Three Tips to De-stress After Your Nursing Shift


By Aaron Moore, MSN, RN-BC, travel nurse expert

Aaron Moore
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November 18, 2014 - A 12-hour nursing shift can take it out of you. There is a lot of recent research looking into 8- vs. 12-hour shifts and what the impact on safety and burnout truly is. I personally love my 12-hour shifts, three days a week. But no matter how long you work or what side of the debate you are on, you have to admit our job is stressful and we all need to wind down after a long shift.

As a traveler, especially a new one, that can be harder at first. You don’t have the core group at work or that support system at home to vent to about your day. Over time you will meet people, though, and other travelers and staff will certainly empathize. After all, the places may change, but the patients stay very much the same.  (CHF is CHF no matter if you’re taking care of it in California or Colorado.)

So, as you are settling in to your new hometown, here are a few tricks to facilitate your downtime and de-stress after your nursing shift:

Before you leave, wash your hands--both literally and figuratively. That may sound like common practice, getting clean before going home. But, honestly, I wrote a paper on this for my bachelor’s degree and I stand by my hypothesis. The evidence that it works is mostly anecdotal, but give it a try: as the last thing you do before you check out for the day, go and wash your hands. As you’re doing it, think back about your shift, especially what bothered you, then wash it away. You can’t take that stuff home with you in nursing. It just won’t work.

Phone a friend. It’s so important to have someone who you can talk to and will let you vent when needed. Bottling up stress only leads to an explosion of some type. Family is great for general support and encouragement, but I always recommend someone in the healthcare field. They understand our oddities and the stuff we see. So if your mom is a nurse, I’d say you’re set!

Find out where the locals hang out. Going out after work is a great way to de-stress, and hanging out with co-workers outside of work is also a great way to build relationships. Every unit has its place, so inquire about where to go. In bigger cities there are usually so many travelers at the large hospitals that they may even have their own hangout. When I was in San Diego, this was the case, and every Monday night we met at a little sports bar near the apartment where we all lived. It was great to meet people and just relax.

Take my word for it: travel nursing is great, but nursing can be stressful wherever you go. We all need to de-stress after work. As Samuel Shem says in his famous fiction novel about healthcare, “Fishing for fun, and running for health.” Take time for yourself, de-stress appropriately and enjoy the adventure of travel nursing.

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