Travel Nurses: How to Cope When There’s a Bad Day

Having a bad day at work is a common theme, regardless of your job. But when you’re a nurse, those bad days typically include patient problems and human suffering. 

The same empathy that makes you an amazing nurse can drag you down as you process (or try to ignore) your emotions. This is why many nurses develop strong bonds when working together regularly. With someone else who instantly understands what you’re going through, it’s easier to handle the ups and downs of your job.

Yet, as a traveling nurse, you feel all the feels, but you don’t have the network of colleagues to help you get through them. Instead, you try to cope with bad days on your own … in a new place … without your family and friends nearby. 

It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it doesn’t have to be. Your nomadic job is challenging and rewarding, so don’t let the bad days win. Use these tips to help you get through them.

1. Have Good Habits in Place

It’s a smart idea to develop good habits when things are going smoothly. These daily routines are what will help you get through the rough patches.

What’s your routine right now? If you were to have a bad day where you didn’t want to deal with any stress, how would those routines help or hurt you?

When you have good habits in place, they guide you almost without thinking through your day. Your nurse schedule may have you working various shifts, which makes it hard to stick to a routine using time as a baseline. 

However, you can plan your habits on what a mostly regular day looks like, such as:

  • Get six hours of sleep (or whatever works for you)
  • Wake up within one snooze cycle
  • Brush teeth and shower
  • Get dressed
  • Eat breakfast and listen to a motivational podcast
  • Do a 15-minute workout

The rest of your day will depend on whether you’re working or off. Have a routine that helps you keep your work-life balance in check, and stick to it unless you’re away on vacation.

2. When You’re Off, Rest!

The nursing industry is short-staffed across the world, so your shifts likely go beyond the standard 12 hours you’re scheduled. And if you’re on call, getting enough solid hours of restful sleep is difficult.

When your body doesn’t get the rest it needs, it leads to health issues like high blood pressure, cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and a reduced immune system. Although these medical problems are serious and you should pay attention to them, the more immediate issues are likely to be seen in your mental health.

Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to depression, difficulty paying attention to details, and increased confusion. Patient lives can depend on whether you catch or miss one small detail. Sleep deprivation impairs judgment in a similar fashion as alcohol. 

Try to get as much rest as possible when you’re not working. You might not be able to sleep, but by creating a room where you feel peaceful wherever you are in your housing for traveling nurses, your mind is still resting.

This downtime makes it easier to make better decisions and handle stress when you have a bad day.

3. Have a Personal Life

If you’re like most travel nurses, you chose the job because you wanted to explore the world and make good money at the same time. Nomadic nursing sounds like the ultimate adventure, but getting bogged down in the day-to-day rat race is easy once you’ve settled in.

Don’t forget the reasons you chose this career. If you want to check out what this new area offers, take the time to explore it. Have a plan every week to see a new sight or visit someplace you’ve never been before. It’ll refresh your zest for living and remind you why you work through these bad days.

You’ll meet people at your job that might enjoy exploring, too. If you connect with someone, invite them to go on a hike or to a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. 

Your job isn’t the only way to meet people. Sign up for local events, MeetUps, and online forums in the area. You’ll build a network of friends and acquaintances and might even find your next life path. 

When you’re having a bad day, reach out to the connections you’ve made, and try to find ways to stay busy.


Every job has its own type of stress, but nursing professionals often see more than their fair share. 

As a traveling nurse, it can be hard to forge meaningful connections as you live your nomadic life, but you don’t have to handle the rough spots alone. Use these three tips to remind yourself that you make a difference in the world and your life is better than a bad day.