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How to Manage Grief in Travel Nursing

Mohamed Basha
RN CMC Founder and CEO of TLC Nursing Association
Updated July 18, 2023
In Home care services

Travel nursing comes with its own set of unique challenges. Not only do you have to be organized in figuring out your travel plans, but you also have to know where you will be staying, when you need to travel, where your earthly belongings will be stored, how to bring your pets with you and more.

Grief is difficult. Grief is confusing. Grief is dark and lonely. It can be even more so when you are travel nursing because your support system is continually changing. This can make it extremely difficult to navigate grief on a personal and professional level. Moreover, the families and loved ones of the patient you have lost will likely be looking to you for help and support.

No matter what type of loss or who is looking to you for support, you as the healthcare traveler must maintain some emotional resiliency. With everything that is expected of you, how can you foster this resiliency?

Give Yourself Time

It takes time to be able to overcome the grief and pains you experience in a day. Making sure you have the time needed to process your day will give you the chance to reset and recoup. If you do not give yourself time to do these things at the end of the day, you run the risk of burning out.

Keep in mind the idea that if you take care of yourself first, you will be able to better care for others. Make this a priority. You must care for yourself and give yourself time to process your grief after a day’s work.

Remember that Grief is Normal

It can be challenging to allow yourself to experience the stages of grief, especially when the grief is over the loss of someone you did not work with for a long time. When you are involved in travel nursing, you are frequently gaining new and different patients. Just because the patients you are tending to are new to you or are not under your care for a long time does not mean you do not have a place for them in your heart. One likely reason you are in this field is that you care about people and help them. That is okay! It is commendable that you want to help people.

With this in mind, know that it is perfectly normal to grieve after losing a patient, no matter how long or short the time you had been working with them.

Find an Outlet

Sometimes you have to have an outlet and let out all of your feelings from the day. Otherwise, those feelings will build and fester. Having an outlet allows you to vent your emotions in a way that best helps you. This could be through exercise or a hobby. It could also be through talking with a trusted friend or with a mental health professional. If you work for a nurse-owned travel nursing agency like TLC Nursing, then you will be provided with many different options to help you vent your feelings. Sometimes all you need is someone beside you who understands what you are going through.

Be Aware of the Stages of Grief

Finally, make yourself aware of the stages of grief. This will prepare you for when you or the families you work with go through them. The five stages of grief are:

          1. Denial
          2. Anger
          3. Bargaining
          4. Depression
          5. Acceptance

It can be painful watching yourself or someone else goes through these stages, but it is essential to cope with the loss experienced.

Grief is difficult to navigate for everyone, but it can be especially challenging in travel nursing. You can prepare yourself to handle this difficulty by ensuring you have time for yourself, reminding yourself that grief is a normal part of the healing process, finding an outlet for your feelings, and being aware of the five stages of grief. Having these in your back pocket will help prepare you for when grief strikes, which can be at any time. Grief can happen unexpectedly, but you can anticipate the process and your needs. The people at TLC Nursing will be there by your side through all stages and will assist you in healing for you and for the families you work with.