Whether you’re a nurse working long shift hours, a travel nurse on assignment far from home, or even just beginning to look for a travel RN position, being separated from your family can be emotional and exhausting. Missing holidays, milestones, or simple family time together isn’t easy for anyone.
But with some planning and a few tried-and-true tricks, you can turn your time away into something meaningful for all of you.
Not only does your family provide support, guidance, and love, but staying connected with them via phone call, social media, or video chatting can actually keep you physically healthy.1 So if you’re wondering how to stay in touch while in travel healthcare, whether you are medical assistant vs nurse vs doctor, read on for our 9 best tips to feel the family love when endless shift hours or long miles keep you apart.
Tips for Before You Head Out the Door
Before you ever set foot outside your family home, you can lay the groundwork for a positive separation by communicating with your family members with intention and compassion.
#1 Talk About It
It doesn’t matter if you’re a newlywed, a parent of young children, or a single professional whose pets, parents, and siblings are at home, you need to communicate with your family exactly what your absence will consist of.
Sharing the details of your separation with them will give everyone the timeline and framework they need to make sense of your absence. Some of the things you should share include:
- Why you will be gone
- Where you’re going
- How long you’ll be gone
- How you will travel
- Where you will be staying
- What you’ll be doing
#2 Make a Plan
Once your family understands the details of your impending absence, you can make a plan for how you will stay in touch during the hours and days apart. Letting them know that you will reach out through call, text message, and/or emailing regularly will help alleviate some of the apprehension they might be feeling about your departure.
However, your plans need to be flexible enough that if they get changed, no one feels disappointed. It might be tempting to say, “I’ll call every night at 6 p.m. and we’ll video chat on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.” But, remember, things come up. You don’t want your family waiting nervously for your call while you’re handling a work emergency.
Instead, say to your family, “I will do my best to call you every single day. Sometimes it might be early and sometimes it might be late. If I miss my call, just know I’m thinking about you.” While you’re away, you can also send text messages to your loved ones or maybe a close friend to share updates, let them know that you’re okay, and check in with any family members who may be missing you a little more than usual.
#3 Leave Something Important at Home
Do you have a favorite sweatshirt or a pillow that you love? As great as it is to have that comfort item with you on assignment, it might be even better to leave it for a loved one to cuddle. Especially for small children, having something with your scent on it will comfort them when they are missing you.2
Tips for While You’re Away
For a few people, the build-up to departure is the hardest time. For most, though, the actual absence is the hardest. Luckily, we have some ways to stay in touch with family to help you and your loved ones transition easily.
#4 Use Technology
Today’s technology can keep families connected across time and distance. Most people have smartphones, tablets, and computers that can access a program or an app to help them feel connected even when they’re miles apart.
Before you leave, check that you and your family have compatible technology. Do a little tutorial so that everyone knows how to access and use the agreed-upon apps. Some modes of communication that you should consider include:
- Text messaging
- Chatting with apps like:
- Video calling
- Google Hangout
- Blends of video call, group chats, and texting
#5 Mail Something
It doesn’t have to be big, but a postcard or a little gift in the mail will brighten your family’s day. Similarly, if you are going to be at a location where you can receive mail, a handwritten surprise from home will warm you immeasurably, especially after a long shift.
#6 Bring Them to You
This isn’t always feasible, but bringing your family to you for a few days or a long weekend can transform separation into an anticipated vacation. Plus it’ll give you and your loved ones time to reconnect and spend some quality time together—whether that’s wrapping yourself in your hotel’s finest robes and gorging on local delicacies while watching your favorite movies or tv show series, or getting outside to explore local attractions. This can also help to keep a strong relationship with your long distance family.
After You Return
Sometimes the reunion can be the hardest part. If you’ve been away for a while or if you missed a major milestone, it can take a little time to reconnect with your family and friends and return to a sense of normalcy.
#7 Do Something Fun Together
Having something special to do together as soon as you return will give everyone an event to look forward to as well as soften any feelings of anxiety or angst. This doesn’t have to be a major or expensive event (although that certainly would work, too). Just going to a movie, hanging out in the park, or taking a hike together can be a fun way to reconnect with a family member.
#8 Bring a Little Gift
Pulling a little surprise from your backpack or luggage will make both of you feel warm. Again, don’t think big—think creative! Complimentary hotel shampoo bottles are fun and interesting for children, plus it gives them a little insight into where you have been. Keyrings, magnets, and postcards are inexpensive and easy to find but they will show your extended family lots of love. Also, looking for these little gifts while you’re away will help you visualize your return.
#9 Don’t Guilt Yourself
No matter where you go or how long you are gone, remind yourself that your career is important. Family separation is normal and, with a little bit of planning, it doesn’t need to be strenuous. Just be sure that while you’re caring for your patients and your family that you’re caring for yourself, too. Furthermore, if you are an RN returning to practice, this can be an overwhelming time for you to manage learning new requirements and being away from home, so give yourself some time to adjust.
Let Host Healthcare Help
At Host Healthcare we want your experience as a travel nurse to be positive for you and your family. We pledge to always do our utmost to find you the best, high-paying jobs to make your separation worthwhile.
Apply with us today to join an award-winning staff of healthcare professionals dedicated to making a difference in the lives of all those we care about. We’ll work with you to find the best opportunities for you and your family so you can continue to build meaningful relationships near and far.
Natalie Red Eagle, MSN, RN
Nursing Specialty: Labor & Delivery, Postpartum
I started as a new graduate nurse in San Diego, CA on a medical/surgical/oncology unit. After finishing the 40 week new graduate program, I transitioned onto a cardiac step down unit. Here I cared for patients before and after cardiac surgery and patients recovering from cerebral vascular accidents. While I loved this specialty, my passion has always been women’s health. My next move was to the Maternal Child Health program where I have been for almost 5 years as a labor and delivery and postpartum nurse. I have the privledge of assisting families during some of the most memorable times of their lives.
- Compass. “The Importance of Family Ties.” WebMD, April 16, 2017, https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/guide/family-support#3
- Leahy, Meghan. How to Stay Close to Kids When Work Requires Lots of Travel. The Washington Post, September 3, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/on-parenting/how-to-stay-close-to-kids-when-work-requires-lots-of-travel/2014/09/02/8c5bbb18-2c6e-11e4-994d-202962a9150c_story.html