How Do Travel Nurses Deal with Stress? • The Gypsy Nurse

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By Melissa Davidson

June 29, 2019



How Do Travel Nurses Deal with Stress?

Guest Post by: Melissa Davidson

Photo provided by Shaunnette McFarlane

Travel nursing is fun but it also creates unique stressful situations. How a travel nurses deal with stress can be as unique as the job itself.

It’s a good time in history to be employed as a travel nurse.

As baby boomers enter their golden years, the demand for nurses is expected to skyrocket.

By 2022, the nursing workforce is expected to grow to 3.24 million, up from 2.71 million in 2012, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Travel Nursing is Challenging

Travel nursing is a challenging, exciting and rewarding career choice, and every patient wants a professional who’s compassionate, smart, empathetic, calm and respectful – you all fit the bill.  But even those nurses who are calm in stressful situations need to take care of themselves.

While job satisfaction is typically high in travel nursing, it’s still a stressful occupation given the nature of caring for others. You’re a community leader in a lot of ways, someone who creates positive change in so many ways.

Textbook tips for combating ‘compassion fatigue’ include ensuring a work-life balance, healthy eating and sleeping well, exercising, taking time for yourself, planning a trip, getting massages and pedicures, and talking to friends, family or a professional. Within their own circles, nurses will tell each other to set boundaries. Don’t work too much overtime, and be aware of signs of alcohol/drug abuse.

Here are 3 simple reminders to help travel nurses deal with stress:


If you work 12-hour shifts three days a week, that leaves four days to do fun stuff. What do you enjoy doing during that time? A recent article in Outside Magazine describes how many travel nurses incorporate adventure into their career. In fact, it’s a main motivator for some.

A 26-year-old nurse working in the ICU at the University of Utah Hospital describes skiing as her source of happiness.

I can’t imagine working 9-to-5, five days a week, and only being a weekend warrior,” said Lucy Sackbauer. “I wanted to ski on Tuesdays when the rest of the world was at their desks.

Travel nursing can definitely support your outdoor lifestyle. However, even if you’re not a big-time adrenaline junkie, getting out to enjoy your surroundings will increase those feel-good hormones. Going for a hike, joining a gym, and taking yoga classes are positive ways to de-stress and you’re likely to notice a difference.


Whether it’s a 4-week stint or 13, creating “normal” for you will help put balance in your life. We all need a work-life balance to maintain a sense of well-being.

On days off, are you scheduling how to productively spend time? Sleeping patterns, working out, cooking, reading, not drinking too much, cultivating gratitude are all things we need to pay attention throughout the days and weeks.


Sometimes it’s tough to be around people, especially if you’ve given all your time and energy to dealing with patients, their families and doctors. Bonding with colleagues and meeting new friends will enrich life that much more.

Everyone needs time to recharge their batteries. Managers will often plan socialization or play for their nursing staff. Meals always bring people together, so organizing staff breakfasts or dinners is a great way to get to know your co-workers and bond. Concerts and sporting events in the area also bring people together.

Stress is one of America’s Leading Health Concerns

At the end of the day, let’s not forget that stress is one of America’s leading health concerns, which is why being proactive is so important. The American Psychological Association (APA) points to the fact the 51% of women and 43% of men in the U.S. experience the negative, physical effects of chronic stress.

In a column in the Huffington Post, David Freuedberg, the host of NPR’s Humankind, poignantly writes, “ Outnumbering physicians six to one, nurses spend more time with patients and in many ways they are the heart of American healthcare.”

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