12-hour shifts are often the ideal schedule for health care professionals but working those long hours can take a toll on our health and well-being. With COVID Crisis assignments being upwards of 48-72 hours, here are some pro-tips for staying healthy at work and in everyday life.
Meal prepping is a great way to make healthy choices for your work week. My hospital has a cafeteria and on night shift they are open until 1am but they don’t have the healthiest options. A lot of night shift workers like to snack and gorge out on the fried foods from the cafeteria. I buy groceries and meal prep the day before my stretch so that everything is ready to go! Preparing and dividing up your food into three days so that it is easy to grab and go relieves you of the stress of preparing meals daily. If you don’t already have a healthy grocery list, don’t be afraid to look up recipes. Pinterest, Instagram, food magazines and a general internet search will give you several healthy recipe options. Don’t forget to shop around the perimeter of a grocery store (fruits, veggies, meat etc.) and stay away from the inner snack aisles (food with a lot of preservatives and sugar). Also, to stay satiated at work, I always eat a small meal before work followed by snacks after assessing all my patients and then taking a break for my full lunch.
I love bringing lots of snacks to work (and anywhere that isn’t home) because I’m always hungry and it prevents me from buying random junk food. Some of my go to snacks are:
-Hummus with rice chips, bell peppers, or carrots
- Yogurt parfait (Vanilla yogurt topped with chia seeds, peanut butter and blueberries)
- Granola bars (Rx bars, Luna bars, Nature Valley bars)
-Apples with almond/peanut butter
-Hard boiled eggs
I wish I liked the gym more for strength training but unfortunately, I’ve never found a sustainable way to fit it into my work schedule. If you can make it to the gym, more power to you! I wake up every day after night shift at 1530 and immediately hop onto my yoga mat for either yoga, Pilates, or HIIT. I use free YouTube videos to help guide me through and keep me motivated. Getting up out of bed and working out before doing anything helps me stick to my routine. I also like to do 30-day challenges because then I don’t have to search for a new video every day. MedVenture has also partnered up with Shock Fitness App, giving its users 3 months for free! The app has a variety of workouts that can cater to your needs. Download the Shock Fitness App here and use the code https://redeemco.com/g/shock-3-free/ for three months for free!
Not everyone likes to stick to “working out” to stay active and in shape. I also love all activities outdoors. Hiking, biking, backpacking, bouldering and snowboarding are all things I enjoy and don’t feel forced like some work outs. I do them for enjoyment but also for staying in shape. It’s also super fun/motivating to do these activities with friends so post more outdoor activities/meet ups on the MedVenture app!
Finally, sleep. We all require different amounts of sleep. Being a night shift worker, I usually get in about 7.5 hours. My room doesn’t currently have black out curtains (highly recommend) so I wear a comfortable eye mask. Sometimes I’ll even wear it at night and I fall asleep almost instantly. I typically stick to one cup of coffee at the beginning of shift and switch to tea if I need another boost during the shift. I try to stop all fluids (caffeine or not) around 4am so that I can fall asleep quickly and don’t have to wake up as often to use the bathroom. Research states that night shift nurses are deficient in melatonin so even though I can usually fall asleep rather quickly after a shift, I still regularly take a small dose of melatonin to keep my sleep cycle well regulated.
A few extra tips
Don’t forget to take care of your mental health. Talk to friends, family or a therapist whenever you need someone to lend an ear. Everyone needs down days to recuperate and relax. Massages and just plain stretching are great for nurses as we’re always bending over, lifting patients and walking on hard, cement floors for long shifts. And by golly don’t forget to hydrate!
Written by: Ashley Novak, Travel RN and Health Enthusiast
\With another COVID surge happening, the crisis contracts for traveling healthcare workers are popping up in all of the hot-spots again. However, crisis contracts do not necessarily pertain specifically to COVID, although they have become much more prominent since the beginning of the pandemic. Crisis contracts can come up anytime when a certain area has a sudden pertinent and large need for more help from healthcare workers. This can occur from natural disasters, hospital systems going on strike, and just a sudden mass exodus from healthcare workers at a given hospital or healthcare system causing a sudden demand of travelers to come fill the staffing needs. Either way, if you are thinking of picking up a crisis contracts, here are some things to look for and consider:
1. Look at the compensation
What really appeals healthcare workers to work these crisis contracts is the crisis pay. Just remember higher pay rates usually come with another cost. You are typically getting paid more for a reason. Hospitals are short-staffed and the working conditions are really tough. The high pay rates are an incentive to quickly get more staff working as soon as possible. Pay attention to how you are getting paid in the contract as well. Most of the time with crisis contracts the hourly rate is what will increase. This will be taxable income, so the more you make the heavier it will be taxed. Pay attention to the overtime rate as well since most of these contracts are 48-60 hour a week contracts. Also look at how much the housing/meals/incidental stipends and make sure they match the living expenses in the area you are staying in. Typically crisis contracts pop up in more densely populated and expensive cities, so make sure you are fairly compensated. Make sure to inquire about how much you will be compensated for you travel to and from the area and if you will be compensated for licenses and certifications you have to obtain for the job. Negotiate whatever you can!
2. Be prepared to float outside of your skill-set
This may not be true for every hospital, but especially during COVID times nurses were and still are needed everywhere. Med-surg nurses may be expected to float to telemetry/step-down units. PCU nurses may be expected to float to the ICU. Typically in these situations you are floated to these units to help where you can. For example, as a PCU nurse floating to the ICU, you will not be expected to take a full assignment of ICU patients and perform skills you are not familiar with. Most of the time, a teamwork model is used where you will help administer medications, tube feeds, reposition the patients, monitor vitals, help with charting, etc. The ICU nurses will monitor the drips and ventilators. If you are ever expected to perform a task that you are unfamiliar with, SPEAK UP. Do not put your license on the line. Be transparent with the charge nurse and your coworkers about what you feel comfortable with doing. However, this is also a good opportunity to watch and learn about skills you are unfamiliar with when there is extra time. Ask questions, be flexible, and be willing to help however you can. It is never a bad idea to prepare yourself by taking some courses online about critical care skills, plus it is a good way to get some CEUs out of the way for your license.
