Being a travel nurse has many perks. A nurse can choose to work in different cities, states, and even countries. They are challenged with new organizations and care areas somewhat frequently and are many times "on the move" throughout the year. Because travel nurses face work-life changes when signing up for different assignments, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Below are some tips travel nurses can use to continue to eat mindfully and maintain their health.

Have a Plan

Anticipating the change allows travel nurses to prepare and develop a plan. Depending on the nurse, the plan can be as detailed as is necessary. For example, the nurse can identify nearby grocery stores and healthier restaurants near their assignment location. They can plan meals to bring for their lunches and snacks to avoid unhealthy cafeteria or restaurant food.

Potlucks are very popular in the world of nursing - being aware that potlucks might be a common breakroom event at their assigned location allows the travel nurse to have a plan just in case. For example, the nurse can leave the building for lunch, or inquire what type of foods will be there. The nurse can even plan to bring something healthy to be able to join in!

Stick to a Routine

One of the most common reasons for diet setbacks is a break in routine. This factor is common with travel nurses, as their "routine" might be changed several times a year. Sticking to the basics is a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. For example, if the nurse brings a lunch every day to work, he or she should continue that practice in their work assignments if at all possible. Meal planning is a great way to create and maintain a healthy routine. If they usually exercise before work, again, they should continue to do so. If a nurse is typically a "gym rat" and there's no gym in sight at the new location, planning to bring some light weights, a yoga mat, or other easily-packable fitness equipment can be helpful. If nothing else, a good pair of sneakers can be a lifesaver! There are many free workout videos on YouTube, and going for a run can be a great way to get to know a new neighborhood.

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Find a Fitness Buddy

Teaming up with a buddy is a great way to stick to a healthy diet and routine as a travel nurse. The buddy can be anyone - a long-time friend or family member, or a co-worker at the new workplace. This is also a great way to strike up a friendship when facing an unfamiliar location. Like-minded people help to motivate and encourage a continuation of healthy habits when beginning a new assignment. Working out together, swapping healthy recipes, or even scoping out nearby diet-friendly restaurants are great ways to keep each other on track.

Drink Water

A healthy diet does not just end at food choices; water is essential as well. It helps ramp up metabolism when ingested in the morning, helps one feel full longer, and helps lubricate joints to prevent injury. This is extremely important in nursing, which is a very physical job. Nurses aren't always the best at keeping up with fluid intake (coffee doesn't count!), but it's very important to continue to drink water throughout a shift.

With travel nurses, this can be challenging. Beginning a new assignment takes all of a nurse's focus - he or she must learn where everything is, where resources are, and learn the policies and procedures of their facility. The nurse's mind isn't focused on water or diet, it's focused on learning in a new environment. It helps to keep a bottle of water on hand to sip from frequently and drink plenty on breaks as well. There are even water bottles, such as this inexpensive version on Amazon, that have time marked right on the bottle to help forgetful nurses remember to hit their daily water goals.

Take Time for Yourself

Travel nursing can be stressful. It's not easy to switch gears frequently. While nursing tasks essentially stay the same, learning in a new environment with different workflows and processes and meeting new people can lead to a high level of stress. This, in turn, can lead to diet setbacks. It's important to remember the big picture here – one setback is not the end of the world.

To help manage stress, travel nurses should consider taking time for themselves. Continuing a hobby, going out exploring or sightseeing, and making new friends can help ease the stress associated with travel nursing. Trying a relaxing activity such as meditating, journaling, or yoga can also help to melt stress and anxiety and can be done from virtually anywhere. Additionally, getting adequate sleep, taking time off from work, and prioritizing rest are all extremely vital in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Amanda Bucceri Androus, RN, BSN
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