Nursing shortages have been happening for the past few years, but during the fall and winter months, there will most likely be an even higher increased staffing need due to the upcoming holidays, colder temperatures, inclement weather setting in, and, unfortunately, a spike in diseases, like influenza, colds, or COVID-19.

Because facilities will be experiencing more staffing shortages, fall and winter are a great time to pick up travel assignments or shifts. But before you start planning out your fall and winter schedule, prepare ahead of time with a few of our healthcare busy season best practices for nurses and healthcare professionals. 

1. Plan ahead for the busy season

Whether you’re taking a new travel contract or want to pick up per diem shifts during the healthcare busy season, planning ahead is crucial.

If you’re a travel nurse or healthcare professional, decide where you want to be for the next 4-13+ weeks. There are pros and cons to being in a warmer vs. cooler climate.

  • While a cooler climate might not be your first choice during the winter for many reasons (snow, bad weather, and lots of sickness), it can also mean there’s a greater chance of you finding an assignment due to a decrease in nurses and healthcare professionals at the facility. 
  • You might have better weather, warmer temperatures, and potentially fewer contagious diseases in a warmer climate. Still, many people migrate south for the winter. This means more people who potentially need care, leading to a facility requesting travel nurses and healthcare professionals. 

If you only pick up per diem shifts, plan what you want your ideal schedule to look like by asking yourself a few questions. 

  • How many shifts do I want to pick up per week? 
  • Does the area I’m in right now have enough shifts available? 
  • Is my specialty in higher demand during this time of the year? 
  • Do I want to take off certain days? 
  • What’s the minimum number of shifts I should pick up? 

Whether you’re on a travel assignment or picking up shifts, use the information you collect from these questions to determine your goals for the next few months. 

2. Consider the holidays

If you want to take a travel assignment or pick up shifts during the healthcare busy season, you’re going to have to come up with a plan for working (or not) over the holidays. More than likely, you’ll have to be okay with working at least one holiday due to the time frame of your assignment. So before committing to a travel assignment, check the description to see if a holiday is required, and then make sure you’re okay with possibly working a holiday. 

If you’re working per diem, you have more flexibility. Still, if you’re hoping to pick up as many shifts as possible during the busy season, holiday shifts are a good option to ensure you’re making the most during the busy season. 

If you decide to work on a holiday, let your friends and family know that might be a possibility in advance so that you can plan accordingly. They’ll be happy to work with you to make sure your holiday season is enjoyable too! 

healthcare busy season

Choosing the Right Options for Staffing the Busy Season

Learn how to combat healthcare worker shortages with an extended workforce to maintain continuity of care and gain access to tools you can use to manage your extended workforce more effectively and efficiently. In this eBook, you’ll learn:

  • ■ Negative outcomes of staffing shortages.
  • ■ Steps to take to prepare for busy times of the year.
  • ■ Choosing the right options for staffing the busy season.
  • ■ How you can build a robust training plan.

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3. Keep your schedule flexible

While it might be tempting to schedule a vacation or trip during the fall/winter, you want to make sure your schedule is cleared. After all, you don’t want to plan a fun tropical vacation only to have to cancel it due to the 13-week assignment you picked up.

You can always take vacations and travel more when the weather gets nicer. And besides, you’ll have extra money to spend on your vacation from all the shifts you’re going to pick up or that 8-week travel assignment you did. 

4. Stay healthy

If you’re going to be working during the healthcare busy season, make sure you’re taking proper care of yourself — even more than you normally would. Working in a healthcare environment can expose you to illnesses, regardless of the time of year, but with the colder months approaching, the flu, colds, COVID-19, etc. tend to spike. Some of the best ways to help keep your immune system working are just taking care of your body. 

  • Make sure you’re getting plenty of rest. Anything over 7 hours is an absolute must. If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, make sure your sleep environment is as optimized as possible for rest. Purchase blackout curtains and an eye mask if you’re a night shift nurse, get some cozy sheets and blankets for your bed, create a post-shift nighttime routine, and set your room to the perfect temperature. 
  • One of the best ways to help fight against illness this time of year is getting all the necessary vaccines. While you might have already gotten all the necessary vaccinations for the upcoming illness season, if you’ve procrastinated and haven’t yet, schedule those today. 
  • And one of the most important ways to stay healthy is to make sure you’re prioritizing your mental health. Since the clocks will be moving back and there’s going to be less sunlight, it’s easier for your mental health to decline during this time of the year. So however you take care of your mental health, whether that’s therapy, psychiatric medication, meditation, talking to your friends, or anything else you do, make sure to be diligent about that. 

And if you need a little extra help figuring out how to take care of your mental health, here are a few mental health resources for healthcare pros.

While these things might not be foolproof in preventing you from getting sick, they can help your body be prepared to fight any illness that might come your way. 

5. Sign up for Medely

Need help with finding travel assignments or per diem shifts? Sign up for Medely! Medely has assignments and per diem shifts for nurses and healthcare professionals in thousands of healthcare facilities nationwide. Whether you’re looking for a travel assignment for the winter or looking to pick up per diem shifts over the healthcare busy season, check out Medely!

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