8 Keys to Achieving Work-Life Balance as a Travel Nurse

Admittedly, it’s hard to achieve the perfect work-life balance when you’re a nurse.

The hours are long, and nursing is an inherently stressful profession, one that already carries a risk of burnout. On top of that there is the challenge of the ongoing nursing workforce shortage, further exacerbating the problem.  Plus, if you’re a travel nurse, you may be living a long way from home and your usual support system.

It’s all too easy to let work take over your whole life. But you can achieve a better work-life balance, feel better and keep your career on track by being deliberate about it, said Travis T., senior recruitment manager for AMN Healthcare, the nation’s leading travel nurse agency.

Defining Work-Life Balance For Nurses

You may be asking yourself, what does “work-life balance” look like exactly? In a 2012 paper entitled “Striving for Work-life Balance” that was published in the American Journal of Nursing, Susan Simmons, PhD, ARNP-BC, defined it this way:

“Work-life balance means bringing work, whether done on the job or at home, and leisure time into balance to live life to its fullest. It doesn't mean that you spend half of your life working and half of it playing; instead, it means balancing the two to achieve harmony in physical, emotional, and spiritual health.”

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8 Tips to Help Travel Nurses Find Work-Life Balance

Here are some key steps to help you achieve the optimal work-life balance as a travel nurse:

  1. Prioritize self-care. You can’t achieve a healthy balance between work and the rest of your life if you don’t make yourself (and your own well-being) a priority. “I always remind travelers, ‘Take care of yourself,’” said Travis. “No one else can do it for you.” If you have to schedule self-care activities in advance and put them on your calendar to follow through, do it! Set reminders on your phone so you don’t forget. (Check out “Nurse Health: How to Make 2023 Your Healthiest Year Yet” for some specific self-care tips.)

  2. Take time off. One of the best perks about travel nursing is the flexibility to set your own work schedule. You can schedule your travel nursing assignments back to back to back…but whether you should do that is another question. It might be better for you to take some time off between assignments and decompress. “I celebrate it when a nurse tells me they need to take a few weeks or even a month off,” says Travis.

  3. Seek mental health care. “Your mental health really does need to come first,” said Travis. Talking to a mental healthcare professional can help you learn to balance all the stressors in your life. You can call AMN Healthcare’s employee assistance program (EAP) to receive free confidential counseling sessions, or access other resources that might help you. Or you can go through your medical insurance company to seek out a provider for mental healthcare services.

  4. Experts have long recommended journaling to help people gain better self-awareness. If you take the time to write out your thoughts and examine your feelings, you may stumble upon some areas to work on. In the AJN article, Simmons noted that it may be easier to achieve balance when you know yourself better.

  5. Exercise. If you need an excuse to carve out time for a workout, here it is: exercise can actually help you achieve a better work-life balance, according to research. Exercise has also been shown to reduce stress and improve your mood. Plus, as you probably tell your patients, exercise is good for your physical health and can help you keep your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in check. If your travel nurse assignment is near a state park or national park, check out the hiking, skiing or kayaking opportunities. You can also try out the gym in your housing complex, ask someone to join you on the local running trails, or even pull up a YouTube video and exercise in your living room.

  6. Enjoy a hobby. Do you ever feel like all you do is work, sleep and then work some more? Time to break it up with a fun diversion. Pull out those knitting needles or paintbrushes, learn a new language online, or do whatever else makes you happy. Meetup groups are a great way to find other people in your community with similar interests. Another option: check out community colleges and recreation centers in your area to find a class that you can take. You might even discover a new hobby that you can take along on your next assignment.

  7. Talk to your recruiter. Your recruiter really does have your best interests in mind. If you feel like you need a break between assignments, or you want to switch gears and take a different kind of assignment in the future, let your recruiter know, said Travis.

  8. Take your pet or family member with you. There’s no one like your loved ones for companionship and support, so why not take them along on your travel nurse assignments? Together, you can conquer anything, and have a fun time exploring new areas together. Whether you choose to bring your significant other, your kids, and/or your beloved pet, you can find a number of housing options to make it possible. Just talk to your recruiter or your agency’s housing specialist to coordinate the details.

Achieving work-life balance as a travel nurse is a big goal! It might take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you. Start by picking one area where you can make some small, positive change. Give it a try, see how it goes, and then assess your situation before deciding on your next steps.

LOOKING for a change in your career, or to try out travel nursing for the first time? AMN Healthcare has thousands of travel nursing assignments across the U.S., and a talented team who can guide you through every step of the process.

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