March 2, 2016

Preserving Your Patience on the Job

Stressed tired healthcare worker sitting on floor

Health care traveling is an extremely rewarding career offering the opportunity to touch countless lives. But those “feel good” moments will be hard-earned, as you will assuredly have your patience pushed to its very limit on a regular basis.

There are a lot of situations travelers run into regularly that can test their patience. Many times it can be a complaining patient, a pushy family member, or a short-tempered hospital staff member. Other times it could be as simple as the traveler’s existing stress level or lack of rest. No matter the situation, travelers still have the obligation to be knowledgeable, level-headed caregivers to each of their patients. Read below for some important tips and factors to consider when your patience may be wearing thin.

Develop Tough Skin

While this may seem like simple advice from the grade school playground, having a thick outer layer can come in handy when you’re a traveler. Many of the unpleasant encounters you’ll face, whether with patients, family members, or other staff, are spurred by situations completely out of your control and are rarely personal. Hospitals can be high-pressure environments for all involved, and unfortunately, people sometimes let that ensuing stress and aggression out on the nearest person. Remember that they are likely just projecting their feelings of fear and uncertainty onto you, and it has nothing to do with you personally or your work. You can also read our top tips to destress after work.

Carefully Set Boundaries with Patients

There will always be those patients and their family members that test your limits. When you encounter exceptionally difficult people who treat you inappropriately, whether by using abusive language or expecting you to be their servant, it is important to calmly but firmly set boundaries. With patients, insist that you be treated with respect, just as you are treating them with respect. Practice strong, clear phrases you can use in high-stress situations like, “Help me understand exactly what is wrong,” or “I will not tolerate this behavior.” Use communication to diffuse the situation by asking about the patient’s feelings and fears. Many times, a patient’s aggressiveness can be attributed to what they are feeling. Threatening and disruptive behavior are two types of workplace violence. Physical violence, harassment, and intimidation are others. As a proactive measure, discuss safety protocols with your recruiter, agency, and/or facility. You should receive clear guidance on how to respond if faced with workplace violence while on assignment.

Always Remain Calm

No matter what situation you find yourself in, the most important thing you can do for yourself and your patients is to remain calm. When you keep a calm, level head, you’re better able to make rational decisions that lead to a positive outcome – and avoid saying things you’ll regret later. Your patients will have more faith in your abilities and feel that you are in control if you do not appear to be agitated or upset. In extreme cases, it may be beneficial to leave the room or just turn your back, count to 10, and gather yourself before returning to the situation.

Take Care of Yourself

Travelers work difficult, demanding schedules that don’t always allow for proper breaks. When your shifts are over, make sure to take good care of your mind and body. As your schedule allows, get proper rest and eat a healthful diet. In your free time, spend time doing activities that build you up and replenish your mental energy. Explore your new city on your own, make plans with new friends, or connect with loved ones at home for an extra boost.

Your traveling career will have its fair share of stressful days, but if you do your best to nurture your patience and take care of yourself, you can make it through even the toughest days and make a huge difference in the lives of so many patients.