Depression and Travel Nursing: Don’t Keep it a Secret

depression -and- lonely

This week has been one of those dreary winter days when all I really wanted to do is curl up in bed all day.  I have a history of anxiety and had to work at not letting it take me to the dark place of depression.

As a travel nurse, there are many perks but it is not always as exciting as it may look.  There can be a downside to those suffering from anxiety or depression.  Traveling to new and exciting cities and meeting new and interesting people is awesome but can soon wear off.  When you travel alone for an already high-stress job and no one to share the experience you may begin to feel lonely.  Just having someone to spend time with you sharing the struggles you face can help to relieve anxiety and keep depression at bay.

Specific Causes of Depression for Nurses.

Nurses risk for developing depression is higher than other patients who are not healthcare workers. As nurses, we try to self diagnose and do not always recognize the symptoms of depression.

Nurses learn in their training about mental health and symptoms to be alert to. I think as nurses we know what the symptoms of depression are and how to recognize them in patients.  We may not pay attention to the subtle symptoms in ourselves until the symptoms begin to affect our mental state.

The culture of nursing lends itself to depression with all that we see and do at work.  I worked the on-call night position with hospice for 13 years versus being a case manager.  This was my way of not being attached to my patients that you knew were terminal.  We see tragedy on a daily basis whether it is a tragic accident or a child with a life ending disease.  How do you go home at the end of along chaotic shift and leave that at work? Marry that with long shifts and inconsistent work schedule and then not become depressed.

Symptoms to Recognize.

Many times the symptoms f depression are too vague to recognize.  The feeling of exhaustion, moody, difficulty sleeping, distracted or disinterested in normal activities.  Usually, nurses will delve into a busy hectic job or lifestyle and ignore potential symptoms.

Depression will slowly take hold and affect your ability to perform your usual daily tasks.  As the symptoms worsen your drive and motivation can be lost.  Your job performance can be seriously affected and you may be distracted causing possible harm to you or a patient.

Misinformation and a Secret Epidemic.

Unfortunately, like many mental illnesses, people do not understand depression. Nurses tend to hide their depression and ignore the issue.  Any nurse who gets labeled with depression risks discrimination as someone who is unable to do her job.   With proper treatment, nurses can live with depression and continue their nursing career.  The longer depression goes untreated the more crippling it can become and much harder to treat.
Depression in nurses is serious with almost 20% of nurses who may suffer from symptoms.  This number of sufferers make it an epidemic and one that needs to be addressed.

Treatment and Care

Treatment for depression depends on the severity.  The treating physician may recommend taking time off from work. Nursing management hopefully provides a compassionate and supportive work environment for a nurse who is depressed.   A nurse needs to feel they can confide in their boss and a treatment plan that may include time off.

Time off could be problematic for a travel nurse but may be the best way to deal with depression.  Travelers need to use every means discussed to be proactive and prevent depression from becoming a serious issue.

Depression is a condition that needs the attention of nurses and managers of nursing staff should not be avoided.  Become aware and accept depression, follow a treatment plan in order to for a nurse to continue to do their job.

A Promising Treatmet

On December 20, 2018, a law known as the Farm Bill of 2018  removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.  This law made fiber-containing marijuana plants no longer illegal under federal law. Why is this good news for anxiety sufferers? CBD oils are proving to be effective in relieving symptoms related to anxiety.  I personally use it to help with my Neuropathy as well as anxiety.  For mor information on the use of CBD and anxiety check out a Drug Science article on CBD and anxiety.

What Should We Do?

Be proactive.  When you recognize potential symptoms of depression go to your doctor and ask for help.  Work with your healthcare professional to make a plan of treatment.  If medication or therapy is needed follow the plan.

Management staff needs to learn to recognize symptoms of depression.  Approach a potentially depressed nurse with compassion.  A nurse suffering from depression may lose the ability to provide care to their patients.

If you are traveling and feel lonely reach out to family and friends for support. One way to avoid depression is to find ways to stay mentally healthy.  Seek help if you recognize symptoms of depression.  Anxiety and Depression Association offers more information.

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a Registered Nurse and retired US Army Reserve Nurse Major. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career, she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and to South Korea. She was trained as an Army Medic during the Vietnam era and later as an OR tec. She went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and then completed her nursing training as a Registered Nurse. She was then commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserves. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and work in other medical facilities. During her career, she had the opportunity to work in several specialties to include, OR, Occupational Health, Hospice, Sexual Assault Team, Forensic/ Correctional Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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