Self-Care for Caregivers: Travel Nurse Edition

Posted On September 13, 2017

As travel nurses, we chose this career because in some way, shape, or form, our passion lays in dedicating ourselves to the care of others while leaving our comfort zone, ready to explore a new city and adapt a new culture. From medications, to knowledge, to compassion, to energy – our job is to give.

The reality is, when mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion set in, it’s too easy to entirely forget to care for ourselves.

So how do we, as nurses, begin filling our own cup (other than with mass amounts of caffeine)?

Exercise.

I know what you’re thinking. “You’re asking me to take 20 minutes of the, all to short, 11.5 hours I have off from work, and that’s IF we finish shift change on time, to cut my sleep short to exert MORE energy?”

Rick Godwin answers this one best, “One reason people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up, instead of what they have to gain.”

Studies have shown, a consistent routine of moderate exercise for 20 minutes over time has been shown to:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Increase immune function
  • Reduce one’s risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Change the secretion of stress hormones
  • Have antidepressant and antianxiety effects; specifically, an increase in both the production and release of serotonin and dopamine
  • Improve sleep
  • Increase energy

Have you ever met a travel nurse, or a nurse in general, who DOESN’T struggle with one, if not many of these?

Again, I know what you’re thinking. “Okay, so there are amazing benefits. I just don’t think I could truly get into the habit of exercising before a shift.”

Aristotle’s got this one covered, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

Our habits, beneficial or destructive, are ultimately what have lead us to exactly where we are.  Changing our habits will lead us to exactly where we want to be. Here’s how:

  1. Set yourself up for success by removing the guesswork.
    • Place your workout clothes within eyesight the night before.
    • Mel Robbins, renowned motivational speaker, shares how a person has FIVE SECONDS from the moment you have a thought, to turn it into action, before your brain begins making excuses as to why you shouldn’t. When your alarm rings, count aloud – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, then stand up and get your workout clothes on.
    • Navigating a 15,000-square foot gym in a zombie-state at 0430… Not happening. And as a travel nurse, you’re probably not investing in a gym membership with such a short-term stay in your location. This is why home workout programs are a gift from the shift work gods. Simply press play, spend as little as 15 minutes OUT of your head and IN your body, without even leaving your house.
  2. Drink at minimum 16 oz of water immediately upon waking.
    Six to eight hours sleep
    without any water consumption can lead to dehydration. The biggest indicator of dehydration? Lethargy. Enough said.
  3. Create an enjoyable pre-shift routine that includes exercise.
    Perhaps it’s 10 minutes reading, listening to a podcast while sipping your morning coffee, or a meditation practice that leads you into – or out of – your workout.

“Self-care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first, so we can give from our surplus, our abundance. When we nurture others from a place of fullness, we feel renewed instead of taken advantage of.”
– Jennifer Louden

Author Bio: Rosalyn, the creator of Begin Within Wellness – Instagram account, @rosalynsummach, was born and raised in Saskatchewan, Canada and has been working as a Registered Nurse for over two years on a Maternal Care unit. She is passionate about empowering nurses, and women of all walks, to heal their relationship with their body, as it took her so long to truly heal her own.