Feeling lonely at work can happen to anyone, even nurses. According to The Campaign to End Loneliness, in 2022 almost 50% of adults or 29.66 million people in the UK reported feeling lonely, whether that was occasionally, sometimes, often or always.
You can still feel lonely and isolated as nurse, even if you're interacting with patients and colleagues every shift. In a high-stress role like nursing, it's normal to feel isolated - and when you’re working agency shifts, without regular colleagues and different people to care for every day, it can be even worse.
If you’re feeling lonely, it’s important to tackle it for the sake of your own well-being - and so you can stay focused on giving high-quality care.
Here's how to tackle loneliness as an agency nurse...
What causes loneliness in nursing?
Demanding schedules, high-stress care environments and limited opportunities to connect with people outside work can all contribute to feeling lonely.
You face a unique set of challenges every shift, trying to do the best job you can, without a consistent team and while working in unfamiliar settings where you may struggle to build connections.
The good news is, with the right support, you can fix loneliness and feel more connected at work, plus keep on making a positive difference to your patients.
6 ways to stop feeling lonely as an agency nurse
Don't face loneliness in silence. You can beat loneliness if you recognise the feeling (sometimes, just naming the emotion can help you start to feel more in control), and look for ways to overcome it.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
1. Take every chance to build relationships with colleagues
Yes, this can be tough when you're working agency shifts - but it's not impossible.
Focus on building connections wherever you can, and treat this as an important task on your shift to-do list.
- Don’t wait to be invited to talk! Ask any questions you have at handover (find our guide to running a good handover here), and share your opinion on what's important for patient care throughout the day. Having these conversations makes you better able to do your job, and automatically helps you build relationships and connections with your colleagues.
- When you're on a break, chat to people! Keep it simple and low-stakes - let people tell you about themselves by asking questions (eg "How was your evening?" "What have you got for lunch today?" "How's your day going?"). Now, you've broken the ice, and gone from being strangers to having that conversation in common. This is how connections start to get made, and you'll find it easier to talk next time you see that person.
- Go to nursing conferences, workshops and events, or join online support groups (try searching for Facebook groups for nurses in your area). This will help you feel connected to your profession, and add new people who 'get it' to your network.
- With Florence, you’re able to work at the places you like again and again, as care services you work with well can send you private shift invites. This helps you book shifts regularly in the same places, helping you build on relationships you develop with colleagues there.
2. Prioritise self-care and well-being
You can feel lost, disconnected from yourself and like you 'don't matter' when you're lonely. Push back against this feeling by taking care of your physical and mental health - when you look after yourself, you prove you're important and break the cycle of negative self-talk through action.
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and rest so that you’re recovered enough to tackle long shifts or unsociable hours.
- Eat a healthy diet, even though that might be challenging you can invest some time in preparation and planning to make sure you always have something healthy to hand; everything feels worse when you’re hungry.
- Take time to exercise, whether that’s walking instead of driving to work, or committing to regular exercise classes you can fit into your schedule. Don't over-do it if you're just starting your exercise journey - set yourself an achievable goal, for example following couch to 5k, or trying one short yoga video on Youtube a week (try Yoga with Adriene's 'Under 10 Minutes' playlist)
- Remember it’s not selfish to spend time on self-care; caring for yourself is an essential part of being a good nurse.
3. Get help from a mentor
While your workplace may change regularly, your working relationships don’t need to. You can look for mentorship and guidance to offer that consistency and support.
- Reach out to experienced nurses you meet through work and see who might be able to support you in this way; people like to be asked and like to help, so you will be pleasantly surprised about what you might find.
- Consider helping others by being a mentor to agency nurses who are less experienced than yourself – you’ll be surprised at how much you learn on both sides of a supportive relationship.
- At Florence, you can reach out for professional support, guidance and mentorship, and our dedicated team is here to help. Find out more.
4. Find support
It’s important to locate the best source of support and make use of them in a way that makes most sense to you. Support is available that provides safe spaces for nurses to share experiences, seek advice, and build connections with peers facing similar challenges.
- A first port of call is your agency, to see how they can help. At Florence there are many ways we support our members, from helping with revalidation, providing opportunities for CPD through Florence Academy, and offering incident support. Find out more.
- You could also join local in-person support groups and online forums - Agency Nurses Forum UK and Agency Nurses UK Forum on Facebook might be good places to start.
- Book an appointment with your GP to discuss how you're feeling, and talk through options for accessing mental health services in your area.
5. Keep learning
Keep with the latest nursing developments and continue with your own professional development. This helps you increase your skills, make new connections, and keep feeling that sense of achievement that comes with learning something new.
- Industry conferences, webinars and online courses all offer the opportunity to stay up-to-date on best practices and to connect with new people.
- Check out Florence Academy for a wide range of free health and social care courses that will help you stay on top of your game.
6. Stay positive and be a good colleague
You can help create a positive work environment yourself - be the kind of colleague you'd like to work with, and you'll build trust and connections with any team you're part of.
Here are our quick-fire tips for being a positive presence on shift:
Get to know people quickly
- Introduce yourself: Make it a point to introduce yourself to everyone on your team. Knowing names and roles helps you and your team connect quickly.
- Be positive and open: A positive attitude is contagious. Be friendly, and keep an open line of communication with your colleagues.
- Be clear and concise: Make sure you are straightforward and accurate when sharing information on patient care.
- Listen actively: Sometimes all someone needs is to be heard. Listen to your colleagues and patients alike.
- Be a team player: Always be willing to help where you can. Offer to help even before you're asked.
- Acknowledge others: Saying thanks, and telling people when you appreciate their work, goes along way in building positive connections.
- Share knowledge: If you have experience or knowledge in a particular area that might benefit your team, don't hesitate to share it.
- Dress appropriately: Wear your uniform and stick to any dress codes that are in place - it's professional, and shows you're part of the team.
- Time management: Arrive on time and be punctual throughout your shift. You're respecting your own time this way, and your colleagues' time too.
You don’t need to suffer loneliness in silence, and you aren’t alone.
By prioritising self-care, finding support, pursuing professional development and helping to build a positive environment on shift, you can reclaim your well-being and start to feel part of your local nursing community again.
Florence can help you find flexible shifts near you and improve your work-life balance. Find out more and sign up today.
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