1. Knight, Karla A. RN, MSN


Being prepared will smooth the transition to your new digs.


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WHILE YOU MAY BE geographically away from home when you take a travel nursing assignment, you can still take the comforts of home with you. Your surroundings may be new, but you can get comfortable where you live and where you work.


Getting prepared

When you take a good look around your house or apartment, what makes you smile? Photos of family members, special paintings, or wall hangings? Perhaps a handmade ceramic turtle given to you by your only niece? If you decide not to take the objects with you on your travel assignment, take digital photos of them, load them on your laptop, and enjoy them as a screen saver.


Pack your pillows. You may have difficulty falling asleep in your new surroundings, so take along those pillows and the fan that you can't sleep without. And what about the journal that you write in every day before sleeping? You'll have plenty of new experiences to write about. Do you listen to relaxation tapes before you sleep? Don't forget to bring your alarm clock that plays tapes and CDs, as well as your TV, if one won't be provided in your new accommodations.


Keep up the rituals. Your bedtime routine, whether you're working the day, evening, or night shift, is an example of a ritual that will make you more comfortable when you arrive in your new digs. How about your rituals when you wake up? Do you immediately make your favorite flavored coffee by grinding just enough beans in the old coffee grinder to make two cups of coffee? Do you take out your yoga mat or hand weights and put on your favorite yoga or Pilates exercise DVD? Do you always pack your lunch or dinner in the same lunchbox? How about that tattered old sweatshirt that you wouldn't wear in public but you can't live without?


If you plan ahead, you may be able to bring your pet with you. Before you grab your pet, though, find out if your assigned housing permits animals. Having Fido or Kitty along can make you feel at home very quickly, but your pet may also give you some headaches and anxieties if you're living in an area that doesn't easily accommodate pets, or if you're going to be working more.


Settling in

Contact friends in your new surroundings. Pack your address book to keep in touch with friends back home, and ask those same friends if they have family members or friends in your new assignment's location. Call or e-mail these contacts to find out what they do for entertainment and dining out. You might feel less like a tourist if you go where the locals have fun or find comfort food.


Find some familiar haunts. Do you regularly pick up coffee at a coffee shop or dine at an Italian restaurant every week after going to the movies? You don't need to stop frequenting these kinds of places when you move. And while you're driving there, check out the local radio stations in your car or remember to pack your favorite music to keep you humming familiar tunes.


While some of your old rituals may make you more comfortable, your travel assignment can also be a time when you replace unhealthy ones with new habits and rituals. For example, if you smoke or eat too much, use this new work assignment as a pivotal occasion to change your lifestyle; for instance, you could stop smoking, develop healthy eating habits, and start a new exercise routine. By joining a weight-loss group or fitness class, you'll also have a great opportunity to meet new people.


Practice your faith. If you attend church, temple, or mosque regularly in your hometown, you may find great comfort and new friends attending places of worship in your new location. Likewise, if you have other spiritual practices outside of an organized religion, continuing them may help you achieve some inner peace in an unfamiliar place.


Your new assignment: The workplace

Be flexible. Become familiar with the policies and procedures of your current assignment and don't resist them because they're new to you. Don't forget to bring the things you usually keep at work.


Be open and friendly. You probably accepted your first travel assignment in part because you're open to new things. Show your new fellow nurses and other staff that you're willing to learn from them and help them out when they request your assistance.


Don't be tough on yourself. In the early days of a new travel assignment, everything will be new. No doubt you'll need a couple of weeks to adjust. Be patient with yourself. Frustration at not meeting your own performance expectations can spill over into patient care and your relationships with staff members.


Getting comfortable in your new place will be easier if you pack the tangibles like familiar photos, books, your laptop, and pets. Remember to pack whatever gets you going and keeps you going throughout the day. And don't forget to pack a lot of patience-for yourself and others!!