Healthy Habits for Travel Nurses

Travel nurses have an innate ability to promote health and healing in our patients. That is what we do. From the moment we stepped into nursing school we were equipped and trained in the art of healing. But let’s face it, travel nursing and health are not synonymous when it comes to nurses themselves.

Travel nurses are so passionate about their jobs and their jobs can be so demanding that they sometimes leave no regard for their own needs. Skipping meals and forgetting to go to the bathroom amid the busyness happens on a regular basis. Flipping between day and night shifts, often being understaffed, working with sick and difficult patients, and always needing to be on the top of your game is “business as usual” for nurses. This has been the “norm” for some time but people and organizations are no longer overlooking the lack of health in nurses.

What does the data say?

In fact, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has designated 2017 as “The Year Of The Healthy Nurse.” Why? The ANA lists the following facts about nurses as to why 2017 was dedicated to nursing health:

  • An average BMI of 27.6 (overweight)
  • 12% have nodded off while driving in the past month
  • Only 16% eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables
  • Less than half perform the recommended quantity and time of muscle-strengthening exercises

The ANA cites that RNs continue to rate workplace stress as a hazardous occupational risk well above the national average. Yet nurses’ very calling, professionalism, and strong sense of ethics demand that they become better role models, advocates, and educators. Do you see the conflict that nurses face? A strong call to excellence and professionalism in a difficult and ever-changing work environment. Other research suggests that nurses are concerned about weight gain and noncommunicable diseases, such as hypertension. Nurses identified that a lack of time and fatigue negatively impact a healthy lifestyle.

Let’s not get all negative here! Nursing is an amazing profession with so many positive aspects. With some intention and motivation, a lot of these struggles you face today as a nurse can be overcome. Let’s look at 7 healthy habits for travel nurses and some tips to help implement them today.

1.Healthy Eating is Imperative 

The two solid foundations for anybody’s health are healthy eating and exercise. As nurses, we know that. I’m not going to beat a dead horse or preach to the choir about the positive aspects of healthy eating. We know that! The difficult part is making a healthy diet happen and consistently. Consider making meals in advance of your shifts, especially if you work 10 or 12-hour shifts on consecutive days. Taking time out of your day to prepare your lunch and dinner can go along ways in eating healthy. Another benefit of meal prep is that the stress of making a healthy meal and cleaning up is gone. Work smarter not harder right? Prepare healthy meals in advance.

2. Don’t Be Too Busy to Exercise

The other mainstay for health is exercise. Again, I’m assuming for most of us, exercise isn’t something we don’t know to do but have a difficult time doing. Of course, there are always those guys or gals who find working out to be their second calling in life, but for the rest of us, we need to find a way to get ourselves exercising consistently. Be creative with exercise. We always tend to put exercise in a box. Can you combine a hobby or something you enjoy with exercise? Go for a hike, ride your bike, play a sport. Exercise doesn’t have to be going to the gym. The government labels “walking briskly” as a moderate intensity exercise.

Not that the government has ever had the highest standards but you get the point. Schedule workout times/activities around when you have the most energy. Don’t feel the need to workout after a long stressful day unless that helps you. If you work long hours on consecutive days, consider working out before and after your work stretch and rest on work days. If you have a consistent routine add exercise into the routine

3. Cultivate a Good Stress Management Strategy

Stress? Yes. Management? No. Humans are great at identifying and reacting to stress, but we so often don’t seek to manage it properly! Often times we seek to manage it in unhealthy ways too. Implementing the other six healthy habits will go a long ways in reducing your stress! In the same way, when you get a wacky vital sign or lab value, you need an intervention, when you pick up on the signs and symptoms of your stress, you need an intervention too! That could be a weekend getaway, time with friends, extra sleep, or going for a run. Just don’t ignore the signs and symptoms when your stress.

4. Master Your Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is a struggle for so many professionals, inside of nursing and outside of it. Organizations sell work-life balance to potential employees and employees place a high importance on it. The problem is, how many people are achieving a good work-life balance? The problem with work-life balance is that you generally don’t think anything is wrong until it’s really wrong. Being in the ditch is a bad time to realize that something is wrong.

Finding activities that help you disconnect from is important. Scheduling these activities is important as well. In the same way you schedule work, schedule your healthy habits such as meal prep, exercise, family/friends time, and alone time. Marking your calendar with more than just your work schedule will help ensure you get other important things in throughout your week, like your healthy habits!

5. Worksite Wellness

Join or get involved with a workplace wellness program. This will help keep you motivated to maintain a healthy lifestyle as well as help others do the same. Many large organizations have workout facilities or offer discounts for fitness memberships (capitalize on that). Speak up on the behalf of nurses and push for organizational support for workplace health. This could be more healthy food options, walk breaks, or starting a wellness group. Help keep yourself and others accountable to taking their allotted breaks and utilize those breaks to recharge, even if it just for a few minutes. Don’t just sit in the breakroom, go outside or talk to a friend.

6. Learn The Power of Saying No

No is a powerful word. One that is often under-utilized and much less burdensome to its counterpart, yes. Often time we cram our schedules so tight that we don’t make time for the things that really matter. Sleep, exercise, and personal time gets pushed to the side resulting in more stress and unhealthy routines.

Part of the reason nurses struggle with saying no is because we always feel the need to be doing something. Consequently, we neglect the rest we need. Rest is more than just sleep. Rest seems to be as much an emotional and psychological state as it is a physical state. Utilize the power of no to help achieve a healthier you.

7. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

This has to be said. Nurses are some of the most caring and selfless people that I know. They also are some of the most stubborn people I know! As nurses, we are usually the last to ask for help or admit that something is wrong. This is especially true if something is wrong with us. If we saw the same signs and symptoms in somebody else, we would diagnose them on the spot, force them into our car and get them to help immediately. When it is us, we put off what is necessary. Maybe you are too stressed, depressed, or struggling with an eating disorder. Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to get help when we need it. Nurses are humans too and we have things that need to be dealt with. Here is a helpful link for some common things to consider getting help with if you are experiencing any of them.

Travel nursing is an amazing career that holds promise both now and in the future. Don’t get burnt out! In order to provide the best care for your patients, you need to take care of yourself. Like the airline industry has always stressed, put your oxygen mask on before helping others. Travel nurses need to put on the oxygen mask of healthy living. Then, and only then, will we be able to provide the best care possible for our patients both now and for many years to come.

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