Medical travel is open to nearly all healthcare professionals, including nurses, respiratory and physical therapists, laboratory and radiology personnel and others. Although it sounds like a glamorous job, there are definite pros and cons to the lifestyle.
Not everyone is cut out to be a medical traveler. Before quitting a full time job, all professionals should decide if travel is right for them. Considering that as a medical traveler they also need to pack the things they need like medical scrubs before traveling.
The Pros of Medical Travel
- People who are adventurous and very adaptable to new situations may like traveling. It is an opportunity to expand knowledge and learn new skills. There is constant change and challenge with each assignment.
- The larger staffing companies place workers in hospitals across the country, therefore giving the healthcare professional the opportunity to work in many different states and cities.
- Travelers work for the staffing company, not the hospital. Although there is some variance, nearly all companies will offer benefits to their employees, including medical, dental and life insurance, and different retirement plans.
- The staffing company will either provide a furnished apartment for a traveler, or give him a stipend if the traveler decides to find his own housing. Many travelers choose the apartment, as the company also pays for all utilities and deposits. This can be a real plus since most assignments are for 13 weeks and finding housing for a short period of time can be difficult.
- Travelers not only receive an hourly rate, they also receive tax-free income in the form of a daily per diem, housing allowance, car allowance, licensure reimbursement, etc. All things are negotiable on a contract.
- Most assignments are for 13 weeks. This can be a good thing, because the traveler can leave when the assignment is over if it has not been a good experience. On the other hand, very often travelers can extend a contract for another 13 weeks if they want to stay and if the hospital still has a staffing need.
The Cons of Medical Travel
- Many people like the routine and safety of having a stable job. Those who don’t like change or don’t adapt easily to high pressure situations may have a difficult time as travelers.
- Because the traveler is always the new kid on the block, any authority or respect that was gained at a previous full time job is gone. That can be difficult to accept, as a person used to taking charge may find himself stepping on toes, or worse, being disregarded.
- Some people pare down their belongings and travel with as little as three suitcases, one of which contains scrubs. Others travel with a U-Haul and take those things they can’t live without. Expect to leave behind cherished items and live with the bare essentials.
- It is very difficult to leave home, family and friends, and homesickness is common. Most travelers work holidays and weekends, but specific days off can be written into the contract.
- All travelers need a permanent address, and if asked or audited, the traveler must be able to prove he supported a permanent household. Think twice before selling a home or giving up a lease. Know the tax laws before traveling.
- The housing that is supplied by the staffing company can vary tremendously, from beautiful luxury apartments to small, dark housing the traveler would never choose. Occasionally, the traveler can research and suggest an apartment complex, but management may not agree to a short lease.
- Some hospitals require the same orientation from travelers as they do from a new employee. On the other hand, some hospitals expect that you will walk through the door ready to work, and the orientation to the unit is minimal.
- Those who have a new degree or minimal experience will find it very hard to travel. Although travel companies require a minimum of experience, in some cases this is as little as one year. The traveler needs to be skilled and able to draw on experience to quickly get up to speed at a new place. If they can’t, the hospital can ask to terminate the contract and the staffing company is under no obligation to offer another contract.
- If a contract is not fulfilled, the traveler may have to pay back the staffing company a certain dollar amount. That money usually comes from a final paycheck, and the traveler may not be offered another contract with that company.
- The recent economic downturn has affected the medical travel industry, and hospitals are cutting back on the number of travelers they use. Be certain you can afford to be out of work if there are no contracts available.
If life as a medical traveler sounds like an attractive option, the first step will be contacting several staffing companies and talking about the options available like serving in a Hospital at home. Travel can be a wonderful way to work and see the country at the same time.