7 Challenges New Travel Nurses Face and How to Handle Each so You Succeed
Helping others live healthier lives is probably high on the list of reasons why you decided to pursue a career in nursing. Learning about cultural differences and helping bring standard procedures to impoverished areas might be two reasons you opted to go the extra mile (literally and figuratively) as a travel nurse.
However, it is crucial to maintaining your ability to care for your patients that you first take care of yourself. This includes your mental health. During more than one course you learned that physical health and well-being affect your mental outlook. Here are seven challenges that many travel nurses face, especially when first starting this highly interesting career, and some tips on how to handle each.
Your Source of Information, Job Openings, and Personal Security
One of the first things is to have an excellent, well-connected recruiter or agent. Knowing the field means you have access to invaluable advice. A good agent stays on your side and knows how to help you during any unexpected snafus. Some agents specialize in specific geographic areas or patient demographics. Don’t choose only one agent – you can have more than one.
Your recruiter should also provide you with accurate knowledge of positions and the fine details of each before you make a decision. Knowing what to expect can reduce your stress and anxiety by reducing the amount of ‘unknowns’ in the equation and simultaneously helping you prepare your luggage, family and friends, and yourself.
Finding that First Position to Get You Started
Just like you only get one first impression when meeting someone new, any career path must start with that first position. Search different job boards and travel nursing forums and ask your school about employment leads. Your recruiter should also be able to provide some guidance on places with upcoming openings.
Make sure they accept new travel nurses. Previous nursing experience does help, of course, but in many situations, it does not prepare you for some of the environments you might find yourself working with patients and other medical professionals. Don’t look at these places as forever forbidden, but rather as what they really are – positions that require more specialized experience.
Licensing Requirements Differ between Locations
Just like your nursing license in, say Indiana, does not permit you to work in another state, for example, The Tempe ASU campus for nursing, your current license doesn’t carry over to other countries. This is also true for US territories. While your own signature is needed on forms sent into licensing boards, this is an additional area of working as a travel nurse where your recruiter can help you decide which location you want to apply.
Applying needs to happen well in advance because while denials are rare, they can happen. Applying early can help you work around such events, including lost paperwork, changes in the application process, and delays in the mail service. Always double check your application and send it with a tracking method.
Getting Homesick can Hinder Your Work
Children who go to summer camp often experience homesickness. This happens to adults, too. While it might not hit right away, and in some people, it never becomes more than a passing thought, it can lead to depression. Keeping homesick feelings under control can help you maintain your professional demeanor and keep patient health in focus.
When packing your luggage, make sure you have physical photos of friends and family. Social media shows you current goings-on with loved ones. Seeing this can increase feelings of homesickness instead of reducing them. Photos, on the other hand, can remind you of the moments you had with them and help you feel connected to those you care about the most. So can personal memorabilia. A small pillow or stuffed toy from a sibling, a ring from your mother, a silly card from your dad – all of these items and others can help you remember them.
Missing Friends and Their Camaraderie
New places mean leaving long-time friends behind. While this might seem like a lonely way to see new places, it does not have to be that way for you. Depending on where you stay, new friends might be right around the corner. Night clubs are not your only option for finding new pals to hang out with, either. You can visit other places to see with who you might connect.
Museums, open markets, cultural centers, zoos, fairs, and any other place that draws a large number of people can get you started. Always pay attention to your inner voice, of course. Many people are often quite pleased to have a new friend from some other location that they only read about or see in the movies. Understand that sometimes movies are the only source of information about your home that they might have access to, so going against the stereotypes depicted by Hollywood might result in disbelief.
Adjusting to the Culture of a New Professional Environment can Stress You Out and also Cause Aggravation
Every workplace, school, neighborhood, city, and country has its own distinctive culture. While the individual cultures that you live daily are familiar to you, new ones associated with your travel nurse duties can seem puzzling, strange, and confusing. Having many questions about how things are done is normal. Learning as much as possible can help you maintain a polite and professional demeanor.
Talk to traveling nurses who have worked in this location before. You can find them through your agent, your employer, or through forums. Miscommunications should be handled with grace certainly, but take care of these issues before they become a habit. Commonplace customs and interactions can often be found on websites catering to travelers and tourists. Wherever you can find information about your area can help you fit in better at work and during your off-hours.
Expanding Your Bedside Manner and Patient Focus
Meeting new patients brings you into contact with many different kinds of backgrounds. You are sure to meet those of different economic levels, varying degrees of untreated or under-treated illnesses, cultural norms that prohibit certain kinds of standard medical care, and other new aspects.
Keep in mind that you are not there to change the cultural norms that seem wrong, but to do what you can for each patient. Social injustices plague the globe and exist in all countries, including developed nations. Treat each patient with kindness, respect, and dignity. Keep your focus on what you can accomplish, no matter how difficult this might seem. Badmouthing a culture can backfire on you professionally, and your peers, as well. If something really seems offensive, discuss it privately with your agent.
Here are a couple of final notes about travel nursing. Just like you rely on your instinct to protect and serve your patients, rely on this sense to keep yourself safe, as well. While there are many cultural differences across our beautiful planet, if something makes you feel uncomfortable or in danger, tell someone you trust. Your silence does your patients no favors, and you also must be your own voice when warranted.