Staying Healthy as a Nurse: Tips from Premier Clinicians

Staying healthy as a nurse is a high priority in order to deliver the best level of patient care. Lack of sleep, spending time around sick individuals, and tough schedules pose challenges to clinicians’ health, so it’s of the utmost importance to make sure you’re taking care of yourself to stay healthy. We asked some Premier nurses their favorite ways to stay healthy at work so you can follow in their footsteps and be the best version of yourself for your patients every day.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water is key to staying healthy as a nurse. One of the best ways to stay hydrated is to find a reusable water bottle you love and make it your shift sidekick. It’s great for you and the environment, as you’re saving tons of plastic from entering landfills (yay for eco-friendly RNs)! People who carry reusable water bottles are more likely to stay hydrated. Staying hydrated can elevate your cognitive and physical health by improving your focus and digestion, minimizing headaches, speeding up muscle recovery, and boosting your immune system. If you struggle with your water intake, check out this piece of advice from Premier Med-Surg RN, Steven K.: “I pack 3 bottles of water, each with a different Crystal Light flavor. I’ve never been a big water drinker, so this is how I’m making sure I stay hydrated on shift!”

Movement is Magic

Incorporating meaningful movement before or after work is a fantastic method of staying healthy as a nurse. Research indicates that exercise improves mental health as well as boosts memory and focus, which is extremely helpful for nurses in the field. Finding an exercise group or class is a great way to stay  accountable and build friendships while getting a good workout. Premier Med-Surg RN Michelle M. says, “I ballroom dance. I do lessons about twice a week.” Jenny J., OR RN adds, “my hobby outside of work is bodybuilding. I strength train 4 times a week.” If you are interested in trying workout classes for a discount, many nurses use ClassPass to get access to gyms and fitness courses without an expensive membership. Your local community may also offer rec sports that you can join as well!

Premier RN Michelle M. ballroom dances for exercise.

Use Hygienic Best Practices (At Home, Too)

The hospital or clinic isn’t the only place you should be on top of your hygiene game. Practicing good hand washing and keeping a clean space is key to fighting colds and bugs that go around. Kaylee P., Clinic RN says, “I make sure I use good hand hygiene, wear masks when seeing known sick patients, and try to get some fresh air every day!” Some tips for fighting off germs at home are: regularly disinfecting high-touch surfaces, washing hands before sharing snacks, and cleaning your bathroom and kitchen thoroughly once a week.

Get Proper Nutrition

Proper nutrition is super important to staying healthy as a nurse. By maintaining healthy habits with a nutrient-rich diet, you will not only perform better as a nurse but also be more productive in your off time. While working a shift, it might seem easier to indulge in a sugary sweet treat for a pick-me-up, but try opting for a more nutritional snack like a granola bar or carrots and hummus. Creating healthy eating habits can continue to be something you carry throughout your career as a nurse. Felisha R., Premier OR RN warns, “stay away from greasy foods,” as they can often make you feel sluggish or less focused after eating. For some great tips on eating healthfully as a contract nurse, check out our blog post here!

Take a Break!

One of the best practices of staying healthy as a nurse is to be on top of your R&R. We know that being a nurse is just one part of your full and busy lives, so being mindful of when you need to slow down is important to avoiding burnout. Dawn S., an L&D nurse with Premier notes, “I have 4 kids, a dog, a busy household, full time job, and an aging mother. I try to vacation as often as possible.” Scheduling a relaxing vacation, or even “staycation,” is a great way to give yourself something to look forward to when the days feel long and tough. Optimize your days off to include plenty of rest, even if that just looks like binging Netflix on the couch!

How to Manage Pre- And Post-Shift Anxiety

Whether you are fresh out of nursing school or a seasoned professional, you may struggle with anxious feelings and thoughts before or after your shift. It isn’t uncommon for nurses to deal with pre- and post-shift anxiety, which can contribute to compassion fatigue and burnout. You may harbor fears around making mistakes, rejection by a patient, and inadequacy. We’re here to tell you that you’re not alone in feeling this way. In fact, many nurses report anxiety connected to going to and from their facilities for work. Here are some techniques to help reduce anxiety levels before and after shifts.

1. Incorporate Regular Exercise into Your Routine

Exercise plays a significant role in stress reduction. In the nursing profession, it is inevitable and impossible to completely eliminate stress, however, you can learn to manage it. One of the best-known tools to cope with stress and anxiety is exercise.

