Crucial Skills for Travel Nurses Dealing With COVID-19

COVID-19 travel nurses play a critical role in healthcare

By Lee Soren, contributor

In many ways, COVID-19 has completely altered the landscape of nursing. RNs and other healthcare practitioners are standing on the front lines in the war against this novel coronavirus, working long shifts in hazardous conditions to treat critically ill patients. 

Travel nurses are playing a particularly important role during the crisis, bringing much-needed manpower to hospitals suffering from a shortage of RNs, and they're discovering the need for a special skill set to deal with COVID-19 patients. 

Below you'll find four crucial skills every COVID-19 travel nurse needs to have in their repertoire to ensure effective patient care and mitigate risks to their personal health.

1. Adaptability

Due to the exceptional demands created by the current health crisis, travel nurses may be asked to step into high-stress environments with little to no time to acclimate to a new facility or learn its policies and procedures. 

Although travel nurses are generally known for their adaptability, these extraordinary demands can strain your ability to cope. Thankfully, there are ways you can learn to adapt. During stressful circumstances, Forbes Magazine suggests that simply changing your mindset can make a big difference. By accepting uncertainty as a given, you open yourself up to the potential to overcome obstacles, setting yourself up for success in a constantly changing environment.

2. Effective communication

If you're a COVID-19 travel nurse, it's more important than ever to demonstrate effective communication skills. Whether you're explaining the status of a loved one to a family member over the telephone or conveying vital patient information to an attending physician, you'll need to be able to communicate effectively with everyone involved.

According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, one way nurses can make sure they're effectively conveying essential information is through the SBAR technique. SBAR stands for situation-background-assessment-recommendation, four elements that form an effective framework for conversations about a patient's condition.

By framing information exchanges around these pillars, nurses can ensure that all necessary information is shared efficiently between members of a patient's healthcare team. Although this technique is generally used in conversations between practitioners, it can also be a useful way to guide difficult conversations with family members who can't be present for a face-to-face dialogue.

3. Compassion

With the chaos that COVID-19 has created in the healthcare system, it's easy to lose track of individuals, but compassion may be one of the most important skills a COVID-19 travel nurse can bring to the table. Because the infection spreads so quickly, hospitalized patients in many affected areas can't have family members at their bedsides, which leaves overworked nurses to serve in vital roles as supporters, comforters and confidantes.

During this stressful time, it's more important than ever for nurses to guard against compassion fatigue. The NIH defines compassion fatigue as a condition of psychological or physical stress that occurs in caregivers, such as nurses, as a result of demanding relationships and repeated exposure to suffering. To minimize your risk of compassion fatigue and continue to provide effective all-around patient care, be sure to take care of yourself too.

4. Self-care

Due to increased work intensity, long hours and lack of sleep caused by the current health crisis, travel RNs who are caring for COVID-19 patients may find themselves experiencing nursing fatigue or burnout. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, fatigued medical professionals can suffer a dip in cognitive performance, which can have a detrimental impact on patient safety and work efficiency.

Although it may be impossible to alter working conditions during this time, self-care skills can be important in managing stress and minimizing the risks associated with fatigue. The American Psychiatric Nurses Association suggests keeping a daily routine during nonworking hours to facilitate sleep, forming supportive relationships with colleagues who share the same traumatic experiences and engaging in mind-body activities such as yoga.

With hospitals in many affected regions impacted by COVID-19, nurses are often in demand. If you're considering a career in travel nursing to help with critical or ongoing healthcare needs, visit the career database at to find the ideal position for you.





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