Combating & Preventing Compassion Fatigue in Travel Nursing - TNS 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

Are you a travel nurse who feels like you’re always on the go and never have time for yourself?

You’ve been on the road for weeks — maybe even months — and you’re starting to feel exhausted. 

You’re not sure how much longer you can keep up this pace.

If you’re a travel nurse, compassion fatigue is a real and serious danger. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back.

In this article, you’ll learn how to overcome and avoid travel nurse compassion fatigue, so you can reignite the passion you had for your travel nursing career.


Table of Contents



What Is the Difference Between Burnout and Compassion Fatigue?

Did you know there are differences between burnout and compassion fatigue? 

Before exploring the differences, let’s get a clear definition of each term: 

  • Burnout is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that can be caused by prolonged stress. It can make you feel drained and unmotivated, both at work and in life overall.
  • Compassion fatigue is similar to burnout, but it is specifically caused by exposure to trauma or stress related to caring for others. It can make you feel emotionally drained and can cause physical symptoms like headaches and body aches.

There are a few key ways burnout and compassion fatigue differ:

  • Burnout is caused by stress in any area of your life, while compassion fatigue is specifically caused by caring for others.
  • Burnout can make you feel exhausted both at work and home, while compassion fatigue mainly affects how you feel at work.
  • Burnout can cause physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches, while compassion fatigue mainly affects your emotions.

If you are a nurse, it’s important to be aware of the signs of compassion fatigue so you can recognize it in yourself and seek help if necessary. 


compassion fatigue travel nursing


Signs of Compassion Fatigue While Travel Nursing

If you find yourself overwhelmed by other people’s problems and lacking compassion, you may be suffering from compassion fatigue. This is common among nurses, who see firsthand the effects of illness and injury. 

The most common symptoms of compassion fatigue include:

  • Feeling burdened by other people’s suffering
  • Blaming others for your problems
  • Lacking compassion for others
  • Bottling up your emotions
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of pleasure in life
  • Isolation from others
  • Hopelessness; and
  • Feeling powerless

Compassion fatigue can lead to burnout, so it’s important to be aware of the signs and how to avoid it.


Causes of Compassion Fatigue in Travel Nurses

There are many causes of compassion fatigue in travel nurses, including: 

  • Overworking: As a travel nurse, you often find yourself working long hours with little to no breaks — putting you at risk of burnout and compassion fatigue. 
  • Working in poorly managed environments: This can further contribute to compassion fatigue, as nurses feel unsupported and undervalued.
  • The “cost of care” endured by nurses: When nurses strive to provide first-class care but are underpaid and have dwindling resources, it takes a toll on their mental and emotional well-being. 
  • The risk of being assaulted or abused by patients: This is a real concern for many nurses. The fear of being assaulted or abused by patients can add to the stress of an already stressful job environment.
  • Heavy caseloads: When nurses are juggling multiple patients, it can be difficult to give each one the individual attention they deserve. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, which can eventually lead to compassion fatigue.

If you want to keep your passion for nursing alive and continue to do the job you love, contact Trusted Nurse Staffing.

Our company helps nurses like you find your dream travel nurse assignment while providing a supportive network that can help if you ever suffer from compassion fatigue.

Click below to start your free profile with Trusted Nurse Staffing.




Our Top 6 Tips for Preventing Compassion Fatigue as a Travel Nurse

#1: Prioritize Your Health

With all the stress that comes with the job, it’s easy to let your mental, physical, and emotional health suffer. 

But you can’t pour from an empty cup

How can you fill your cup?

Some examples include prioritizing things like:

  • Healthy eating
  • Exercise; and
  • Relaxation

To provide your patients with the best possible care, you need to be the best you can be — and that starts with making your health a priority.


#2: Remember Your ‘Why’ 

You didn’t become a nurse just for the money. You have a passion to help others. 

But, sometimes, that passion can get lost when compassion fatigue sets in. 

To prevent compassion fatigue, take some time to reflect and remember why you became a nurse in the first place with the following questions:

  • Why did you want to become a nurse? 
  • What are your career goals?
  • What are your passions?

If you need a reminder of your ‘why,’ keep a journal or write down your goals and passions so you can refer to them often. 

You can also talk to other nurses or medical professionals who have similar goals and passions. 

Talking about your ‘why’ can help keep you motivated and inspired to continue helping others.


#3: Set Boundaries — It’s Okay To Say No

Another way to prevent compassion fatigue is to set boundaries. 

You don’t have to take extra shifts or cover for your nurse friends. It’s okay to work your schedule and then go home. 

The truth: You can still be a great nurse even if you don’t work 24/7.