Aside from the obvious physical benefits, the mental benefits of exercise include:

  • Improved cognitive function
  • Improved concentration
  • More restful sleep
  • Increased mood

Exercising is a great way to show up for yourself, whether you find time for some 15-minute yoga on your lunch break or go for an outdoor jog before your shift. Even light exercise is reported to help lower feelings of anxiety. For some tips on how to incorporate exercise into your nursing routine, check out this blog article.

2. Create an Uplifting Commute to Work

The hours before work can sometimes be the toughest to navigate as a nurse. Those pre-shift jitters can lead to fear, and without proper care, they can lead to panic.

Consider keeping a list of inspiring and thought-provoking podcasts that you can listen to on your commute. You can also put together a playlist of your favorite mood-boosting tunes and play it on your way to work. Try making time on your commute to grab a special treat, like a fancy Frappuccino at the Starbucks drive-thru or a little bag of your favorite candy from the gas station. These small touches to care for and reward yourself can completely transform your pre-shift attitude.

shift anxiety

3. Keep a Journal

Many nurses recommend keeping a journal to jot down details of your workday when you get home from your shift. When you engage in journaling or other types of writing, it can help you process your emotions and allows you to put your anxious thoughts on paper instead of letting them swirl around in your head. Try to set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes to write, and then do a few breathing exercises when you’re finished. Putting your thoughts down and telling your story can lessen the stress you’ve accumulated during the day and give you a sense of clarity.

shift anxiety

4. Create a Calming Environment to Come Home to

Coming home from a stressful shift to a chaotic home environment only builds on anxiety you are trying to reduce. Maintaining an organized and clean home allows you to better relax after a long shift. If you are coming home to laundry on the floor and dirty dishes in the sink every night, try getting those chores done before your shift so you can come home to a nice, calming environment to unwind in after work.

Consider cultivating a calming atmosphere in your bedroom. This can help improve your mood and lower your anxiety. For example, using a sound machine or an essential oil diffuser after your shift can help your mind transition into a restful place instead of dwelling on the anxiety of work.

5. Try Mindfulness Meditation Exercises

Practicing mindfulness meditation can be an effective way to manage feelings of stress and anxiety. Mindfulness mediation combines traditional meditation with the practice of mindfulness, which can be defined as a mental state that involves being fully focused on “the now” so you can acknowledge and accept your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. This meditation technique can help you slow down racing thoughts, decrease negativity, and calm both your mind and body. Try some of these mindfulness meditation exercises before and after work to keep pre- and post-shift anxiety at bay.

shift anxietyshift anxiety

The Travel Nurse Exercise Guide

Fitting in any kind of self-care on a travel nursing contract can seem challenging at times, especially when it comes to exercise. Moving your body can have wonderful benefits for your mental and physical health – which can be great in helping combat burnout. You’d be surprised how many options there are for incorporating exercise into your travel nurse routine, as long as you keep it simple and set attainable goals. Here are a few pro tips for staying on top of your fitness game while on a travel contract.

1. Pick up one (portable) piece of exercise equipment

If you do nothing else, consider bringing just one favorite piece of equipment with you on your travel assignment. It could be a set of dumbbells, a kettle bell, a pair of ankle/wrist weights, or a resistance band. You will be amazed at how effective a workout can be with just one piece of equipment. Take the trusty resistance band for example: from squats to leg raises to lunges-in-place, the possibilities are endless.

2. Rent a bike

Hopping on a bike is a great way to fit low-impact, high-reward exercise into your routine. Many local bike shops offer rentals by the month, and there are even pay-per-use bike stations if you’re working in a bigger city. Biking is a great way to get some exercise and fresh air while seeing the sights of your new town.

3. See if your facility offers exercise resources

Did you know that some hospitals have an on-site gym for employees? This makes fitting in a workout easy for RNs to exercise on their lunch breaks, or before or after their shifts.

If your facility doesn’t have an on-site gym, check in with employee wellness or HR about what kind of fitness resources are offered–you may be able to snag a temporary free pass to a local gym or access some at-home fitness apps to help you stay on track. Your insurance company may have some fitness benefits you can tap into as well, so be sure to check what benefits they offer too.

4. Plan ahead

Most travel nurses want to make the most of each assignment by taking advantage of exploring each new area on their days off; and days off can fill up fast when you have a bucket list of things you want to see or do in thirteen weeks. If you know you have some travel or exploring planned on your days off, take some time to look ahead and figure out how to get a workout in around all your adventuring. This could mean getting up a little early and squeezing in a 15–25 minute workout or hitting the gym before or after a long shift on one of your workdays so you can enjoy the rest of the day. Regardless of how you make it happen, set a realistic goal of how many days you want to work out each week, so you have something to shoot for that allows for life to happen as well.

