By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
Last week we focused on how to recognize if you are feeling burnt out as a travel nurse. If you went through these points and determined that you are feeling a bit of burnout in your career, it can be a bit upsetting.
People often associate “burnout” with “quitting” but that does not have to be the case. Just because you are feeling burnt out doesn’t mean you need to quit being a nurse or a travel nurse altogether. It just means you need to assess where you are at and create a sustainable plan.
First, figure out what you are burnt out from. As a travel nurse, you may be burnt out from packing your belongings and moving every thirteen weeks. You could be burnt out from the stress of finding a new place to live so often. Or, you could be burnt out from constantly having to meet new people and make new friends.
If this is the case, consider taking an assignment with a high likelihood of an extension. Just because you are a “travel nurse” does not mean you have to move every thirteen weeks. There are a lot of travelers who actually prefer to extend at each location because it gives them more time to explore the area around them.
Start by asking the manager in your interview if they regularly have travelers or not. Some units will have a travel nurse or two almost year-round due to fluctuating staffing needs, coverage for maternity leaves, or just general high turnover rates. Other jobs will state specifically that you are filling a short-term need or may even let you know that they will not be extending you upfront. This can be helpful if you are wanting to feel a little more settled short term.
Usually, after six months or so in one place, you can start to tell if it is the moving that is getting to you or the actual work of being a nurse. If you hang out in one spot for a bit and start to feel better, great! Keep in mind you can also get a permanent job for a little bit if that seems like the best option–travel nursing will always be waiting for you!
If it turns out nursing in general seems to be causing your stress, then you will have to dig a little deeper to solve your problems. Are you tired of working with a certain patient population? Do you feel stuck or bored with your current job? Is the hospital schedule not working for you?
The great thing about nursing is there are so many options out there. And although travel nursing is not the ideal way to try different specialties, there are opportunities out there for travel nurses to learn new skills.
Reach out to your recruiter and let them know you are not feeling aligned with your current role and see if they have any suggestions for you. I personally worked an office job as a transplant coordinator with no experience in that specific role–they simply needed nurses with med surg experience. There are also sometimes opportunities for critical care nurses to cross train to other critical care areas–for example, ER nurses may be able to cross-train to ICU or ICU nurses may be able to cross-train to procedural areas like interventional radiology or PACU.
Another great thing about working as a travel nurse is you have the opportunity to take extended time off. You are not obligated to take a new contract immediately after your current one finishes, so don’t be afraid to be “funemployed” for a few months if that is what your mental health needs. Perhaps you can hang out somewhere with a low cost of living, or spend some time back home while you rest and decide what to do next. If this is your goal, just be sure to save accordingly at your current assignment so you are financially prepared. Sometimes taking a step away from the bedside will do wonders for your mental health and allow you to return to travel nursing feeling refreshed.
Rotating through longer periods of time off is one of the best ways to avoid burnout as a travel nurse. In fact, a lot of travelers actually do this regularly. Some will make it a goal to only work 26 weeks per year and take the other 26 off to explore and travel, or some combination of extended time off.
The hardest realization is when you come to the conclusion that working as a traveler simply won’t allow you to make the necessary changes to improve your overall mental health. If your current area of nursing simply isn’t working for you anymore, then it might be time to take a break, switch gears, then re-enter the travel nursing field in a specialty that works for you.
Although pressing pause on your travel career for a year or two might not be what you really want to do, it is important to consider the longevity of your nursing career. If taking a longer break from work or trying a new setting in the travel world didn’t work, try to think about how beneficial it will be for your long term health and goals to figure out how to be happiest in your nursing career.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
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