When you’re a travel nurse, you expect to experience a little more stress and fatigue than the average person.
After all, you’re working long hours in a new and unfamiliar place.
But what do you do when the stress and fatigue start to overwhelm you?
There are ways to deal with these challenges and stay healthy and happy in your career.
In this blog post, we’ll share some helpful tips for dealing with travel nurse fatigue.
Table of Contents
- What Causes Travel Nurse Fatigue?
- How To Deal With Travel Nurse Fatigue: 13 Strategies to Get You Through Each Assignment
- Trusted Nurse Staffing: Offering Travel Nurses 24-Hour Support on Every Assignment
What Causes Travel Nurse Fatigue?
During busy travel nursing periods, it’s not uncommon for nurses to experience stress, fatigue, and burnout.
A recent study found that burnout affects one-third of registered nurses in the United States.
We can only imagine how much more travel nurses may experience fatigue and burnout, considering they’re having to learn and adjust to new working environments.
While some amount of stress is expected, it’s important to be aware of the signs of travel nurse burnout and take steps to prevent it. Here are a few things to watch out for.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that nurses working 12-hour shifts are more likely to be fatigued than those working 8-hour shifts.
Fatigue can lead to:
- Accidents; and
Travel nurses need to get enough rest and sleep before and after long shifts to avoid fatigue.
High Stress Environment
High stress environments can lead to burnout for travel nurses in a number of ways.
- Constant demands of the job can lead to fatigue, as travel nurses are often working long hours.
- High stress levels can lead to anxiety and other mental health problems, which can further contribute to fatigue.
- Frequent exposure to sick patients can lead to compassion fatigue, as travel nurses may feel like they are constantly dealing with death and suffering.
Travel nurses need to find ways to manage their stress levels to avoid experiencing fatigue and/or burnout.
Lack of Sleep
A lack of sleep can have many negative effects on travel nurses, including fatigue and burnout.
With long hours and early starts, it’s difficult to get enough rest.
When travel nurses are sleep-deprived, they may:
- Have difficulty concentrating and making decisions; and
- Be more likely to experience accidents or errors
Sleep deprivation can also lead to mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, which can further contribute to fatigue and burnout.
Emotional and Physical Strains
Many travel nurses report feeling emotional and physical strains that can cause fatigue and burnout.
These strains can be caused by:
- Working long hours
- Being away from home; and
- Dealing with the stress of caring for sick patients
If you’re struggling with travel nurse fatigue, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are many resources available to nurses who are dealing with stress, anxiety, and burnout.
How To Deal With Travel Nurse Fatigue: 13 Strategies To Get You Through Each Assignment
As a travel nurse, you are constantly on the go, working long hours in new and unfamiliar surroundings.
Travel nursing is a demanding job, but it can also be very rewarding. By taking care of yourself, you can prevent burnout and enjoy your time on the road.
Take some time to evaluate how you’re doing by asking:
- Are you getting enough rest?
- Are you eating well?
- Are you taking time for yourself?
If not, it’s never too late to make some changes.
#1: Sleep, Sleep, Sleep!
Work as a travel nurse is demanding and can cause what’s known as Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD), which is associated with:
- Sleeping on an atypical schedule due to work; and
- Excessive fatigue that interferes with daily functioning
According to a 2017 study, “Disturbed sleep is associated with anxiety, depression, poor physical and mental health and eventually, leads to impaired quality of life.”
To combat the negative effects of a lack of sleep, aim to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night and try to get a few hours in during the day as well.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, there are a few things you can do to help including:
- Making sure your sleeping environment is dark and quiet
- Avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed; and
- Establishing a regular sleep schedule and sticking to it as much as possible
#2: Exercise Regularly
Physical activity is not only good for your body, but it’s also a great way to combat the effects of stress.
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins — chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkillers.
Exercise has also been shown to help with restful sleep, which is essential for reducing fatigue.
If you’re feeling too exhausted to exercise, start with small goals and build up from there, such as:
- Taking a brisk walk around the block
- Doing some gentle stretching exercises; and
- Get some extra steps in while working your shift
And if you can exercise outdoors, all the better. Research shows exposure to natural sunlight can help improve energy levels and combat fatigue.
#3: Eat Healthy
If you want to get through your long shifts without feeling run-down, you need to fuel your body with the right foods.
Eating healthy doesn’t just give you natural energy, it helps your overall health.
So what should you eat to deal with travel nurse fatigue?
Here are some of the best foods to keep you going:
- Complex carbs: Think oatmeal, whole grain bread, brown rice, and quinoa. These complex carbs give you sustained energy throughout the day.
- Lean protein: Protein provides the amino acids your body needs to build muscle and repair tissue. Excellent sources of lean protein include chicken, fish, tofu, and legumes.
- Healthy fats: Contrary to popular belief, not all fats are bad for you. In fact, healthy fats like Omega-3s can help improve brain function and reduce inflammation. You can find healthy fats in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.
- Vitamins and minerals: Vitamins and minerals are essential for keeping your body functioning properly. Make sure to get plenty of vitamins C and E, as well as magnesium and iron. These nutrients can be found in fruits, vegetables, fortified cereals, and supplements.