5. Don’t forget to have fun

One of the most common reasons people fail at changing their exercise routines is they take an all-or-nothing approach. They go all-in: eliminate anything “unhealthy”, make a plan to exercise six days a week, and refuse to make room for actually enjoying themselves.

Travel nurses choose their lifestyle because it is, at its core, fun. Adventuring across the country while working in a career you love opens you up to so many unique opportunities to explore. Approaching an exercise routine from an all-or-nothing perspective drastically limits your ability to go out and enjoy your time off. From sampling local fare to touring wineries and breweries, taking time on days off to get out and explore is imperative to getting the most out of your travel nursing career. Living a healthy lifestyle and getting to enjoy these experiences can go hand in hand, you just have to be a little more mindful of your choices when also working towards fitness goals.

A great tool for finding some places to get moving while also exploring is the AllTrails app. You can find anything from a rugged mountain trail to a historic walking route through town. You get to experience so much more of an area when you are walking through, and at the end of the day it’s crazy to see how far you can walk when you are out having fun.

Interested in traveling with Premier? Fill out an application!

5 Night Shift Tips for Beginners

Switching to the overnight shift can be a difficult adjustment for many nurses, and without proper preparation, it can be damaging to one’s body and psyche. Shift work disorder (SWD) is a widely diagnosed issue for overnight shift workers and can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, making it crucial to have a game-plan when tackling the transition to the night shift. For night owls, the night shift may seem like a dream. For others, it may require a total lifestyle change and an active effort to maintain a healthy sleep schedule and diet.

So how can a nurse put their best foot forward when embarking on a new night shift schedule? Here are five of our favorite tips and tricks to tackle your first NOC contract with ease.

Pencil in Your Zzzs

There’s no denying that sleep plays an important role  in providing the best care to your patients, yourself, and your family. When transitioning to nights, it’s crucial to plan out when you will get your much-needed rest. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so find a schedule that works for you. Some nurses suggest taking a 15 minute ‘power nap’ at least 5 hours before going into work while transitioning to the night shift. It’s very important to discipline yourself to only sleep a few hours after working the night shift so you can sleep that night. A gradual change in your sleeping habits is key during this time, as a sudden change can disrupt your body, appetite, and energy.

Equip Yourself for More Restful Sleep

Planning on getting enough sleep after your shift isn’t enough. It’s also important to enhance your sleeping experience by investing in a quality night’s rest. Try out a set of blackout curtains to block out the sun during the daytime hours. Only allow phone calls from those you can’t miss (kids’ schools, doctors, etc.) and put the rest on ‘do not disturb’ mode. A white-noise app or sound machine can be a great tool if you live in a busy city or apartment complex. Uninterrupted sleep is the best kind of sleep for NOC nurses!

Nutrition & Hydration are Key

Keeping your diet balanced and healthy is important to avoid hitting that 3 am slump at work. Try packing some healthy, easy-to-eat snacks (like raisins, bananas, or granola bars) and remember to keep yourself hydrated! Staying hydrated during a long shift will help you feel more alert and energized. Some nurses suggest eating a full meal before work and then a light pick-me-up like a salad or a bowl of oatmeal while on shift to avoid fatigue. As for caffeine, many nurses swear by their coffee or energy drinks, but use them sparingly! The caffeine high will always come with a bit of a crash if you overdo it.

Establish a Routine

Routine is the most important element of mastering the NOC shift. Get yourself a nice daily planner and schedule out when you intend to do errands, chores, and exercise. Map out your sleep schedule and even pencil in a little time for yourself to just relax after your shift. Working nights is all about having a routine down…when you find it, stick with it!

Focus on the Positives of the Night Shift

A positive attitude can greatly improve your time working the night shift. Be thankful for the benefits you may receive from your new shift, like extra time with your family. Oftentimes, nurses report that they forged the strongest friendships with their colleagues while working nights together.

Whether you are new to the night shift or a NOC veteran, find your next nursing contract with Premier!

4 Ways to Build a Healthy Work-Life Balance as a Travel RN

Nursing can be a very demanding job, and clinicians often struggle with taking the stress of work home with them. This can lead to a cycle of overwhelm, which affects many nurses, especially during the pandemic. Establishing a healthy work-life balance is crucial for travel nurses because it can help relieve emotional and mental strain and feelings of burnout. There are a handful of small changes you can incorporate into your day-to-day routine to improve work-life balance and achieve clarity in all aspects of your life.

