There is no doubt that the current pandemic has created an extra layer of stress at work or the job, and the more prominent fact is that there was and is no profession anywhere that was ever 100% stress-free.
For many non-healthcare-related jobs, folks will often joke at the end of the day that “at least nobody died” or something along the lines of “heck, it’s not brain surgery.” And then everyone chuckles, hi-fives, and heads to happy hour.
I’m sure you know what I mean.
This is possible because the everyday choices made by most people at most jobs have no impact on whether someone lives or dies.
But for us registered nurses, the exact opposite is true.
By nature, the environment in which a travel nurse works is extremely high-stress. Every choice that is made has the potential to dramatically influence patients’ lives and outcomes. As a result, extra vigilance is required to avoid the mental and physical health problem known today as “nurse burnout.”
It’s a thing, and yes, it’s real.
But what is “nurse burnout” exactly?
Long hours, juggling multiple patients at once, and of course, often caring for people with high acuities and medical conditions with poor outcomes is the fuse that lights nurses burning out. This condition, if you will, may manifest and show up as emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion.
There are some other telltale signs of burning out, though.
These include anxiety, fatigue, concentration difficulties, lack of energy, exhaustion (both emotional and physical), being easily irritated, lack of motivation, and finally, just getting tired of being a nurse.
In some cases, substance abuse begins to take root as well.
Nurses and travel nurses who are concerned about burnout can prevent its symptoms, such as depression and other mental illnesses, by addressing them promptly.
What might cause a travel nurse to burn out?
While there are several, we’ll tackle just a few of the top ones.
Lack of sleep
When working long hours and multiple consecutive shifts, it can be difficult to maintain a regular sleep pattern. I know; I’m a night shift nurse and have been one for years.
Recent studies have suggested that up to 25% of registered nurses reported not getting enough sleep between shifts. Put another way, that’s one out of every four of your fellow travel nurses working on an assignment at this very moment.
Working in a high-stress environment
No surprise here, but RNs who work in high-risk areas, such as those with the nursing specialty of ED or ICU, are more likely to suffer from nurse burnout.
Not to say this is exclusive to critical care RNs, but we nurses know that these are often the patients that teeter on the edge more than others.
This could be an entire article on its own, no doubt.
As mentioned above, travel nurses who work in critical care specialties tend to have higher rates of burnout. It’s just a fact. This is tied to the constant realization that these specialties and skillsets work with patients whose recovery is often uncertain and with higher mortality rates.
These combined factors lead to what is called “compassion fatigue” and, of course, higher rates of travel nurses burning out.
So how do we prevent nurse burnout?
Burnout can be prevented by having coping mechanisms in place to deal with trauma and emotional stress.
Flexibility, also called being resilient, is a crucial trait to embrace.
Resiliency in nursing is nothing more than optimism that you make a positive impact (no matter how little, no matter the outcome) on your patients’ lives. You spend less time wondering “why” something occurred. And you adopt the mindset of “I don’t know why this happened, but I can perhaps do something about it.”
A shift in mindset like that is difficult to explain in words, but I’m sure you understand if you’re a travel nurse reading this.
Nurses and travel nurses who have a set religious or spiritual belief to turn to in these rough periods are generally more resilient. The same applies to all of us who rely on constant hope, regardless of the situation or circumstance.
Another way to prevent burning out is through intentional self-care.
While “self-care” is a pretty large and all-encompassing term, it has different meanings to different nurses and healthcare workers.
For one registered nurse, it may be a strong meditation practice or using up available paid time off. For others on a travel nurse assignment, it may be a weekly massage. Whatever fills your soul with a little bit of peace and quiet is what self-care will mean for you.
Heck, sometimes a good staycation is just what a stressed-out travel nurse needs to reset.
Could travel nursing be the answer?
The truth is, we really don’t have one set, specific answer.
But, if you are in nursing or working in healthcare facilities and are experiencing symptoms of burnout, then perhaps travel nursing might be the change you need to reignite your passion for the job.
From a personal standpoint, I know that as a travel nurse for many years now, that travel nursing has been just what I needed.
The final word
Nurse burnout can happen to any nurse, but nurses who work in high-risk areas or critical care specialties are more likely to experience it.
In this article, we discussed how travel nursing could be a possible solution for those experiencing nurse burnout and what you can do if you’re feeling the effects of being burnt out yourself.
To learn more about the travel nursing opportunity and cities across the country, visit Bestica Healthcare and start planning your next assignment today.