Whether you’re on shift or enjoying a day off, staying healthy while on assignment is essential.
Not only do you need to be in peak form while caring for patients, but you also want to feel great so you can make the most of your days off.
Exactly how do you boost your immunity as a travel nurse, anyway?
In this guide, we share the top 11 ways to support your immune system and prevent illness while on the road.
Table of Contents
- Why It’s Essential to Support Your Immune System as a Travel Nurse
- How Can a Travel Nurse Stay Healthy?
- 11 Immune Boosting Tips for Travel Nurses: Stay Healthy Even on the Road
- Trusted Nurse Staffing: Where Balancing Your Health & Your Work-Life Matters Most
Why It’s Essential To Support Your Immune System as a Travel Nurse
Aside from the obvious reason that you want to protect your patients by staying as healthy as possible, there are a few other reasons avoiding illness is essential to a travel nurse.
- Burnout — a whopping 55% of front-line healthcare workers experience medical burnout. Getting sick while on assignment could increase your chances of experiencing burnout.
- Mistakes — studies show that nurses who are in poor health make significantly more mistakes. This could be detrimental to your patients, your employment, and your reputation.
- Mental Health — nurses are already susceptible to experiencing mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts. Being sick (even something as minor as a cold) can worsen mood disorders and depression.
And let’s face it, most travel nurses are in it for the experience as much as anything else. When you’re sick you can’t enjoy the limited time you have in a new place.
Maybe you’ve chosen a vacation destination, or perhaps somewhere close to your extended family — wherever you are, you won’t want to miss out on the opportunity to have some fun!
How Can a Travel Nurse Stay Healthy?
Travel nurses can stay healthy by making conscious decisions about:
- Lifestyle changes — diet, supplements, and exercise
- Self-care — managing stress, taking time off, and getting enough rest; and
- Preventative measures — washing hands and face regularly, and getting vaccinated
Cutting back on caffeine and getting plenty of sunshine (Vitamin D) on your days off are also helpful!
11 Immune Boosting Tips for Travel Nurses: Stay Healthy Even on the Road
Reality check — nurses are busy, exhausted, and work long shifts. This means that staying healthy, while good in theory, isn’t always the easiest thing to accomplish.
Trusted Staff Nursing cares deeply about each and every travel nurse we partner with. Not only do we want to help you succeed in your career while living your best life — but we also want you to stay happy and healthy.
That’s why we break it down into 11 basic tips to help boost your immunity while on — and off — assignment.
3 Basic Tips To Boost Your Immunity as a Travel Nurse
#1: Eat Well
This may seem like a no-brainer. Eating well means eating nutrient-dense foods that support a healthy immune system.
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, if you’re a nurse — especially a travel nurse — it’s not always as easy as it sounds.
Your shifts are long, you don’t have regular breaks, or sometimes no breaks at all, and this makes eating a consistently healthy diet challenging. So here are a few tips designed specifically for the busy nurse:
- Keep healthy and filling snacks on hand for when you don’t have time for a full lunch break. Nuts, cheese, fruits, boiled eggs, veggies and dip, and protein bars are all great options to nibble on the go.
- Pack a lunch. Avoid eating at the cafeteria, vending machines, and fast foods while on (and off) shift. You can manage your portions better, and choose foods that offer sustainable energy to get you through a long shift.
- Stock up on foods that are known to give you energy and boost your immune system, such as:
- Leafy greens (the darker the better)
- Bright colored vegetables
- Lean proteins
- Greek yogurt
- Nuts and seeds
- Citrus fruits
- Make time to eat healthier. Set aside two short breaks that are dedicated to eating something healthy, like a tuna salad or a fruit and granola yogurt parfait.
- Don’t skip meals. Too many nurses skip breaks or go hours without eating anything. You don’t need big meals to feel full, keep your energy, and boost your immunity.
Hydration is key to a healthy immune system.
Your immune system depends on the nutrients found in your bloodstream. And guess what your bloodstream is mostly made of — water!
If you don’t have enough water your blood cannot properly transport nutrients to your organs. Additionally, staying hydrated opens detoxification pathways and drains your lymphatic system of waste, all of which are important for a healthy immune system.
So drink water and lots of it! Aim for about half your body weight in ounces per day. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, aim for 100 ounces of water (about 12.5 cups).
#3: Remember To Take Your Vitamins/Supplements
If you already take supplements, be sure to pack them for your assignment and have them accessible during your travels.
When your body is accustomed to a certain set of nutrients and supplement intake, it’s best to be consistent.
If you’re not currently taking supplements, some of the best nutrients to support a healthy immune system include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B6
Even the healthiest eaters can benefit from vitamin supplementation. Vitamins can improve your body’s ability to fight off chronic and common conditions.
And since many nutrients are lost during digestion, taking vitamins can compensate for those that aren’t absorbed.
