Healthcare Professionals

How to Prevent Nurse Burnout with Travel Nursing


September 14, 2022

The year 2020 was deemed the “Year of the Nurse” by the World Health Organization. For a split second we all thought it was finally time to celebrate the history and everyday accomplishments that nurses play in healthcare. Unfortunately, we never got that chance. As fast as the year started, we were quickly overwhelmed by an immediate threat – COVID.

It’s been a year since the nightmare began. Nurses have been tested emotionally, physically, and spiritually in ways that we haven’t before. The topic of nurse burnout is expressed, experienced, and very real. Understanding what is causing it and how to prevent nurse burnout is a discussion that’s long overdue.

3 Common Symptoms of Nurse Burnout

Even before the pandemic, nurses have been experiencing burnout at an alarming rate. According to a study published in October 4, 2020 by Lesly A. Kelly, PhD, RN, FAAN, Perry M. Gee, PhD, RN, and Richard J. Butler, PhD, in the Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection, the study found that 54% of nurses were experiencing burnout even before the pandemic. We’ve all seen a combination, of these burnout symptoms in our co-workers or maybe you’re experiencing it personally.

  1. Cynicism manifests in many ways. How often have we seen nurses refer to their patients by the room number? Referring to them as room numbers rather than their names disconnects nurses from the person. Sometimes it’s because nurses are overwhelmed by the amount of patients they may have. Sometimes it may be because nurses are dissociating from their patients. Other examples of cynicism include: lack of empathy for patient requests, thoughts, and emotions, and feelings of jadedness with the profession, tasks at hand, with patients, or among fellow nurses.
  2. Exhaustion in nurses can be a result of lack of sleep or time off from work. Nurses are often overworked by being worked to the bone with little to no time to rest or recharge. Exhausted nurses can lead to errors in medication administration and documentation.
  3. Reduced personal accomplishment and lack of motivation can leave nurses feeling stuck in their jobs or profession. Feelings of redundancy, boredom, or indifference all contribute to nurse burnout. Nurses often feel hopeless in their current situation or feel the need to try something new like travel nursing, going back to school, or leaving the nursing profession completely

Overworking is Dangerous

With nursing units combating staffing shortages due to increases in patient acuity and censuses, nurses are being asked to come into work on their days off, to help their fellow nurses so that patients are taken care of. Sometimes nurses agree to working overtime, not only for the financial benefit, but also from guilt of leaving their co-workers high and dry because we can all relate to how difficult it is to work short-staffed.

Bedside nursing, is a taxing profession requiring clinicians to work long hours in high stress environments. Adding to nurse burnout is not only the stress of patient care, but also:

  • Inefficiency in delivering quality nursing care related to workarounds or systems that are archaic or broken.
  • Environments with low team morale, management, and administration that undervalues the nurse as a person.
  • Lack of time-off from work to heal, rest, and recharge.
  • Under appreciation from fellow co-workers, management, administration, patients, and their loved ones.

We face mortality, humanity, and disease on a daily basis, and this is not a normal human experience. The traumas experienced day-to-day stack up and initially affect our mental well-being of nurses.  It’s no wonder that nurses experience chronic stress, anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

How to Prevent Nurse Burnout

The first step in combating nursing burnout is to recognize and be aware that you’re experiencing the symptoms of burnout. Burnout manifests in everyone differently, but it’s easy to recognize when nurses are short with one another, unenthusiastic at work, frustrated or upset easily, and feel of dissatisfied. These feelings are often projected onto the loved ones of nurses.

Tips to Restoring your Mental Health

Most nurses think it is acceptable to be overworked, feel underappreciated, and undervalued in the workplace, but this is a professional culture that we MUST change in order to positively impact patient care, improve staff retention, and mental well-being.

Here are some tips to help prevent nurse burnout:

  • Be self-aware of your exhaustion, stress levels, lack of empathy and know it is normal and okay to admit that you are burnt out.
  • Set boundaries between your work life and personal life. It’s okay to say “no” to picking up extra shifts, being part of “work committees,” or speaking up when you have an unsafe assignment.
  • Self-reflection and meditation. Take a moment to stop and breathe.
  • Engage in healthy activities and diet.
  • Seek interpersonal relationships and support within your co-workers, friends and family.
  • Find support groups where you can truly express your thoughts, concerns, feelings.
  • Explore employee assistance programs.

