think it is very important to choose a travel assignment at a hospital that is used to having travel nurses; the administration and staff nurses tend to have systems in place to help support travelers and are usually more trusting of a traveler’s professional abilities. Having a good relationship with your travel company is also vital when it comes to building a support system.  The beauty of being a travel nurse is that you are no longer required to get caught up in all of the politics that comes with our profession. You are simply there to take care of your patients and that alone makes up for many of the other obstacles.

A good support system goes a long way

Finding a strong support system in a city you have never been is very difficult unless you plan on spending more than 3 months there. I recommend keeping in touch with your closest friends and family members on a weekly basis. It is also a good idea to connect with other travel nurses in your orientation week to establish connections early on in your assignment. Good nutrition and exercise are most likely established over time. I have witnessed many transformations as travel nurses have become strongly influenced by the healthy culture of one city and it changes their lives forever. There is something to be said for being alone in a big city that invites you to come out of your shell. Don’t be afraid to explore new experiences with new people. I found joining small studio fitness gyms to be the easiest way to meet new people; there is typically no membership involved and they usually workout in groups.

Self care is just as important as patient care

Burnout/fatigue is a serious issue amongst the nursing profession. Failing to learn how to manage your work-related stress can lead to dire consequences including; mental/physical exhaustion, emotional emptiness (compassion fatigue), bitterness and cynicism towards patients and families, health consequences such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, poor eating habits, drug or alcohol problems, or leaving the profession altogether. Preventing burnout can be as simple as taking a step into the break room for a few minutes to do some deep breathing exercises or joining a yoga class. Don’t let burnout ruin your travel nursing experience or your career; self-care is just as important as patient care!

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