Holiday Season Tips for Travel Nurses

December 9th, 2011

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By , BSN, RN

Home for the holidays; the season of giving; God bless us, every one: these are the clichés of the Christmas season and I love them. We are well into December and our thoughts turn to Christmas trees and carols and presents and too much food and too much eggnog. This is the great stuff of the holiday season.

Earlier this week I wrote about a nurse home from her first travel contract, and I wrote about a stamp that won't be gracing any holiday cards in the mail but shows some of the grace of the nursing profession. This all got me thinking about the years I spent as a traveling nurse and the holidays spent away from my family.

In 2009 I was living in a hotel in Iowa while working at a local hospital. My loved ones were scheduled to visit when all the flights were cancelled due to dreadful weather. In the spirit of the season, I curled up on the sofa, watched a marathon of all the best serial killer episodes of Criminal Minds and had a pity party. So not productive.

Don't do as I do (or did) but do as I say. Even if you are alone for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or New Year's Eve, there are plenty of things you can do to foster that holiday spirit and keep alive the basic tenets of nursing—caring, compassion and respect.

  • It's doesn't sound like the most fun, but if you are far from home and working a contract at a hospital I can guarantee someone on your unit requested the holiday off and didn't get it. Volunteer to work for them. There's that spirit of giving, it shows you really are a part of their team while you are assigned there and it will make someone else's day. There will be patients who are also away from their usual celebrations who will be pleased to see you; there may be a potluck or at least cookies organized by the folks who are also working, and the good will produced by this simple gesture is priceless. Plus, if you think you might want to sign on permanently at this destination—this looks good.
  • Almost every city and town in the country hosts some kind of holiday meal for those who can't afford one of their own. Volunteer. Start looking now. You will find information on where and when volunteers are needed, if there is a need for cooks or servers or drivers to take meals to the home bound. You'll feel great, be surrounded by like minded people and make a difference in your temporary community.                                
  • This is a little more self serving. Decorate your place of residence. Whether you are staying in an apartment, a room, a house or a hotel put up some decorations. A little tree, a small menorah, a wreath or a simple poinsettia can boost your holiday spirit. Give yourself the gift of a little touch of home. If you would decorate your permanent home, decorate your temporary one.

This next suggestion isn’t for the travelers out there, it's for the nurses reading this who know one. If you know a contract nurse at your hospital who will be alone for the holidays invite them to join you. Invite them to your church, invite them to go caroling, invite them to dinner. Even if they don't accept they will be thankful that someone thought of them.

And nurses, take care of your selves. Plan your own solo Christmas feast, buy yourself a special gift, find your favorite holiday movie on TV or DVD and celebrate the adventure of experiencing the holidays someplace new.

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