One of the hardest things about being married to a travel nurse is loneliness. You leave your friends, family, and coworkers behind to hop from place to place. Sometimes you may be lucky enough to land an assignment near friends, but more often than not, you will be living somewhere where you won’t know a single soul. Your partner leaves you alone in an apartment for twelve hours at a time. Your friends and family go on with their lives, while you’re stuck with a TV for company.
I fell into the loneliness trap big time when we first started traveling. My husband’s twelve hour shifts nearly drove me crazy. I would count down the time for him to come home. When he walked through the door, I would pounce on him, desperate for meaningful conversation.
While I believe loneliness will always be a struggle on the road, there are certainly some ways to make it easier.
- Get connected with the community. Yes, there will be some locations where you can’t really get involved. But if it’s possible, make friends in your apartment building. Attend social events at the hospital. Get to know your husband’s coworkers. Nurses may be hard workers, but trust me, they know how to have fun. We’ve made great friends on the road, and having people to hang out with will make the experience much more enjoyable.
- Stay connected with home. Take advantage of technology. Cell phones, email, and social networking sites have made it possible to keep in touch like never before. A well-timed phone call can do wonders on a case of homesickness.
- Join a class. Whether it’s yoga or a Bible study, meeting with people regularly will help tremendously. Walking into a class where people know your name will make your temporary assignment feel a lot more like home.
- Shop at local stores. Local business owners are interested in their customers and tend to provide much more personal service than generic chains. On our current assignment, we walk to the same local trading post every day. The owner knows us by name and is always helpful. Not only is it a good way to make new connections, but locals tend to give great information about the best restaurants and entertainment in town.
- Make time to go home regularly. You don’t always have to go home in between assignments (i.e. without a paycheck) to go home. Hospital managers are usually understanding about how important it is for travel nurses to go see friends and family. If your spouse works three twelve hour shifts a week, see if he/she can work Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of one week and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of the next. That allows you a full eight days off of work to see family without losing a single hour of paycheck time.
Once again, it takes creativity to fend off loneliness when you move from place to place constantly. But taking the time to get to know the people in your community can make each assignment much more enjoyable—and you might make some of the best friends of your life.
Adventures in Travel Nursing