The Road Warrior's Guide to Surviving the Holidays
By Megan Murdock Krischke, contributor
Working as a travel nurse offers the opportunity to explore new places, learn about new cultures and experience new customs. Travel nursing over the holidays adds a celebratory flair to these experiences.
Mindy Martinez, BSN, RN, ACLS, BLS, worked travel nursing jobs for 11 years and has spent the holidays in cities across the United States.
“I love seeing how every city does things differently. Every city has its own traditions and I enjoy learning to embrace them, and also all the different cultures. I have learned about Hanukkah and Kwanza--which I didn’t hear much about where I grew up in Utah,” she reflected. “New York is so festive, Chicago has great parades, and it was comical to see decorations with Santa on a surfboard in Hawaii.”
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Rebecca Kjolberg, RN, a traveler with American Mobile Healthcare, loved the glamour of New York City at Christmas. “My husband and I walked the streets until we had blisters looking at all the store windows, like Macy’s and Saks 5th Avenue, all decorated for Christmas. We got to see where "Miracle on 34th Street" was filmed and ride an old wooden escalator. They roast chestnuts out on the streets. We even got to see the Rockettes!” During one holiday season when Kjolberg was working at Stanford University Medical Center, they also took a tip to see the Nutcracker ballet in San Francisco.
Certainly the hardest part of travel nursing over the holidays is being away from family.
“It was really hard the first time or two,” remarked Kjolberg. “But, now that we can talk to our kids and grandkids on video conferencing, it is a lot easier. We get to see them dressed up for their holiday recitals and hear all about it afterwards. Since I can’t be there to make a big meal and help with the preparations, I always send grocery store gift certificates so that our kids will get together and celebrate. I like knowing they are together even if I can’t be with them.”
Martinez suggests inviting family to come visit you so they can join in some of your new experiences. If they aren't able to join you, she recommends keeping some of your traditions, even if you are away from home.
“I like to get a live Christmas tree, even if it is a baby tree to fit in my apartment and to go and look at Christmas lights. There is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that really does it up with all the lights,” she said.
“I find it helps to keep busy when I am missing my family,” stated Kjolberg. “Don’t just stay home. We like to find a great buffet so that we get all of our favorite holiday treats without having to cook them. You often find out about the best things to do by word of mouth. When we were in South Bend, Ind., everyone told us we had to visit the Amish bakeries and see the Christmas trees with different themes.”
Tips for enjoying the holidays, wherever you are
Along the lines of keeping busy, one of Martinez’s tips for surviving the holidays away from home is to get involved with volunteering.
“It allows you to give back to the community you are visiting, and you often get to know people and places you wouldn’t otherwise,” she noted.
In addition to volunteering, Martinez offers these additional holiday tips for travel nurses:
• Show the holiday spirit to your patients since they also can’t be with their families;
• Make your workplace festive and join in activities on your unit;
• Make your living space homey--bring a couple of holiday decorations from home if you can;
• Keep in regular contact with your family;
• Be adventurous--go ice skating, join holiday-themed MeetUps, etc.;
• Bond with other nurse travelers and make plans to celebrate the holidays together or share your individual holiday traditions
Stay safe while you’re on the road
And if you’re driving between assignments or just back and forth to work, don’t forget these important tips for navigating the winter roads:
• Keep your gas tank at least half full at all times
• Keep extra blankets, coats, gloves and hats in the car
• To avoid skidding, accelerate and decelerate slowly
• Allow extra time and distance to stop on icy roads
• Get your car winterized and ensure that you have good brakes and tires
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