Getting paid to travel and help people? What could be better than that? Travel nursing is an alluring career option with its flexible schedule, high pay, and other benefits. But is travel nursing the best decision for your career long-term?
Like every job, travel nursing has pros and cons, and there’s a lot to consider before deciding. I recently had the chance to discuss this topic with Jerome Alacre, Director of Nursing (DON) at Vista Manor Nursing Center, a Generations Healthcare facility in San Jose, CA. Before becoming a DON, Alacre worked as a travel nurse from 2013 to 2016, traveling to 13 states. Throughout his career journey, Alacre learned three important lessons that are helpful to anyone debating whether to become a travel nurse or dedicate themselves to a singular facility:
1. You Have Less Support
As a travel nurse, you make big adjustments every time you move to a new facility. With new systems, people, policies, and procedures, there’s much to figure out with each move!
Because he was only in each facility for a short time as a travel nurse, Alacre felt less support in this role than he did staying with a facility long-term. Additionally, he thought that long-term employees were given higher priority while he was often left with more complicated tasks or transferred between units more frequently.
On the other hand, when Alacre became a nurse dedicated to a single SNF, he saw a huge change in how he was treated. “Because they knew me better,” he say, “upper management was better able to understand my needs and help me progress in my career. Even though the recent pandemic was a challenge, I still felt support from all who surrounded me at Generations Healthcare.”
2. More Difficulty Focusing on the Future
Travel nursing is an excellent option for those who are younger, more active, want experience, and want to see other parts of the country. However, because travel nurses are always on the go and never know where they will end up next, travel nursing can make it difficult to plan and focus on future career goals.
“In the long run, I didn’t see the position as a permanent job,” Alacre says. “As I got older, I decided it was better to settle down in one location and focus on my plans and goals. So once I settled down at one SNF, I finally had time to sit down, focus on my future, and set goals.”
3. Great Opportunity to Gain Experience
As a travel nurse, you get to meet many different people and learn a lot from different facilities around the country. With that in mind, Alacre is grateful for his time in this position. “My experience as a travel nurse has enabled me to perform better in my current role as a DON,” he says. “Because of my exposure to many different patients and hospitals around the US, I have an easier time understanding and managing patients.” In addition, Alacre’s experience and broad clinical skills allow him to be a strong support for the whole facility.
Generations Healthcare strives to recognize and appreciate the contributions of every staff member. Alacre says, “Generations has been very vocal and appreciative of my clinical experience. In 2019, I was the winner of Generations’ Presidential Award due to the tremendous decrease in readmissions to the hospital that Vista Manor saw in relation to my clinical skills and experience developed from travel nursing.”
Travel nursing has its perks. Depending on where you are in your career journey, it could be a great option to gain some valuable experience before settling down at one facility. Alacre is very grateful for his time as a travel nurse and has no regrets about his career.
If you are in a position where you want to travel and gain experience, consider travel nursing. If you prefer to have more support and focus on your future, consider choosing a facility where you can settle down. To see examples of the benefits available for staff nurses in skilled nursing facilities, visit lifegen.net/career.
Think about the last time you visited a hospital or doctor’s office. Chances are, it was the nurse who offered support, comfort, or answered your questions. Nurses handle a lot of responsibility every day. Unfortunately, shouldering that responsibility is stressful. Research has found that 38.4% of registered nurses over the age of 30 experience burnout and feelings of frustration, anger, and irritation. For registered nurses under the age of 30, the percentage rises to 43.6%.
It’s evident that nurses are feeling the pressures of providing the best care possible for their patients. So, as we honor our nurses during National Nurses Week, May 6-12, it’s important to remember that the greatest gift you can give yourself while you care for others is to take the time to care for yourself. An important step in self-care is controlling stress.
When you feel stress working overtime on your well-being, here are five ways to control the dangers of stress before it controls you.
1. Get organized.
In an environment dictated by the need to react, nurses have to deal with many interruptions, many of which can’t be helped. “However, there are many interruptions that are not so important,” Catherine Bynes says. “Interruptions like long non-work related chats with other staff members, checking non-work email, or other non-essential tasks can get you off track quickly.” Taking as little as fifteen minutes before your shift begins makes a big difference in examining the day.
2. Be physically fit.
Let’s be honest; Are nurses really short on exercise? However, working on your feet all day does require some relief. “We bring in a massage therapist for students and staff every few weeks where they can receive a 15-minute neck and upper back massage,” says Julie Aiken, CEO of Ameritech College of Healthcare. She added that faculty and staff could participate in weekly yoga sessions, daily group walks, and both students and staff are encouraged to use essential oils to help with stress relief.
3. Get some quality sleep.
At this very moment, a resounding “hah” is rippling through the throngs of nursing students. Quality sleep? Not in this world. But the need for restful sleep has a profound effect on your health and work performance. Experts suggest creating a nightly routine that prepares your body for relaxation and rest. Don’t load up on snacks or caffeine, and make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. If stressful thoughts keep you up at night, the American Nurses Association says to keep a notebook by your bed. If anxiety is keeping you awake, write those feelings down and let them go until morning.
4. Improve communication skills.
Poor listening or communication skills leads to misunderstandings and mistakes, which almost always results in chaos and stressful situations. Studies show that, yes, you do have time to concentrate your attention on a physician’s or coworker’s instructions or a patient’s concerns.
Good communication improves the quality of care provided to patients. “The best expertise training and continuing education of nurses in matters relating to the proper technique of communications will enable them to respond adequately and humanely to the expectations of patients,” Dr. Lambrini Kourkouta, and Ioanna V. Papathanasiou, RN, MSc, PhD, conclude in a study published by the National Institutes of Health. By reducing the risks of mishaps caused by miscommunication, nurses can experience increased levels of satisfaction in their work.
5. Keep things in perspective.
It’s been a bad day. Not a bad life, or a bad world, or even a bad career choice. When bad things happen, it’s tempting to allow those feelings to take over your entire day—but, don’t.
People depend on you for your knowledge, abilities, patience, and empathy. So when those feelings of discouragement settle in, it’s time to divert them. In a profession that requires constant caring for others, leadership expert Dan Rockwell says to let someone care for you for a change. “Hang with positive people or schedule time to do more of what you love.”
Every health care facility relies on its nursing staff to keep the doors open, so while today may have been rough, or the lessons from the latest mistake may be painful, you are providing a service that keeps the health care process moving.
As we celebrate National Nurses Week, let’s develop healthy habits that will sustain us long after the celebration is over. By developing strong organizational and communicative habits, and maintaining physical and mental toughness, we can reduce the strains of stress while contributing a healthy dose of excellence to our profession.
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