3. Tips for finding housing
Finding housing can be a little tricky during a crisis assignment, especially because a lot of crisis contracts are found in bigger cities or more densely populated areas. Talk to your recruiter and see if your travel company can assist you or can set you up with housing. Companies like Krucial Staffing set travelers up in a hotel for the duration of the assignment. If your contract is shorter and you are okay with staying in a hotel, it would not be a bad idea to check with hotels if they offer discounts for long-term stays or for healthcare workers. Using websites like Furnished Finder, Airbnb, or even utilizing travel nurse housing groups like the Gypsy Nurse on Facebook can help you find housing as well.
4. Be flexible and prepare for the chance of a cancellation
Being flexible during a crisis contract is going to be crucial. You have to walk in with the mindset that you are there to help out during critical times, so be prepared to be available all the time. Crisis contracts are not like your typical contract. Most of the time there is no interview process. Your recruiter submits your information to the hospital and if you meet the qualifications, you are usually offered a job immediately. With that being said, you may not have the opportunity to request time off and your schedule will likely be all over the place to fill in for the needs of the hospital you will be working at. If you need a few days off during the contract for whatever reason, make that very clear to your recruiter and get it written in the contract, but do not plan to take any extended time off. Also, prepare for the chance of a cancellation in the middle of your contract. This happens pretty frequently with crisis contracts. If the situation improves and the hospital no longer needs travelers, they can cancel you with barely any notice. Hospitals can also cut the pay for travelers in the middle of the contract as well. Usually hospitals will keep a few travelers around after the crisis weans down, so if you want to be selected to stay, make yourself stand out by being flexible, having a good attitude, always showing up on time, and going above and beyond to help out. Always have some money saved up in case you have to take a few weeks off to find another job.
5. Make sure you take care of yourself
If you accept a crisis contract, you will likely be working in tough conditions as mentioned before. This can be traumatic and very physically taxing on your body and mind. Make sure to utilize your days off for some self-care. Take time to get outside, call and catch up with friends and family, exercise, rest and have a lazy day, journal, meditate, etc. Whatever self-care and decompressing looks like for you, implement it into your daily routine. If you find yourself feeling stressed, depressed, or burnt out, be honest about it. Ask your travel company if they offer employee assistance programs for mental health. Just remember that YOU are so important and you will not be able to perform at your job or in your life if you burn yourself out.
Overall, crisis contracts can be a great opportunity to make really good money and gain new skills. The biggest takeaway is to be flexible and ready to accept a challenge. Working crisis contracts also looks good on a resume. You will become very knowledgeable and stronger as a person from working in a crisis, so look at the glass half full even when you face difficulties and constant change.
Happy traveling everyone and best of luck during this COVID surge. Take care of yourselves and be safe!
Written By: Courtney Aragon, MedVenturist and ER Travel Nurse
One of the biggest things that sets travel therapists apart from travel nurses is that, while nurses require at least 1-2 years of experience prior to traveling, therapists can start right out of school as new grads! As travel therapists, you can have freedom and flexibility right out of school to explore the country, try out different settings (inpatient, acute, outpatient, pediatrics, SNF, home health), earn more money, have the option to pay off student loans quicker, etc. But there’s also varying opinions about starting out this way, with many professors and other practicing therapists cautioning against it - things said like: “You won’t have enough experience yet,” or “You won’t get any mentorship”. So, which path should you take?
The answer: it depends completely on YOU and what you’re comfortable with! For me and many of my peers, we started as new grads right from the get-go and have no regrets choosing this path. However, this way might not be for everyone. So how do you know if it’s right for you and how do you get started?
1. Be true to yourself
Before deciding to take the leap into this lifestyle, take time to self-reflect:
2. Learn from current travelers & join the traveler community
One of the most beneficial things you can do to get started and determine if it’s right for you is to find resources from current seasoned travel therapists and immerse yourself in their tips and advice for all things travel therapy. Some of my favorite go-to’s are:
3. Find a recruiter/ agency
Even if you’re on the fence, talking to one or a few recruiters is going to be beneficial for making a decision on whether it’s right for you. As a traveler, your recruiter is your main point of contact when working with travel companies and searching for jobs. Therefore, it is important for you to have a recruiter you trust, who you feel comfortable with, who can answer your questions, and who you feel has your best interests at heart because they can honestly make or break a travel assignment. To find recruiters, you have several options:
4. Look into mentorship opportunities
As a new grad, mentorship is key to have and, unlike what many people think, there are options available as a traveler.
5. Have a plan in place
Here are some helpful tips that you may not think of initially but will be important to have starting out:
If you are considering traveling as a new grad, I hope this info has helped make the decision a little bit easier for you! At the end of the day, whether you decide to travel as a new grad or somewhere down the line, there really is no “right” time to start. What it comes down to is your level of comfort and what’s going to give you the best experience that aligns with your goals.
Written By: Morgan Lauchnor, Travel Occupational Therapist (OTR/L)
To extend, or not to extend?! You've found your dream assignment and have decided that you want to extend, but don't know where to start. When should you ask for an extension? Should you ask for more money? Is there an opportunity for you to extend? Extending your contract can feel like a daunting process, but it doesn't have to be. Here are five key steps in preparing for an extension on your current or future assignments:
Written by: Ryan Cogdill, BSN, RN and Co-Founder of MedVenture App