Find a New Path: Travel Nursing

If you find yourself burnt out at your current staff job with feelings of exhaustion, cynicism, and lacking personal accomplishment, maybe travel nursing could be the answer in how to prevent nurse burnout.

More and more nurses are turning to travel nursing to help prevent or heal the symptoms of burnout. While travel nursing isn’t necessarily the answer to the root of burnout, it does provide nurses with several pros to a more fulfilling professional and personal life.

So many Benefits!

Travel nursing affords you many benefits, flexibility, more control over your career and your health!

  • Freedom to live in and explore new places. The mentality set forth by travel nurses is one of excitement with fresh new eyes for every experience to be had and every site to be seen.
  • Broaden your knowledge on how different facilities/upper management operate and focus on nursing care vs. facility politics. Since travel nurses are temporary team members, investment in units’ constantly changing policies and politics is something that travel nurses have the luxury to bypass.
  • Work anywhere from an average of 4-13+ week assignments. Sometimes when we’re feeling stuck, a change is just the thing we need to get us out of a rut. Many travel nurses can attest to the change in pace with travel nursing to help prevent burnout. With a light at the end of the tunnel and constant novelty professionally and personally, travel nurses may seldom experience burnout.
  • Take time off between assignments to recharge and give yourself a restorative break.

Taking Care of your Mental Health

Travel nursing is exciting, but one of the most common challenges we face is loneliness. Travel nurses commonly have difficulty with finding a sense of community or close interpersonal relationships within their new city or assignment. Because the travel nurse lifestyle is transient and temporary, finding a close community poses a big challenge for many.

Travel nurses usually find each other through orientation or social media. Depending on how remote the area travel nurses are in, this may pose another obstacle to finding community. A positive travel nurse experience can be enhanced or hindered by having someone to relate and experience things with. The unique lifestyle is one that very few people truly understand like another traveler nurse can.

Build your Community

Having strong ties to a travel nurse community helps mitigate feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression and support mental wellness. Two travel nurses, Emily Cheng and Ryan Cogdill felt this loneliness.  Their experiences led them to create MedVenture App, a mobile app that provides community and resources to empower traveling healthcare professionals, no matter where they travel to.

MedVenture believes that alone travel nurses are strong, but together we are unstoppable. And the loneliness, anxiety, and depression sometimes experienced as travel nurses shouldn’t be experienced without someone who’s there to tell you that you’re not alone in the journey. The travel nurse journey isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but MedVenture App gives travel nurses personal support by connecting you to other travel nurses in your area. Having a travel buddy and friend to lean on makes all the difference to prevent nurse burnout.

Check out MedVenture App and download MedVenture for free on both the iOS and Android app stores!

Thank you to Kamana partners Emily Cheng and Ryan Cogdill, MedVenture co-founders, for contributing the content of this blog. Mental health, burnout, and community support are topics that need to be acknowledged and discussed more often.

About Emily Cheng, BSN, RN, CCRN-CSC

Emily Cheng is a CVICU traveling nurse born and raised in New York. She has been a travel nurse for 2.5 years and has been travel nursing in Napa & San Francisco, California, Seattle, Washington, and Oahu, Hawai’i. She is the co-founder for MedVenture App, an app to unite all traveling healthcare professionals. Having experienced loneliness, confusion, and frustration in scattered resources, she is excited about how MedVenture will help her fellow travelers and empower travelers to come. When she’s not at the hospital or working on MedVenture, you can find her hiking, backpacking, or enjoying the outdoors in some capacity!

About Ryan Cogdill, BSN, RN

Ryan Cogdill is a PCU traveling nurse from Fresno, California. He has been a traveling nurse for 7 years and has been to Guam, Maui, Austin, Denver, Seattle, and San Luis Obispo. He is currently working in Honolulu, HI and is going to California for a crisis assignment next month. Ryan has a passion for the travel community, co-founding and creating the platform, MedVenture, an app designed to inform, unite and create community for all traveling healthcare professionals. On his days off you can find him outdoors camping, hiking or biking.

Download the free MedVenture app for iOS and Android.

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