Being a travel nurse can be an incredibly rewarding experience for those involved. However, working in this field long enough can take a toll on both your physical and mental health. Let’s look at some physical and mental health problems that travel nurses should watch out for, and some self-care tips to maintain better physical and mental health.
Physical Health Problems
The travel nurse life can be physically exhausting for most healthcare professionals. This exhaustion may lead to the development of physical health problems down the line. In addition, nurses may even get injured on the job.
Nurses often spend several hours in a row helping patients and doctors without sitting down. This can lead to the development of back problems, joint damage, circulation issues, and knee problems. Such problems can be chronic in nature, and cause pain and discomfort in their lives, even when they aren’t working.
Nurses may also get injured on the job. It’s not uncommon for them to accidentally injure themselves by lifting items that are too heavy or by bending, twisting, or performing repetitive motions.
Nurses may also injure themselves through trips, slips, and falls. Many of these accidents occur due to working long hours without taking a break, or working while sleep deprived.
The above factors can be an even greater problem for travel nurses who work shifts at various hospitals on short notice. These healthcare professionals are exposed to new and unfamiliar environments frequently. This increases their risks of injury, especially if they do not know the various dangers around them.
Avoiding Physical Health Problems
Travel nurses can avoid many of the physical health problems mentioned above by following certain self-care practices. This includes:
- Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated during a shift.
- Remembering to take restroom breaks as needed.
- Maintaining healthy eating habits both on and off the job.
- Exercising regularly.
- Ensuring you are getting enough sleep at night or resting in a sleep-friendly environment at the hospital.
In addition to the above, travel nurses should familiarize themselves with each new hospital environment they find themselves in. This includes understanding the various spaces they will be working in, as well as how to administer first aid to themselves in the event of an accident.
Mental Health Problems
Your travel nursing adventures may also take a toll on your mental health. After all, dealing with patients day-in and day-out and witnessing the effects of certain health conditions or injuries can be difficult for anyone. It’s not uncommon for travel nurses to develop mental health problems.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
One study found that around 30% of nurses in the United States suffer from depression. This figure is six-times the national average, which makes nursing a profession with disproportionately high rates of depression.
Depression can make your work-life far more difficult. In fact, people with depression often miss workdays due to their condition. They may also have difficulty focusing on tasks and find it hard to participate in physical activities.
Anxiety is another condition that is widespread in the nursing profession. It is believed that around 41% of nurses in the United States suffer from anxiety. Many of these individuals experience generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a persistent condition that affects them even when they are not working.
Persistent anxiety is believed to cause problems such as brain fog and difficulty focusing. Nurses with severe anxiety may also display less empathy than normal. This may inadvertently affect how they treat patients and their co-workers.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health problem that is caused by exposure to stressful or frightening events. The unfortunate reality is that nurses are exposed to such events on a daily basis. Studies have found that one in four nurses suffers from PTSD.
PTSD causes nurses to experience emotional exhaustion and burnout more frequently. This lowers their productivity in hospitals, and may also affect their feelings of personal accomplishment. This is a shame, as many nurses initially enter the nursing profession for the feeling of accomplishment they receive by helping patients.
Self-Care Tips for Better Mental Health
As we have seen for far, the rate of mental problems is alarmingly high among healthcare professionals in RN travel nursing jobs. Such problems should be addressed quickly so that they do not cause long-term harm.
Some self-care tips for better mental health include:
Scheduling Self-Care Time
Travel nurses may feel as though they need to be on-the-go all the time if they wish to have a successful career. However, it is important to schedule some self-care time for yourself in-between work activities.
This could be a period of a few hours allocated on your day off. You can use this time to simply relax and reflect on challenges you have faced in the days before.
Meditation is a powerful tool for maintaining your mental health. Studies have found that meditating regularly can reduce symptoms of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
One type of meditation known as “mindfulness meditation” is especially useful for reducing fixation on negative emotions and is believed to help improve focus and memory.
Workers in the healthcare profession can also benefit by going to therapy. Therapists are skilled at helping you uncover problems that may be causing poor mental health. They can also help individuals suffering from PTSD using a combination of cognitive therapy and exposure therapy.
Taking Mental Health Days
Nurses should also opt to take days off to focus on their mental health. These “mental health days” are becoming more and more common in various professions. Many employers also encourage their workers to take mental health days, as poor mental health can affect workplace performance and safety.
As you can see, travel nurses have plenty of mental and physical health problems to worry about. The good news is that many of these problems can be avoided or overcome with the help of self-care. Travel nurses should keep these tips in mind if they wish to have a long and fulfilling career in nursing.