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Where the Heart Is: Avoiding Homesickness in Travel Nursing

by Scott Martindale

Travel nursing provides amazing opportunities to see places and have experiences that many people do not have.  Even with all of the excitement these assignments can bring, it’s completely normal to feel a sense of homesickness when you arrive in a new place.  Republic Health Resources cares about the mental well-being of travel nurses and understands the challenges they will potentially face.

homesickness robot

The Challenge

A study conducted by the Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative found that, while the general population experiences depression at a rate of 9%, nurses experience depression at a rate of 18%.  That’s nearly one in five nurses!  Some factors which may contribute to depression in the field of nursing include long or irregular work hours, and above average pressure and stress levels in the workplace.

Travel nurses have an additional risk of depression, since they are away from friends and, sometimes, even family.  On top of that, they may start a new assignment as often as every 13 weeks, which means that they endure the stresses of getting oriented in their new position and meeting their new coworkers on a much more frequent basis than they would in a more traditional position.  So, although travel nursing can be exciting, it’s important to do what you can to make the transitions easy and bring parts of home with you!


Plan Your Down Time

Try doing some research on your new location before you arrive.  Make a list of places you would like to see, events you’d like to attend, restaurants you’d like to try, and things you’d like to do while you’re there.  Bring this list with you, and as you explore your new place and have these experiences, cross them off the list.

In addition to your list of new things to try, be proactive in finding out how to get involved with current hobbies of yours.  If you like doing yoga, find a studio with good reviews near your workplace or where you’ll be living.  If you are the creative type, sign up for an art class.  If you’re religious, find a church that will be near your new (temporary) home.  Engaging in things you would be doing at home will make you feel more at home.

suitcase packing

Pack The Important Stuff

Of course your clothing, your wallet, and your toiletries are important things.  But the important stuff we are referring to has a more personal meaning.  When you head off to your new location, you’ll want to bring memories, photos, and keepsakes from home with you.  A simple photo of your best friend or a trinket from a family member can sometimes be all you need to feel like a piece of them are there with you.  And that feeling can make all the difference in brightening your day.


Get Up, Get Out

A 2005 study found that just 35 minutes of exercise five days per week, or 60 minutes of exercise three times per week, significantly reduced symptoms of mild to moderate clinical depression.  Take advantage of the fact that you get to explore a new place and take a walk around the city center, take a dance class, or go for a bike ride in on the back roads.  Whatever moves you, remember that movement is a healthy way to combat homesickness and depression.


Your New Word Is Yes

Make a habit of saying “yes” more often in your new location.  This could mean going to a concert of a band you’ve never heard of, trying a cuisine you’ve never tasted, going hiking (or surfing, depending on your destination) for the first time, or anything else that is new and different for you.  Familiar activities are good for maintaining a sense of familiarity and habit, but it also adds to the sense of adventure to try new things once in a while.  If a co-worker asks you to do something outside of work, don’t be afraid to say YES!

books and beach

Find A Home Away from Your Home Away from Home

Going from the office to home, and back again the next day can lead to a rut and increase the chances of depression in a new place.  Instead, find another place, be it an internet café, a bookstore, or a park where you can relax and unwind.  This keeps you from feeling stuck in the same setting all the time, even if you are not busy.  Plus, it opens up the opportunity to meet people and initiate conversations.  Who knows, you may make a best friend for life or meet your soulmate!


Get One Special Thing

In each place you go, allow yourself to buy one special thing that you’ll enjoy having in your temporary home.  It will make you feel some ownership of your new place and give it a little bit of a comfortable, homey vibe.  Then, that item becomes a keepsake when you return to your own city, a little piece of your travels to take with you.  You may choose to get something unique in each city, whatever speaks to you at that moment.  Or maybe you start a collection of similar things from all different places.  The goal is that you smile when you look at it.

note book

Write Down Your Experience

Journaling can be a very cathartic experience if you are having stress at your new job or missing home.  However, it can also be a log of wonderful memories that you’ll cherish for years to come.  Whatever its purpose in your experience, maintaining a journal can be wonderfully therapeutic and help create a memory that lasts forever.

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