Caring for your patients on a daily basis is often fulfilling, but it can also come with a few hard-to-swallow pills, such as feelings of stress, low moods, and poor concentration. As such, nurse mental health is a top priority within the healthcare industry.
Before you solidify your next assignment with your travel nurse recruiter and prepare to take on the responsibility of caring for others, it’s important to understand what combination of self-care, behaviors, and emotional support you need to take care of yourself. This knowledge is particularly critical to travel nurses who experience regular location changes and job transitions on top of daily stressors in their respective nursing practice.
Below we’ll take a look at common causes of poor nurse mental health and steps you can take to prioritize your mental health needs while on the road and on the floor.
Do Nurses Struggle With Mental Health?
In a nutshell, yes. Struggles with mental health in nursing professionals are fairly common. The daily physical and emotional strain of nursing has led to higher-than-average rates of poor mental health among nurses.
If your needs aren’t being properly met and you constantly find yourself feeling tired, frustrated, or upset after a long shift, you may be experiencing poor mental health. This can include:
- Anxiety and stress1
- Job burnout associated with emotional exhaustion and depersonalization2
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Sleep disorders
Additionally, a recent study by the International Council of Nurses found that 70% of nurses experience burnout.3
What Are the Most Prevalent Causes of Mental Health Issues in Nurses Today?
Workplace pressures are nothing new in nursing, but recent trends in the healthcare sector have exacerbated the mental toll experienced on a daily basis. As a travel nurse, you may be entering hospitals and clinics that are understaffed, overwhelmed, or lacking resources.
And it’s your responsibility to quickly learn hospital protocols and tend to patients effectively and efficiently. That being said, common frustrations that a registered nurse regularly encounters include:
- Work demands including overload, understaffing, long shifts, and time pressure,1,4
- Psychological demands of dealing with mortality and patients in pain, fear, and distress
- Workplace violence and aggression from patients and visitors
- Poor relationships with administrators and role ambiguity
- Risk of exposure to infectious diseases
- Errors in the execution of labor activities, leading to pain and injury
Naturally, these circumstances can often lead anyone in their nursing practice to feel overwhelmed, worried, or distracted.
Why Are Nurses Experiencing More Stress Than Usual Today?
In 2020, COVID-19 took a large toll on health care workers. Isolation from friends and family and exposure to patients with poor outcomes led to anxiety, burnout, depression, moral distress, and PTSD in nurses. As a result of the pandemic, we’ve seen:
- More nurses retiring early and leaving the profession
- Short-term shortages related to nurses contracting COVID-19
- Hospitals and clinics unprepared for broad infectious disease treatment
- Shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- High risk of COVID-19 exposure causing fear of mortality and serious illness
- Influx of patients beyond the capacity of many nursing care environments and staff coverage
The combination of more patients and fewer nurses has created unprecedented work overload and understaffing in many facilities.
Why Is Mental Health So Important for Travel Nurses?
Travel nurses encounter the stressors associated with a traditional nursing career as well as regular job changes, location switches, and interruptions in their social networks. Unfortunately, without the proper resources and emotional support, healthcare workers, including travel nurses, can experience poor mental health as a result.
When moving away from friends, family members, therapists, or a favorite gym, you’re suddenly without the people, places, and activities that you’ve relied on to enrich your life and provide structure and support. As such, it’s essential that travel nurses find a community or team that can assist them through difficult times and provide them with the necessary mental health support.
What Are Ways to Cope With Mental Health Issues as a Travel Nurse?
When discussing mental health and nursing, it’s essential to note the importance of establishing a supportive network that can listen and help you avoid travel nurse burnout and assist along your journey. As a travel nurse, there are resources available that provide counseling and mental health services surrounding:
- Legal matters
- Weight management
Online therapy platforms can also create space for nurses to speak to licensed therapists in a pressure-free environment. However, there are also additional resources available to those healthcare workers who aren’t yet ready to speak out about a mental health problem they are facing with a trusted professional.
In addition to therapy and counseling, you can promote your emotional and mental well-being with the following practices:
- Meditating or performing breathing exercises
- Caring for your senses with calming music, scented candles, or colorful decor
- Connecting with nature by gardening, visiting local parks, or hiking
- Moving in a way that incites joy, such as yoga, walking, or dancing
- Calling, video chatting, or sending snail mail to long-distance friends and family
- Initiating new connections with colleagues, neighbors, or activity-based acquaintances
- Knowing and monitoring your signs of stress
Mental Health Support With Host Healthcare
If you’re looking to bolster your travel nursing career with a network of supportive team members, we’re here to help. Our goal is to help you succeed and thrive in a variety of travel nursing jobs, and that includes supporting your work-life balance and setting you up with tools to promote your mental wellbeing.
Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a free resource that provides travelers enrolled in a medical plan through Host Healthcare with individual and family counseling, online therapy platform Talkspace, and additional resources to ensure you’re walking through those hospital doors each day feeling your very best.
In addition to our assistance program, our team works with our travelers to:
- Work on placement that supports your professional development and career goals, as well as physical and mental health needs
- Organize the practical aspects of relocating and getting settled in a new home
- Provide ongoing coaching
- Advocate for your mental health
Apply to be a traveler with Host Healthcare today and embark on your next journey in providing excellent patient care with confidence.
Hannah Wilson, BSN, RN, CCRN
Nursing Specialty: M/SICU, PreOp
I began my career as a new graduate nurse in an M/SICU where I ended up working for 5 years, one year of which I was a Team Leader. In January of 2020, I took my first travel nursing position in a Burn ICU. After 13 weeks there, I spent the next 14 months in a couple of Medical/COVID ICUs in CA where I primarily cared for COVID patients. After 7 years in the ICU, I needed a change and took a permanent position in PreOp in September of 2021, which is where I currently work. Being a nurse have given me so many opportunities and has taught me more than I ever thought it could – I can’t imagine doing anything else!
- Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health. Nursing Staff Members Mental’s Health and Factors Associated with the Work Process: An Integrative Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5278561/
- Google Scholar. Effects of the workplace social context and job content on nurse burnout. https://scholar.google.com/scholar_lookup?journal=Hum.+Resour.+Manage.&title=Effects+of+the+workplace+social+context+and+job+content+on+nurse+burnout.&author=J.S.+Lee&author=S.+Akhtar&volume=50&issue=2&publication_year=2011&pages=227-245&doi=10.1002/hrm.20421&
- American Nurse. The Dauntless Nurse: Had Enough Yet? The latest on nurse burnout. https://www.myamericannurse.com/my-nurse-influencers-the-dauntless-nurse-nurse-burnout/
- Minority Nurse. 11 Reasons Nurses Are Stressed Out. https://minoritynurse.com/11-reasons-nurses-are-stressed-out/