Travel Nurses: May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Travel Nurses: May is Mental Health Awareness Month

As April showers pave way for May flowers, we enter this spring month with hope as the winter weather (mostly) comes to a close. With warmer temperatures, and more sunshine-y days it is often easier to pull out of a mental health ‘funk’. After all, seasonal affective disorder is real, and the cold months that follow the cheery holiday season can feel long and oppressive.

May Flowers and May Mental Health Awareness

It is well-timed then, that the month of May is designated for mental health awareness across the United States. This awareness campaign has been observed since 1949, started by the Mental Health America organization. While this campaign is important for all, we find it particularly on point for nurses this year. As the we see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, finally, the additional stress and pressure nurses have endured is lifting, if only slightly. Nursing shortages continue to be a struggle for facilities, and nursing unions continue to face challenges in negotiations, however for the individual nurse, mental health struggles that have been part and parcel of their working and personal lives continue.

We have written numerous articles touching on the topic of burnout and mental health for nurses, even prior to the pandemic. While the topic of mental health certainly carries less stigma than it did in 1949 (when mental health awareness month first was established) some stigma remains, perhaps in particular for nurses themselves.

Nurses Are Not Immune to Mental Health Struggles

Being a nurse with all the knowledge, schooling, and training involved to understand the various maladies that occur in humans does not preclude us from suffering those conditions ourselves. In fact, in relation to mental health concerns, it is entirely possible that our additional training actually establishes an unfortunate mindset that implies we should be impervious to mental health issues.

From an objective standpoint, we can logically understand that by merely having more knowledge and training does not in fact negate the fact that we remain human. By that, we mean that our human traits such as the ability to feel stress, sadness, pressure, joy, temptation, addiction, happiness, anger, frustration, and more, remain with us. We know that there are nurses out there struggling to accept that in spite of their profession, they are suffering from mental health issues and may feel isolated or incapable of reaching out for help.

Naomi Judd Death Attributed to Mental Illness

Did you know that Naomi Judd, prior to her country music career was a nurse? Naomi Judd was an intensive care unit registered nurse, working in a Tennessee hospital until her music career took off. Even after her launch into stardom, Naomi Judd made several appearances as guest speaker for nursing conventions and nursing schools. She died April 30, at the age of 76, according to her daughters Wynona and Ashley Judd, ‘we lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness’. We share this sad news to remind our nurse readers that mental illness does not discriminate. Regardless of knowledge, professional training, financial status, or celebrity, mental illness is a potential struggle for any of us.

Conduct Some Self Analysis

You can honor mental health awareness this month by conducting a self-analysis.

  • Look to your behaviors and feelings. How are you, really?

  • How do you feel about your patients that struggle with mental health concerns?

  • How do you feel about people in your personal life that may struggle with mental health?

  • What is your attitude towards them?

  • Do you want to seek help for yourself but feel guilty for it?

  • Do you feel isolated?

  • Do you feel supported?

  • How do you discuss mental health?

  • Do you talk about it with a sense of shame or even judgment?

  • Do you have any hobbies or routines in your life that act as self-care?

  • Do you know where to go for help or support?

Maintain Your Mental Health

Maintain your mental health by these suggestions from Mental Health America:

Healthy food choices and nutrition

Exercise

Sleep

Stress management

Coping skills

Build a support system

Grow Your Professional Knowledge of Mental Health

While knowledge won’t make us nurses immune, it can help to give a sense of understanding, compassion (for our patients AND ourselves), and perhaps teach us something about a bias we hadn’t previously acknowledged or even identified. Grow your mental health knowledge with these resources:

American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) offers a catalog of continuing education hours FREE for everyone, you don’t even have to be a registered psychiatric nurse to register and learn. This is a treasure trove of information and learning for anyone, especially for those of you needing CE’s. There’s a long list of free courses offered, take a look by clicking here.

Travel Nursing and Mental Health

The reasons nurses decide to jump from staff nurses to travel nurses are varied and unique. Each nurse has their own motives and experiences that speak to who they are as a person and how they want their career to impact their lives. That said, there are many who come to travel nursing for a way to escape facility staff politics which can be personally stressful, and others come because they desire the frequent change of location to combat feelings of burnout.

Becoming a travel nurse doesn’t alone mitigate the stresses and pressures of nursing, yet with intention, planning, and personal awareness it has the potential to be a beautiful way for nurses to continue their career while exploring different cities, communities, and people with a curiosity and appreciation that can be personally satisfying and even profound.

If you’re considering a switch to travel nursing, Elite Specialty Staffing is a company that cares just as much about its nurses as it does its clients. You, the individual, are just as important as them, the facility.