If travel nursing allows you to travel all over the country and get paid while doing it, why isn’t everyone doing it? Travel is getting increasingly popular; in 2019, millions of dollars were spent on travel and people catching flights. People claim to be catching flights and not feelings. It doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. But there is something about the uncertainty of not knowing what’s next that brings about its challenges. Not knowing where your next job is going to be, not knowing the city or the neighborhood you’re going to be in, not knowing who your coworkers are, and all the things that can make you feel like the new kid on the block. Instead of feeling that for a little while and then eventually learning all those unknowns with time as a travel nurse, you’re in a constant state of change, which can be uncomfortable. So, let’s talk about it. How do you thrive when the only thing that is certain about your living and working situation is that there will be an inevitable change at the end of your assignment?
The only constant is change. That is a popularized quote you have probably seen floating around on your Instagram or Twitter, but it is true. I was a checklist girl, literally attempting to checklist my way through life. There is nothing wrong with planning or creating goals; without some form of planning, it’s like navigating life with no real direction.
Getting into travel nursing was the opposite of the direction that I wanted to go but transitioning to a career that constantly forced me to face change shifted my mindset. It taught me to adapt to the important concept of flexibility. As a travel nurse, you’re constantly navigating change, like life, learning to adapt and be flexible. Learning how to go with the flow and, yes, change is hard, but like anything else, you learn how to adapt to those changes. When you go to work, you’re constantly changing even within your assignment, whether you go in. You expect to work for a few hours on one floor. You get floated mid-shift, or maybe you go into work expecting to work on one floor, but you then get floated to work on a different floor or the most recent challenge that I’ve had to face is going into work and not having enough staff and working through your shift without taking a lunch break.
Having to deal with those different changes has allowed me to carry those same concepts from work into my everyday life. Not knowing what the next five years will look like or not knowing what the next twenty years will look like is not as much of an issue as it used to be for me. Sure, plan, pray, and manifest. I have different things that I want and different things that I expect from life, but if I veer off those original plans, it’s no longer something that will make or break my day. I have learned how to embrace the change that comes with life and understand that if life begins to go in a different direction, it’s not necessarily the wrong direction. Maybe your life needs to go in that direction to set you up for something bigger and better than you’ve expected. That is a lesson within itself, and I can see how becoming a travel nurse has helped push that concept and plan.
Prioritizing your needs
The second thing that I want to highlight is prioritizing your needs. So, when you’re in a constant state of change, what do you do to bring stability? You have to find things that bring about a sense of home, regardless of where you are. What I mean by that is that I can’t plan my assignments to the exact details as a travel nurse. I can’t plan them too far ahead of time because a lot of time, the assignments come through maybe a couple of weeks or a few days before you start. So, I try to control what I can beyond the actual assignment. I have a list of places I’m willing to go based on my expectations for places I’m willing to live. Even if it ends up being for only three months. I tend to extend my assignments at least by one additional assignment to give me a little time beyond three months. I try to prioritize safety, diversity, and whether there will be a church in the area where I will live. Even though, as a travel nurse, you’re constantly changing, and you’re constantly uprooting your life and moving around, there are non-negotiables or different things that you can set to ensure that those things are constant. Having things that are constant when you’re constantly changing helps. Having that list of places I’m willing to go to gives me a sense of control. If you are the type of person who doesn’t need to have a sense of control and lives off spontaneity, and you thrive off it, then maybe you don’t need a list. Maybe you don’t have to have expectations like diversity, safety, or different things that in your mind give you a sense of peace. Many of these things stay in our minds because just because I perceive a place as safe doesn’t mean that it’s safe, or just because I perceived an area as more diverse than another doesn’t mean it is. Having these lists still gives me a sense of control over what I can control. When things are coming my way that I cannot control, like going to work and not having a lunch break or going to work and not knowing where I’m going to be, it doesn’t bother me as much because there are still some things within my life that I have control of.
Another thing that I try to do is once I get to my assignment, within that first week, I unpack everything. I put everything where I need it to be. I settle into where I’m going to live. I also find my closest gym because I prioritize ensuring I do some physical activity. I also prioritize church, so finding a church community or a church to attend quickly after arriving at my new location is a priority as well. All of these are contributing factors to your self-care and maintaining balance within the workplace.
We discuss the importance of self-care because work and life generally cause burnout, anxiety, and depression, especially as healthcare providers. We work in stressful environments, often with patients with very serious situations. We often leave work feeling that energy within us. So, ensure that you know exactly what is important to you regarding stability. So, make sure you write these things down or put them in the note section on your phone. These things will help you thrive and maintain the level of success that you want to maintain when going from assignment to assignment.
Make sure you set daily intentions; I have made it a habit to set my intentions for each assignment. During my first assignment, my intentions for that assignment were to get myself together, make sure that I unwind, and make sure that I maintain a level of peace. A level of peace I felt like I was lacking. That first assignment wasn’t about looking around and exploring the city; it wasn’t about making a ton of money; it was more about trying to find consistency and stability in my schedule and daily life. This assignment and moving forward, my intentions for assignments are to try to pay off my debt. I want to be financially independent; I want to be financially free, and I want to get to a point where I am not exchanging my time for money, which is something I have prioritized. When I go to work, that is what I think about; I think of it as an opportunity for me to get closer to my goal.
Just make sure that you set your intentions. Know why you’re doing what you do, why you get up every single morning and understand that if you wake up in the morning, you have a sense of purpose. You can then assign different things you do to ensure that it aligns with that purpose. When I wake up and go to work, I want to help people and impact lives. That’s why I’m in the healthcare field. It also ensures that I have a stable job. But I know that every day I go in, even if I don’t want to, it is one more day where I get the opportunity to increase my salary. To make more money so I can pay down debt and essentially get to a place where I’m no longer having to pay down debt and pay for expenses that I’ve made years prior.
Those are some of the biggest things that I think that we can do to make sure that you thrive when you’re in a constant state of change and bring it back to your memory, bring it back to your mind. The three things that I talked about were: remembering the only thing constant is change, prioritizing your needs, and setting your intentions daily but even further than that setting your intentions for each assignment.
Follow my journey at The Vintage Traveling Nurse.
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