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How to Set Boundaries as a Traveling Nurse

Mohamed Basha
RN CMC Founder and CEO of TLC Nursing Association
Updated November 22, 2023
In Home Care Services

As a nurse, it is easy to become attached to your patients. This is true whether working in a hospital or in a long-term care facility; the attachment to other humans is probably what drew you to the profession. It’s important, however, for your mental and emotional health to remain realistic when it comes to relationships. As a traveling nurse, your interaction with a patient may be limited based on the time needed at a location. Here are a few tips and tricks on how to create those boundaries.

Saying No, and Meaning it

You need to learn to say the word “no” and not having hard feelings about using it. As a caregiver, you have a lot of responsibility. Remember, you are not obligated to do more than you are hired to do. As a new traveling nurse, you want to do the best job possible, so it is harder to say no to certain things the family asks. But if you say yes to everything, they will expect you to do more than you are initially hired for. This doesn’t mean that you should be rude or disrespectful, but you need to be firm with them. When you can say no with confidence, you will be able to set boundaries.

How to use your Time and Energy

Remember, there are only so many hours and minutes in a day; you can get everything done in twenty-four hours. Be realistic with what you can and cannot do. You don’t want to let expectations weigh you down; keep it simple, do what you can. Priorities need to be set so you can use your time and energy wisely.


Guilt can be very overpowering. When you think you are not doing enough, or the right thing, or maybe frustrated with a situation, you need to remember that those feelings can lead to guilt. You don’t want to shy away from guilt, but you don’t want to give yourself into it entirely. There is no requirement in the nursing handbook that says you have to give and give so much of yourself until nothing is left to give. You will be drained and unable to help your patients the way they need to be supported.

Not Losing Yourself

Caring for your patients is your job and only a part of who you are. There are other great qualities about you that people need to experience outside your job. If the situation is right for it, try incorporating your client in activities that you enjoy. For example, walking, shopping, painting, are great activities for both your patient and you. However, you also want to leave time for yourself. Self-care is very much needed as a caregiver. Find things you like to do; schedule these things and stick to them. Don’t put them off, especially if they are things that you enjoy doing. Creating time for yourself is needed; the only way you will take care of someone else’s loved one is if you take care of yourself as well.

Reach Out for Help

When you feel like you’re slipping from holding those limitations and boundaries, reach out to a friend or family member. Talk about what you’re feeling; as a traveling nurse, you have a physically and mentally exhausting job. You want to create a support group of other health professionals who you can reach out to on tough days. There are different ways you can reach out for help: hire someone to clean your place if it is feasible (one less thing you need to do when you’re home), find someone to go food shopping for you, have another family member take your parents to a doctor’s appointment or an event. This is a way to free up some time so that you can focus on yourself.


Boundaries are needed when it comes to a job that requires a lot of caring and companionship. Yes, with this type of job, going beyond the limitations is very easy. There are consequences when you do, though. You can cause yourself to burn out faster, lose yourself, and what activities you enjoy doing quickly, and doing different responsibilities that are not within your guidelines. TLC Nursing can guide you on laying down boundaries with patients without feeling like you’re in the wrong. They train their employees to succeed.