4 Self-Care Tips To Boost Your Immunity as a Travel Nurse
#4: Get Enough Rest
Sleep is essential for a healthy immune system. As you sleep, your immune system releases cytokines, a protein needed to fight stress, inflammation, and infections.
When you’re sleep-deprived, cytokine production decreases, making you more susceptible to illness.
It’s not easy to sleep in a different place every 8 to 13 weeks, which is why travel nurses need to find ways to prioritize sleep.
To unwind in a new place, try these tips:
- Bring your pillow from home
- Listen to sleep meditations
- Use relaxing essential oils
- Drink sleepy teas
- Take a bath before bed
- Listen to relaxing music
- Read a book
Aim for a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night to boost immunity, reduce fatigue, and feel better overall.
#5: Exercise Regularly
Nurses already feel like they run a marathon every night, but exercising outside of work is essential to your immune system.
Physical activity can:
- Flush bacteria from your lungs
- Help circulate white blood cells faster
- Raise your body temperature enough to fight infection
- Slow the release of stress hormones and protect against illness
Moderate activity three to four times a week can increase your energy levels while helping you stay healthy.
You don’t need to join a gym to get exercise, you could:
- Ride your bike around your new town or city
- Discover walking or hiking trails in the area
- Join a yoga or pilates class
- Swim laps
- Join a sports league
#6: Manage Stress
Moving is stressful. Nursing is stressful. Meeting new people is stressful. Finding your way around a new city is stressful.
With all the stress that comes with being a travel nurse, your immune system may take a hit.
Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, can suppress your immune system’s effectiveness, making stress management very important for travel nurses.
Try making time for stress-relieving activities, such as:
- Breathing exercises
- Taking social media breaks
- Connecting with loved ones
- Reading a book
- Taking a walk in nature
- Talking to a therapist
- Taking a bubble bath
- Find a new hobby
#7: Take Time Off
One of the advantages to travel nursing is the ability to take time off between assignments. We highly recommend that our nurses take a breather before moving on — even if it’s just a few days or a week.
Taking time away from work doesn’t have to mean spending money on a vacation. You could head home for a few days to catch up with friends and family. Or you could spend a few extra days settling into your new place before you start work.
Time away from work will give you time to focus on self-care and relaxation. Both of which are great for your immune system.
4 Preventative Tips To Boost Your Immunity as a Travel Nurse
#8: Wash Your Hands
You’re a nurse, so you likely feel like you are constantly washing your hands. While it may seem like second nature, it’s something that can’t be stressed enough.
Travel nurses may carry more germs simply because they travel more. Public places like airports, public transportation, gas stations, and restaurants are commonly used by travel nurses — and they’re also crawling with germs.
Studies show that regular hand washing can reduce:
- Diarrhea cases by 23-40%
- Respiratory illnesses in people with weakened immune systems by 58%
- Common colds in the general population by 16-21%
So don’t forget to wash your hands, even when you’re not on shift!
#9: Take Off Your Scrubs Right After Your Shift
Your scrubs are a veritable cesspool of germs. From bodily fluids to bacteria, your scrubs are in contact with anything and everything that can make you sick.
Keeping your scrubs clean by washing them after every shift may help prevent the spread of disease and illness.
Germs can live for a few days up to a few months on scrubs, so the best thing you can do for your safety and the safety of your patients is to plan to do the wash daily.
#10: Avoid Touching Your Face
We see it all the time… people absentmindedly use their hands to wipe the corner of their mouths, rub their eyes, or even scratch their noses. Seems normal enough, but the transmission of illnesses usually comes from the hands, nose, eyes, and mouth.
When you touch sick people or dirty surfaces, you contaminate your hands with bacteria and germs. Touching your face can cause those germs to spread to the mucous membranes and cause infection.
Whatever you do, don’t touch your face!
If you can’t immediately wash your hands, use hand sanitizer or grab a tissue to put between your hand and your face.
#11: Stay Up-to-Date on Immunizations and Annual Doctors Visits
Vaccines help your immune system fight infections more effectively.
Vaccinations spark your immune response by introducing a small amount of dead or weak germs that your body will then fight off. Your body remembers the germ and will attack it if it ever invades your body again.
Visiting your doctor for a yearly health check can also help identify early warning signs of illness or disease. Prevention really is the best medicine!
Trusted Nurse Staffing: Where Balancing Your Health & Your Work-Life Matters Most
At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we take your health and wellness seriously. In addition to offering all of our travel nurses health benefits such as …
- Blue Cross and Blue Shield Health Insurance
- HRA card to cover healthcare deductibles; and
- Various wellness benefits
… your Trusted Partner will work with you to find flexible full-time, part-time, and per diem assignments that suit the lifestyle you want and allow for ample rest. We also provide meal stipends so you have the freedom to choose healthy options while on the road.
Our priority is you! And helping you achieve a healthy immune system while on assignment is just one of the many perks of being a travel nurse with Trusted Nurse Staffing.
Contact one of our recruiters for more information today.