In travel nursing, you not only see the diverse geography of the country, but you also care for many demographics and patients. This means there will be something new and exciting around every corner, but unfortunately, the unexpected isn’t always welcome.
As a travel nurse, you’re bound to have experiences where you’ll encounter something traumatic, whether it’s a hectic work day, an unfriendly patient, or a serious injury or sudden death. This is especially true for emergency room nurses – a job currently in high demand and expected to grow 16 percent by 2014, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Despite this, you have to jump back into the job and continue caring for patients. It’s important, then, to have effective coping skills so negative emotions don’t weigh you down at work. This way, you may also avoid the all-too-common issue of nursing burnout.
Have supportive people in your life
Sometimes when you’ve had a bad day, you simply need a shoulder to lean on. That’s why it’s so important to have supportive people in your life and foster strong connections with friends and family. However, travel nurses who take on assignments away from their loved ones may feel isolated.
First, never miss out on an opportunity to make friends with colleagues. Your fellow nurses are perhaps the only people who can truly relate to what you’re going through. Additionally, remember that your family is only a phone call away. Be sure to schedule regular chats, perhaps every weekend, so you keep those ties strong.
Don’t bottle up your emotions
Because nurses have to continue working even after a witnessing a death or speaking with an inconsolable family member, they may feel that they must stifle their emotions and keep moving. On the contrary, RNs should give themselves the opportunity to release emotions, whether through crying, venting or however they find helpful.
Speaking with Nurse.com, Dr. Robert S. McKelvey of Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, said healthcare professionals must allow themselves to go through the grieving process after a traumatic event. Otherwise, they may avoid making close bonds with patients or experience a decreased quality of life. Take a moment to yourself, then vent to a colleague or call a family member on your break. You’re only human, after all.
Talk to an Employee Assistance Program counselor
Many medical facilities offer Employee Assistance Programs for their healthcare professionals. With this, nurses can speak with counselors who provide an assessment and short-term consultations. While individuals involved in EAPs are ideal to talk to about traumatic events, their services stretch beyond that. You can also turn to the counselors if you’re just stressed in general or need some help managing a better work-life balance. This route is especially great for travel nurses, who face the extra challenge of adapting to a new workplace.
Focus on your health
As a travel nurse, you understand the intense connection between mental and physical health. You may be able to make yourself more equipped to handle and overcome traumatic events by focusing on your overall well-being. For instance, eating a nutritious diet and getting enough exercise are steps in the right direction. Additionally, you may benefit from taking up relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation.
Know the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder
While using these coping tactics may be helpful on a bad day, sometimes you need professional assistance to get back to a balanced lifestyle. A survey published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies reviewed responses from 248 emergency nurses. Researchers found that they encountered traumatic events on a routine basis, with child deaths weighing most heavily on their mental well-being. Because of this, 8.5 percent of the nurses responded in a way that demonstrated they met clinical standards for PTSD. However, having supportive colleagues helped prevent PTSD.
While ER nurses are repeatedly exposed to traumatic incidents, it may only take one event to cause PTSD. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a number of signs associated with PTSD. You may avoid people or places that remind you of the event. For instance, you might neglect to reenter the room where a patient died. PTSD also manifests in negative memories or bad dreams about the traumatic occurrence. However, not all signs are tied directly to the situation that caused PTSD. You may experience anger, emotional numbness and irritability in general. The Mayo Clinic advised seeing a doctor if these symptoms occur longer than a month or are so intense they interfere with your everyday life.
It’s important for those in travel nursing to recognize when they need emotional support and practice coping skills on their own. Not only will it boost their own mental well-being, but it allows them to focus on the job and deliver high-quality patient care.