Create boundaries by making time for yourself outside of work, for example:

  • Go out with friends
  • Get dinner and a movie; or
  • Take a day to just chill on the couch

Indulge in life and remember that it’s okay to say no sometimes.


#4: Make Time for Your Favorite Hobbies

You live in a new city every few months and you get to help people while you’re doing it.

It’s an amazing job, but it’s also important to remember you don’t have to spend your whole life working. Take advantage of your time off and make sure you’re doing things you enjoy.

One of the best ways to prevent compassion fatigue is to make time for your favorite hobbies, whether it’s …

  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Playing an instrument, or
  • Anything else you enjoy

… make sure that you’re taking some time for yourself. 

It will help you feel better physically and mentally and give you something to look forward to when you’re feeling stressed out at work.


#5: Find Positive Coping Mechanisms

The stress of any job can be difficult, so it’s important to find healthy coping mechanisms as a travel nurse.

There are a variety of coping mechanisms that can help you deal with the stress of the job and prevent compassion fatigue, including:

  • Talking to someone who will understand: When you are feeling overwhelmed, talking to someone who understands what you are going through can be helpful. Find a friend or family member who is supportive and who will listen to you without judging.
  • Meditating or doing yoga: Taking some time to focus on your breath and clear your mind can be very helpful in dealing with stress. If you’ve never tried meditation or yoga before, there are plenty of resources available online or at local yoga studios.
  • Writing in a journal: Expressing your thoughts and feelings in writing can be therapeutic. Writing about what is stressing you out can help you gain clarity and perspective on the situation.
  • Taking breaks during your shifts: When you are feeling overwhelmed during your shift, take a few minutes to step away from the situation. Go outside for some fresh air, drink some water, or eat something healthy to re-energize yourself.


#6: Cultivate Relationships Away From Work

It’s important to have relationships outside of work, whether it’s hanging out with your nursing friends away from work, or finding a group of people with whom you can completely turn off work talk. 

Developing these types of relationships will help prevent compassion fatigue because you’ll have people and activities you enjoy outside of work — leaving you feeling refreshed when you return.


compassion fatigue travel nurse


How Do Travel Nurses Fix Compassion Fatigue?

Besides taking care of yourself, it’s important to build a support system of family and friends to offer emotional support when you need it. You can also ask your employer for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed. They may be able to offer resources or suggest ways to make accommodations.

Compassion fatigue isn’t something you have to suffer through! Here are a few ways to overcome it.


Utilize Your Resources

If you think you might be experiencing compassion fatigue, it’s important to utilize your resources, including

  • Counseling or therapy: Talking to someone who can help you understand and manage your feelings can make a world of difference. 
  • Your relationships: Reach out to loved ones for support.
  • Your agency: Contact your recruiter and share what’s going on and what’s not working for you. 

If you’re exhausted from working long shifts, dealing with difficult patients, and trying to balance your personal life, there are resources available to you.

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we can help you find a nursing assignment that best fits your needs and schedule — while taking measures to help you manage compassion fatigue.

Click below to start a free profile with us.




Create a Schedule That Works for You 

One of the perks of travel nursing is that you can create a schedule that works for you. 

For example, when you are choosing a contract length, be sure to consider your own needs and preferences. You may also want to consider the type of environment you will be working in. 

If you know you will be working long hours in a fast-paced environment, be sure to schedule some time for yourself outside of work.


Enhance Your Self-Care Routines

With so much on your plate, it’s easy to let your self-care routines fall by the wayside. 

But if you don’t make a conscious effort to take care of yourself, you could end up dealing with compassion fatigue.

This means regularly taking time out for yourself to do things that make you happy and help you relax. 

It might be something as simple as reading a book, going for a walk, or taking a yoga class. And don’t forget to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor too.


compassion fatigue travel nurses


Trusted Nurse Staffing: Supporting and Nurturing Our Travel Nurses From Miles Away

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we care about our nurses. 

We understand how easy it is to become overwhelmed and bogged down by the emotional intensity that can come with the job. 

We don’t want you to lose the compassion you had when you started nursing.

That’s why we offer 24/7 support for all of our nurses, whether you’re on the job or taking some well-deserved time off. 

We’re always here for you and we want to help you prevent compassion fatigue by:

  • Answering your questions about travel nurse assignments
  • Talking through your concerns about a challenging work environment; and
  • Offering resources to help you cope with stress, compassion fatigue, and burnout

If you have any questions or concerns about preventing compassion fatigue, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. 

We’re here for you every step of the way. 

Click below to learn more about travel nursing opportunities at Trusted Nurse Staffing.