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Travelling nurse and loneliness
Travel nursing/midwifery sounds fun and exciting, but it’s not until you get to your contract and spend time alone that you realise, it can be quite a lonely gig. I am writing this blog, as a travel nurse myself, who has experienced all the waves of emotions that come along with travel nursing/midwifery, and unfortunately, loneliness is one of those emotions – but it’s not a bad thing!
The first wave of emotions I feel for all my contract placements once I have signed a new contract agreement is a nervousness and excitement all at the same time. I pack my suitcase (guaranteed to always forget to pack something), say goodbye to my loved ones, and check my travel itinerary that was sent from Healthcare Australia. I’m filled with so many emotions. As I was starting this new incredible chapter of ‘travel nursing’ (aka rural remote nursing), I didn’t realise that not only is it an incredible decision professionally as a nurse/midwife (as you learn so many fantastic skills such as being adaptable in new environments, learn new skills, learn to seek out equipment and learn policies/procedures like a ninja the more places you go) but also, an amazing decision for me personally.
I discovered a huge personal growth aspect of travel nursing, as I was always being ‘pushed’ outside my comfort zone, which is remarkable for self-growth. The main thing that pushed me out of my comfort zone was being ‘alone’. We get so used to having people we know around us and talk to, whether it’s colleagues, acquaintances, friends, family and/or loved ones, that when you do go into these new environments, it can be very lonely not having those support networks around us.
You’re in a new town, new environment, and new workspace, and your whole world has shifted, and the social aspect is a shocker for us all. Depending on your situation with the contract you have chosen, some people may suffer bouts of loneliness more so than others. You might be really remote. You might not have a housemate. You might be placed in accommodation on your own or with new housemates. And you sit there, in silence, with only you and your thoughts and then all of a sudden, it hits you. The loneliness begins to creep in.
I didn’t realise or anticipate that the loneliness factor would hit so hard. So here I am, writing an article about it to let you know, we all go through it, and you are not alone. It might not happen right away because you’re so busy arriving at your contract, getting your roster, meeting the team and settling into your accommodation. Sometimes it will hit the first night, or your first day off, or two weeks later, but all of us do experience the emotion of loneliness during this kind of work.
Remember, loneliness is an emotion that everyone has experienced in their life and it’s an emotion that is important to go through. Being lonely allows us to reassess things about ourselves that we have never noticed before and it also can really push us out of our comfort zones. Being forced to enjoy your own company – brings up a lot of difficult emotions. Maybe you have never truly had a chance to sit there and enjoy your own company, but I promise you, the growth it can do for you as an individual is incredible.
Here are some tips and tricks I have done over the years to battle the lonely feeling, and I’ve asked other nurses in the community for ideas too:
Join the community Facebook groups
There have been Facebook groups in every contract I have personally been to. If you’re in a REALLY small, remote town, there will be a ‘region’ one at least. This can give information on events, and you can usually post into the groups asking for info on the town, best eating spots, walking tracks etc. Facebook has a new feature where you can post something ‘anonymously’ if you don’t want your personal Facebook page on the group asking questions etc
Go out to the local cafés for breakfast or lunch
This is a great, easy way to explore your town. We’ve all gotta eat, right? So why not take yourself out on a little date in the meantime, you might even chat with some locals. Most smaller towns will notice you’re new and might strike up a conversation. I always mention I am new to the area and ask for advice on things to do etc.
Join the local gym
You can discuss with the gym how long your contract is, and most of the time, they will have a week-week, 1-month or 3-month membership option available. This is a great way to focus on yourself, get healthy, explore the town and also, a way to meet people. Download some podcasts (listen to ‘For The Health Of It’ by Healthcare Australia) and work out!
Google the spots to explore
Google is everyone’s best friend. You can find out SO much! Before I do any contract, I google it like crazy and create a note section on my phone of all the things I’ve researched and that I would love to do. I then tick them off as I go.
Most spots will have some kind of walking track to do. This isn’t applicable to everyone of course, as some places can be extremely rural, so I understand this is always for everyone. But still, going for some kind of walking track is a great way to explore, so even if you are really remote, you can still at least go for a walk.
Mingle with your colleagues
Friendliness goes a long way! I know we are ultra-nervous when starting these contracts, but don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues about things to do on your time off. If you get invited to something, then DO IT. But also, as a side note, if they don’t invite you to personal things, do not take this to heart. After doing this for so long, sometimes hospitals that have agency staff constantly come and go, sometimes they find it draining at times to invite people along as they know they will be leaving. So don’t be upset if sometimes staff don’t go out of their way to invite you along to things, but if they do, then absolutely do it! I guarantee you won’t regret it
Mingle with other travel healthcare workers (nurses/midwives/AINs/doctors/allied health)
We have a Facebook group for HCA rural remote nurses (join it)! I personally would take a photo and be like “YAY I made it to __________” and then ask if any other nurses/midwives/AINS are there on contract at the moment. If they are, GREAT! I have a friend (everyone in team purple is family). I’ve met LOADS of friends that way. Also, when on shift, if you see other agency nurses, hit them up and ask if they would like to do lunch/dinner or go for an adventure around town! We are ALL alone remember, and we love when others reach out, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
FaceTime your friends/ family
We are so lucky with technology these days. We have the chance to do calls and video calls! Make sure to do this with loves ones so you feel more connected while you are away
Reach out to your consultant
Flick an email to your consultant if you’re feeling lonely. If you feel like a call to perk yourself up, let them know your schedule and that you would love a call when they do have some free time. They’ll be happy to set aside some time for a chat.
Employee assistance program for travelling nurse
This is for EVERYONE! You have the option of a phone call or video call as part of this service (as face-to-face won’t be applicable in your location). You can call to book or even book online! It’s that simple. This is all covered while being a Healthcare Australia employee.
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