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Returning to Nurse in Ireland after Travelling

We see it every year on RTE news: Those heartfelt reunions of expats returning to their families after living and working abroad.

Whether it’s the ‘Fáilte’ signs at Dublin airport, the cup of Barrys tea, the family and friends hugs, or even the sight of a chicken fillet roll at a deli (my favourite!) – it’s all very warm, familiar and comforting. As an expat nurse myself, I really enjoyed this time of year as there was a sense of knowing where I belonged. I took my holiday where I regaled in my Irishness and then returned to my nursing post abroad. What I found unsettling, quite frankly, was the thought of what it was I was going to do next when I came home.

Four nurses at work

There’s no denying that there’s a huge adaptation period that happens when you leave the new country that has slowly become your home away from home. Whether you’ve lived abroad for ten years or ten months, it still takes time to get used to moving back to Ireland. When I first left Abu Dhabi to return home, people used to constantly ask me ‘Are you delighted to be back?’. I definitely was, in ways, but I also felt so confused as I missed my friends I made abroad and many other things. The sunshine was one massive factor! There’s no denying that our country can be very grey and that is hard to get used to if you have worked as a nurse in sunnier climates such as the Middle East or Australia. As comedian Pat Short once put it, ‘Sure it would be a lovely little country if you could just put a roof on it!’.

Sunshine aside, one thing I honestly found really challenging was trying to decide what area I wanted to go back to in nursing. The Irish healthcare system can feel very overwhelming after working in a different healthcare system abroad. That’s why I chose to work as an agency nurse when I came home.

Agency was a wonderful choice in so many ways.

  • Firstly, I wasn’t tied to working in any one area and I could get a taste of a few healthcare facilities before deciding to commit to any one. I also had a better work-life balance as I could pick my own hours. This allowed me the time I needed to catch up with family and friends after spending so much time away from them.
  • Secondly, I loved the fact that I had a better sense of work-life balance. When I lived in the Middle East, I used to work multiple night shifts. This was completely exhausting, and I definitely didn’t feel healthy while working them (having a takeaway with other nurses at 3am only suits me after a night out in Coppers!). I made a pact to myself that whenever I was to return home, I’d stop working these particular shifts. Agency nursing allowed me the autonomy that I could pick and choose whatever shifts I liked!

For any expat nurses feeling a little lost after returning home to Ireland, here’s my advice for you:

  • Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not feeling completely elated upon your return home. Mixed feelings are completely natural. I can fully relate.
  • Give yourself time to grieve your old lifestyle but keep moving forward. This is a new chapter and many more adventures await you!
  • Keep in touch with the parts of your old lifestyle that you loved. That may look like staying in touch with friends via video chat, eating a cuisine you enjoyed, practising a language, etc.
  • Don’t get too upset if your Irish friends or family aren’t interested in your life abroad. It’s not that they don’t care-they just can’t fully relate. Try not to be that person who starts every sentence with ‘This-one-time-in-Australia’, as much as you want to!
  • Find people who can relate to you-develop an expat community where you can share stories of your travels.
  • If you are finding the weather hard, try and book a sunny holiday to look forward to.
  • Keep busy. Get stuck into a project or job that will give you a sense of purpose. Might I recommend agency nursing?
  • If you are finding it very hard to adapt, you may need some professional support such as a counsellor or coach to help you with this new life adjustment. This is completely normal as many people go through more severe cases of reverse culture shock. Self-compassion and self-care are very important here. Be kind to yourself and go at your own pace. Trust me when I say it gets easier.

For more information on agency nursing with Clarity Locums you can get in touch with me at the button below.

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Posted on 06 June 2023
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