When you’re well-nourished, your body can better deal with stress and fight off illnesses.
#4: Ditch the Caffeine
If you find that you’re regularly dealing with travel nurse fatigue, it may be time to ditch the caffeine.
Most people don’t realize that too much caffeine can do more harm than good by interrupting your sleep — which may leave you feeling exhausted during your shift.
Instead of relying on caffeine to get you through the day, stick to one or two cups at the start of your shift.
And avoid caffeine at night or in the morning, so you can get a good night’s sleep.
#5: Be Sure to Hydrate
Dehydration can cause exhaustion and lead to fatigue, so travel nurses need to stay hydrated throughout their shifts.
Drinking water regularly will help you stay mentally alert and feel energized.
To stay hydrated, be sure to drink water:
- Before bedtime
- Before each meal
- First thing in the morning; and
- Before and after exercise
Some travel nurses find it helpful to carry a water bottle with them and to drink from it regularly throughout the day.
Others prefer to drink smaller amounts of water more frequently.
There is no one right way to stay hydrated, but it is important to make sure that you are drinking enough water every day.
#6: Learn Your Limits
As a travel nurse, you may feel a responsibility to always be there for your patients.
You may also feel pressure to take extra shifts or feel it’s not okay to say no when your colleagues need help.
Both can lead to fatigue, which can put you at risk for errors and accidents.
To avoid these negative effects of travel nurse fatigue, it’s important to learn your limits.
Consider setting a monthly limit for overtime hours to give yourself the time you need to stay rested and avoid burnout.
#7: Make Time for Yourself
When you’re on the go all the time, it’s important to make time for yourself.
That means taking time to do things you enjoy outside of work that help reduce your stress.
Whether it’s …
- Exploring your new city
- Reading a good book
- Going on hikes; or
- Exploring museums
… schedule some “me time” into your busy schedule.
#8: Build a Support Network
One of the best ways to deal with stress, fatigue, and burnout as a travel nurse is to build a support network.
Talk to your family and friends about your experiences as a travel nurse.
A quick phone call or video chat can do wonders for your mood. If possible, try to schedule regular check-ins with people you love, so you can stay up-to-date on what’s going on in each other’s lives.
Your network of support may include:
- Friends; and
- Fellow nurses
Let them know what you’re going through and how they can help you. Having people to rely on can make all the difference when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
#9: Practice Relaxation Techniques
Many relaxation techniques can help you deal with travel nurse fatigue.
One of the most popular is progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in your body.
Other techniques include:
- Deep breathing
- Yoga; or
If you’re not sure where to start, there are many books and online resources that can help you learn different relaxation techniques.
Once you find a technique that works for you, practice it regularly so that you can use it when you start to feel fatigued.
#10: Speak to a Therapist
It’s important to have some coping mechanisms in place to deal with the inevitable travel nurse fatigue.
One way to do this is to speak to a therapist about your experiences.
This can be an excellent way to:
- Get things off your mind
- Learn new coping techniques; and
- Share your experiences with someone who can help you process your emotions
Coping with the stress and fatigue of the job can make it easier for you to get through each assignment.
#11: Learn to Recognize the Signs of Fatigue
If you’re a travel nurse, one of the most important things you can do is learn to recognize the signs of fatigue.
Fatigue can come on suddenly and can be caused by several factors, including:
- Lack of sleep
- Dehydration; and
It’s important to take action to prevent all-out fatigue, which can lead to serious problems, such as on the job mistakes or accidents.
#12: Take Time Off Between Assignments
After you finish an assignment and before you start another one, it’s important to take some time off to recharge. This is especially important if you’re feeling burned out or fatigued from your previous assignment.
Depending on your situation, there are a few different ways you can do this, including:
- Going home
- Taking a leisure vacation; or
- Extending your time in the assignment city
#13: Partner With a Caring Travel Nurse Agency
Even the most extroverted travel nurses can feel stressed, fatigued, and burned out from time to time.
One of the best ways to avoid burnout is to partner with a caring travel nurse agency.
A good agency will make sure you have all the information you need about your assignment upfront, so there are no surprises.
They will also work with you to find an assignment that fits your interests and skill set.
And if you ever do feel burned out or stressed, they will be there to support you and help you find a solution.
Not sure where to find the support you need?
Trusted Nurse Staffing may be the agency for you.
Trusted Nurse Staffing: Offering Travel Nurses 24-Hour Support on Every Assignment
At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we understand being a travel nurse can be stressful and nurses can experience fatigue and burnout.
That’s why we offer our nurses 24-hour support on every assignment.
We have a professional team who is available to:
- Answer any questions you have about your assignment
- Talk through any concerns you may have about a challenge at work; and
- Offer a variety of resources to help you deal with stress, fatigue, and burnout
If you’re feeling fatigued, we can provide you with resources and support to help you get back on track.
At Trusted Nurse Staffing, your success is our top priority — and we’re here to support you every step of the way.
Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you achieve your travel nursing goals.