Establish a Daily Wake-Up Routine

The life of a travel nurse is filled with uncertainty, and just a dash of occasional chaos. Let’s just say that “stability” takes on a different meaning while moving from place to place and constantly changing contracts. A simple wake-up routine can help establish a feeling of control and steadiness, which can be highly beneficial in a job where no day is the same. Studies show that both your mental and physical health can benefit from establishing a consistent morning routine, which you can personalize to fit your needs. This can be anything from slowly drinking a glass of water when you wake up to 10 minutes of meditation, or even a brisk 15-minute walk outside. These short moments with yourself will help you to mentally prepare to take on the day ahead.

work life balance as a travel rn

Go on a Social Media Cleanse

Taking social media breaks can be a healthy practice for anyone living in the 21st century, but it is especially important for travel nurses. Many of us use our break time at work to scroll Instagram or Twitter to escape reality for a little while. But between juggling patient care and trying to figure out your next contract, social media can add stresses of comparison and unnecessary pressure to the mix. A little break from social media can inspire more personal social engagement, increase productivity in the moments you have to yourself (lunch break included), and improves sleep because this means less blue light intake from your phone/laptop. Instead of scrolling TikTok before bed, try listening to a podcast.

work life balance as a travel rn

Taking a social media break can help reduce anxiety for RNs.

Budget Time to Try Something New

Stepping outside of your comfort zone every once in a while is a great way to quickly break out of a mental rut. On your next day off, schedule a rock-climbing class, a painting workshop, or finally check out that local trivia night you’ve been wanting to try. Studies show that trying new things essentially acts as a workout for your brain and can improve processing and sharpness. Not to mention that you might find your new favorite hobby along the way. Making sure you are using your free time to learn new skills and better yourself is a fantastic way to enhance work-life balance.

work life balance as a travel rn

Set Healthy Boundaries

We are all familiar with the phenomena of “bringing work home.” The amount of emotional energy nurses give to their patients daily is staggering, which makes it extremely difficult to “turn off” the work brain when it’s time to come home. To foster a healthy separation of work and home, try listening to a guided meditation in the car after your shift that can help quell any lingering anxieties and quiet the racing mind. Any practice to pair a mental transition from work to home with the physical act of going from work to home will help build a cognitive boundary between the two. Journaling is another great practice to move past worries about work and leave them on the page.

work life balance as a travel rn

A healthy work-life balance can improve mood and enhance your experience on the job.

Skincare For Nurses

Nothing says “I work in nursing” quite like chapped hands from rigorous washing, dark circles from long overnight shifts, and let’s not forget about the occasional bout of “maskne” (mask acne). Skincare for nurses is especially important, and we sourced a few expert tips to help keep your skin happy and healthy both in and out of scrubs.

Your Skin and PPE

We’re all familiar with the skin imprints, breakouts, rashes, and bruising following the extended wear of multiple masks at a time. Hours of wearing PPE can exacerbate existing skin conditions like rosacea, eczema, and acne. So, what can you do to prevent this?

  1. Apply a barrier cream to your face such as Vaseline before donning your PPE. This can help reduce friction.
  2. After your shift, apply a wound cream to soothe irritated skin.
  3. Make sure to use gentle washing solutions before and after wearing masks. Popular choices are: Cerave Hydrating Wash, Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser and Neutrogena Hydroboost to prevent acne. RN Annie B. recommends using a face wipe before and after putting on masks so the skin stays clean and blemish-free.
  4. Do your best to avoid irritants such as powerful toners and astringents, as they can further irritate the skin.

Moisturizer is Your BFF

Many nurses suffer from dry, chapped, and even cracked hands from washing and using alcohol-laden sanitizers. This is why a good moisturizer is a nurse’s best friend and should a staple in your skincare routine.

Some nurse-recommended moisturizers include: CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream, Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream, Eucerin Advanced Repair Hand Cream, and Udderly Smooth Hand Cream.

Skincare = Self-care

After 10-12 hours of caring for others, it is extremely important to carve out some time to care for yourself. Here are a few of our favorite ways to unwind and give our skin a much-needed refresh.

  1. Use an eye mask to help ease the intensity of dark undereye circles. Not only does this help hydrate the face, but the cooling sensation also helps you unwind after a long day. Do this before bed to give your eyes some
    well-deserved R&R.
  2. Mix some collagen powder into your morning smoothie to help promote soft, hydrated skin.
  3. Invest in silk pillowcases. Silk pillowcases are proven to help reduce drying and irritation of your skin and hair. While this may sound like a luxury indulgence, you can find some affordable silk pillowcases like this one, on Amazon for only $20!