Acclimating To Your New Nursing Assignment: The Ultimate Guide
Starting a new nursing job brings excitement, opportunity and challenge. You get to work at a new facility in a new city. You get to form new work relationships and personal friendships.
In those first few weeks, it’s easy to get caught up in work and neglect yourself. To keep all parts of your new life in balance, follow these tips for nurses and nursing management.
Achieving Work-Life Balance as a Nurse
long hours, erratic schedules and increasing job demands make it tough to maintain nurse work-life balance. Without it, however, you risk compromising your physical and mental health, your relationships and your job performance. Consider these strategies to keep life in balance.
Use your days off wisely
You may work eight- or 12-hour days or work through the weekend. In addition to mundane chores such as laundry and grocery shopping, schedule time to meet a friend for lunch, go to a movie, or whatever you enjoy. If you’re new to the city, join a club or group with similar interests.
Make new friends, but don’t forget the old ones
Spending time with new friends helps ward off homesickness and makes time in your new town more fun. That said, keep in touch with friends and family back home. Regular phone calls, emails or even a quick text to say Hello will help keep those connections strong.
Enjoy some downtime
In addition to social time, you also need “me time.” Carve out time after work or on your days off to simply relax and reflect. Read, listen to music, walk in nature, meditate or practice yoga or pilates. When you’re working overtime, even a quick 10-minute walk will keep your spirits high.
Follow the advice you’d give your patients: eat healthy, get adequate sleep and exercise regularly. Start your day with a nutritious breakfast, bring healthy snacks and meals to work and be present for family dinners as often as possible. Physical health impacts mental health, so treat your body well.
It’s okay to leave a few items unchecked on your to-do list. As you adjust to your new nursing job, cut yourself some slack. Don’t obsess over mistakes—learn from them and move on. When you’re overwhelmed, take a few minutes to do deep breathing or meditation.
Managing Nursing Finances
Whether you enjoy the stability of a permanent full-time position or the flexibility of a travel nurse, it’s important to maintain financial health. The start of the new year is a good time to review your finances and make a plan for the future.
Create an emergency savings fund
Set aside three to six months living expenses in a savings account. Use it for emergencies only: expensive car repairs, out-of-pocket health costs, or to get by in between travel nursing jobs.
Save for retirement
If you’re a full-time employee or work for a staffing agency that offers retirement benefits, contribute at least 10 percent of your paycheck into your company’s 401(k) retirement plan. Travel nurses and part-time nurses without this option can open an IRA to save. Talk with a financial planner to determine the best retirement vehicles for you.
Keep expenses in control
Develop and follow a monthly budget. Compare your monthly expenses against your earnings. Next, add in retirement and emergency savings. If you’re spending more than you earn, look for areas to trim, such as dinners out or clothes you don’t need.
Maximize your earnings
Travel salaries differ between agencies and assignments. Nurses may also earn more in positions needed during a crisis. Consider these factors when choosing positions. If your staffing agency offers referral bonuses, encourage colleagues to apply.
Manage taxes wisely
Travel nurse taxes get complicated. You have to file in every state you’ve worked in and follow that state’s rules. You also have to pay taxes in your home state for all U.S. income earned, but you can deduct income tax earned in another state. Consult with a tax preparer or CPA for help.
Keep records of all expenses. Bookkeeping or budgeting software helps you track income and expenses without saving piles of paper. QuickBooks, Xero, and GnuCash are a few of many to consider.
If You’re a Travel Nurse, Here’s How to Manage Your Taxes
1. Every state has different rules, and you have to file in every state you’ve worked in. Some states, like Florida, have no state income tax. Many others do, and you have to comply. You also have to pay taxes in your home state for all income earned in the U.S. If you did pay income tax in another state, you can deduct it. Our best advice is to get a qualified accountant to keep track of it all.
2. Document everything. Every contract, every receipt, every expense. Since lugging around all that paper would be a recipe for disaster, track it online. There are a number of tax programs that help you organize receipts and keep track of expenses. Check out shoeboxed.com, Tax Central from H&R Block, and IRS2Go, to check on your filing status.
3. Understand that the perks may be taxable. Your living and travel expenses are extensions of your pay. Don’t be blindsided if the IRS wants a cut.
Managing Your Stress as a Nurse
Nursing is as stressful as it is rewarding. Heavy workloads and critical situations can take their toll if nurses don’t manage stress wisely.
Stay Calm Under Pressure
When you feel overwhelmed, take a “time out.” Take a quick break somewhere quiet: even a restroom stall will work! When you’re in a high-stress conversation, take a couple deep breaths or count to ten before responding.
Focus on the Task At Hand
Don’t up your anxiety level by worrying about the past or the future. Focus on what’s in front of you. Trust your skills and your training. In a code blue situation, set emotions aside until the event passes.
Cope With a Stressful Work Environment
If you have a large patient workload or a critical patient, ask others for help. Remember, you’re part of a team of wonderful nurses.
Although it’s good practice to return the favor, assess whether you have the time and energy to do so. Taking on too much can impact patient care. If you have a high workload already, it’s okay to say no.
Focus on the Positive
When you’re in the middle of a stressful event, day or week, it’s easy to lose sight of your purpose. Take time to remember why you became a nurse. Think about the patients and families you’ve helped, your ability to make sound decisions and your growing body of knowledge.
When you receive a compliment from a patient, caregiver or supervisor, write it down and celebrate it! Revisit that list when you’re feeling stressed to remind you of the impact you make on others.
Creating a Routine
As a nurse, your work schedule can be quite demanding so it’s important to create routine where you can. In a fast-paced working environment with long hours, it’s essential to have routine established for both your physical and mental health. This includes sleep schedules, exercise and meal prepping. Here are some ways to incorporate routine into your schedule.
Master Meal Prep
Eliminate some of your daily decision making by creating a daily meal routine. By preparing meals and snacks ahead of time, you don’t waste time thinking, “What am I going to eat?” Prepare meals in advance to save time in the kitchen. Make a large batch of soup, pasta, rice, roasted chicken, and/or salad fixings on a day off. Divide into single servings, freeze and grab as needed. Make sure you have enough storage containers for the week. Consider plastic storage containers for meals and snacks, a thermos for liquids and a lunch box or bag. Think reusable, dishwasher-safe and easy to clean.
Save the gourmet meals for days off. For the workweek, choose simple, quick and healthy recipes. To stay organized, consider a meal planning app such as FoodPlanner or Mealboard. For recipes, search sites such as Food Network and Epicurious for lunch ideas for nurses. Save your favorites to a Pinterest board.
Create a Sleep Schedule
Getting an adequate amount of sleep can make a substantial difference during your day-to-day and overall quality of life. According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are several ways to maintain good sleep practices. Consistency is key when it comes to maintaining good sleep habits. Create a relaxing bedtime ritual by decompressing from the day, such as turning off all electronics at a specific time and reading a book. By creating a way to decompress from your day, you will be able to eliminate stress and anxiety so that you can fall asleep and stay asleep quicker.
Implement An Exercise Routine
There are several benefits that are associated with regular exercise including improved cognitive functionality, mood and energy levels. Finding time to take a trip to the gym can often consume a lot of time but there are other ways to incorporate physical activity throughout your day. For example, choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator or take a walk around your neighborhood. The key is consistency, so adding in some form of physical movement each day is a great way to improve your quality of life.
Starting a new job as a nurse is an exciting time. Carve out time for yourself to combat stress, maintain good health and ace that new job.
Ready to start job-hunting? Search available positions.