Dealing with a loss for the first time while completing an assignment
5 weeks ago, I got my usual FaceTime call from my mom. My grandmother wasn’t doing well. I booked a ticket to go home that day. I had two weeks left of my current contract. Plans to complete a third contract in the Bay Area was already in the queue. My next assignment was lined up with all of my days off approved. Things were going exactly as planned.
But I booked that ticket without hesitating because I understand that time waits for no one. The remaining days left of my contract didn’t matter. My next contract at that point didn’t matter either. It was one of those act-first-think-later moments.
I did in fact lose my grandmother that following weekend. And I was incredibly thankful that I did not wait to fly back home so that I could be present in that moment.
Taking time off is a must
I did not shy away from requesting time off although I was in the middle of completing a contract. I never wanted the looming feeling of regret of being at work rather than being at home.
When you’re signing on to a new assignment, typically, you request your days off prior to starting. You get those days approved and then from there, the facility you work for will honor the days as they are already listed in your contract.
When you’re managing an emergency. A situation that’s completely unexpected. The response from your hospital may vary. If you have a good working relationship with the management and scheduling staff at the hospital you’re likely to get more of a positive response. So minimal call outs. Punctuality. Following the hospital protocol. Good communication with your management and staffing office. General flexibility will help your case. They’re more likely to not hold your abrupt departure against you when you’ve established good rapport at that hospital.
Make your needs clear
I ended my contract 2 weeks early. Throughout the week I called the staffing office to ensure that I was keeping them in the loop. By having that clear line of communication, it allowed the facility to know that I care. That I am still making them a priority. Understanding that my absence affects their scheduling. And that I will do everything in my power to let them know what my plans are so that they can plan accordingly.
Life happens. And there is no way of knowing when an emergency is going to happen. But how we handle each scenario makes the difference. By ensuring that you remain in good standing with your respective hospital. You will lessen the likelihood of the hospital putting you as a “do not return” status. This occurs when the facility decides that a traveler is not suitable to return as a contracted employee. Even if you have no plans on coming back, you never want to burn your bridges!
State exactly how long you’re going to need off. Your facility will more than likely work with you if you are transparent. The frustration for both parties arise when there is poor communication.
Accepting the loss of a loved one
The week I arrived– I watched my grandmother take her last breath. I’ve watched my patients take their last breath. But it feels different when you’re there as a family member and not as someone’s nurse. There really isn’t anything like it. It’s a delicate situation. And there isn’t a perfect formula on how to manage that loss.
Your timeline of when you accept that loss will vary from person to person. One of the most important things to remember is to take your time. Grief is an emotion that is dealt with in stages. Don’t rush the healing process and show yourself some grace as you’re navigating the new norm of no longer having that loved one with you.
Find practical ways to de-stress
It’s ok to not be ok. I think we often put the pressure on ourselves that we have to “bounce back” so we’re not basking in our misery. But honestly, grieving takes time.T he healing process is not linear. But it comes in waves. There will be good and bad days. Keep these in mind the next time you’re looking for practical ways to relieve some of that stress while you’re coping with your loss:
- Prayer and/or meditation
- Go for a walk
- Journal for 5 minutes per day
- Talk to a close friend
- 8 hours of sleep at night
- Lavender oil to help with sleep
- Take a social media break
- Take slow deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed
The abrupt end to my contract turned into a transition back to the east coast. But prior to that, I took several weeks to completely decide what would be the most appropriate next move. In these types of circumstances, doing nothing is still very much taking action.
Should you take another travel nursing assignment? Or is it best that you take a break in between? You really do have to listen to your gut. Being in tune with yourself will help you to determine what coping mechanism is the best fit.
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