Whether you are just entering the healthcare industry or are a seasoned pro, tremendous opportunities exist in the world of travel healthcare. While most aspects of the job mirror traditional healthcare employment, travel companies offer some unique opportunities and challenges, which you should be aware of before accepting a travel assignment.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions that will help you determine if this career option is for you.
What are the current requirements for travel healthcare workers?
The minimum requirements for traveling healthcare workers include a valid license in the discipline in which you practice, a current BCLS (CPR) card, an updated physical, updated vaccinations, one year of recent clinical experience and solid employer references.
What types of healthcare workers can expect to find travel healthcare opportunities?
The greatest demand is for nurses, but other healthcare professionals are also needed in specialized areas, including:
- Bone densitometry
- Computed tomography
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Medical technology
- Nuclear medicine
- Occupational therapy
- Opthalmic ultrasound
- Physical therapy
- Radiation therapy
- Radiologic technology
- Respiratory therapy
- Vascular sonography
- Speech pathology
- Surgical technology
Does travel healthcare require any special skills or personality traits?
Of course, travel healthcare lends itself to professionals who like to travel. An adventurous personality and an ability to adapt to new cultures are also helpful for international assignments.
How much do travel healthcare workers earn?
While salaries vary depending on factors, such as experience, the season, and the location and duration of the assignment, traveling healthcare workers fetch higher rates than their stationary counterparts. Hourly wages can range from $18 to $35 an hour. Travel companies often offer sign-on and completion bonuses designed to attract specialists in areas including critical care, labor and delivery, operating room and dialysis, among others. These bonuses can range from $500 to $2,500.
Do travel companies offer benefits?
Many do. Common benefits include continuing-education hours, 401k programs and full health coverage.
How much do I have to invest in a career in travel healthcare?
It doesn't cost any more to get started in a travel healthcare career than it does to work in a traditional setting. The company reimburses all travel-related costs, including lodging. Many also offer a per diem for food. Some require you to pay for your utilities and phone expenses. Since you are not paying for housing, you can bank your monthly rent payments and walk away with even more money at the end of your assignment.
How long does it take to get an assignment with a travel company?
Travel companies seek to secure healthcare professionals months in advance. It is best to apply two to three months before you want to begin work. But in some cases, you could be contacted for employment as quickly as one week after you apply.
How long do assignments last?
Assignment durations can range from two months to four months, but shorter assignments are available. If you find that a location is an ideal fit for you, then in many cases you can request an assignment extension. Contracts are typically for one assignment, with new contracts for future assignments.
Where will I be asked to go?
Travel healthcare workers are in demand all over the world. Larger US cities, like New York and Los Angeles, or more exotic locales, like Alaska and Hawaii, typically offer more opportunities than smaller, less-traveled regions. There is also an increasing demand in international locations as more business is conducted globally.
In what types of facilities will I work?
There is no single answer. You could land in a small town with a rural hospital. Or you could wind up in a well-known facility in a metropolitan area. Just let the company know your preference. You can always turn down the assignment if it is unattractive or does not fit in with your career goals.
Can I bring family, friends and/or pets?
Yes. Since you will be living in private housing, you may bring people and pets with you. Of course, you need to ensure there is enough space and that the housing accepts pets. Bringing family, friends or pets is an excellent way to avoid becoming homesick.
What shifts will I be required to work?
Much like traditional hospitals, full-time schedules run 40 hours a week. Those shifts may be completed in five eight-hour days, four 10-hour days or three 12-hour days, depending on the needs of the facility.
What factors should I consider when choosing an assignment?
Beyond pay, the key factors you should consider mostly depend on your personal preferences and career goals. Are you looking for a learning experience that will broaden your knowledge? Or do you seek to work with the latest medical technologies? If so, then a teaching hospital might be best for you. If you would rather get back to basics, then a small hospital could be a match. Do you hate cold weather? Like majestic scenery? Do you want to stay close to home? Or are you up for far-away travel? These, too, weigh in on your decision. Then there are contractual considerations. Will the facility be your employer or the agency? Tax and insurance issues are greater if you work under independent contractor status. When it comes to travel healthcare, knowing yourself will help you know what assignments to accept. For more enjoyable experiences, don't stretch your limits too far on early assignments. Get comfortable with what you know and like before venturing out into the unknown.
What are my options when the assignment is over?
There are several routes available once the assignment ends. With valuable travel healthcare experience under your belt, you are at the front of the line for new assignments from the same company. You could also apply for assignments with a different company. And you have the ultimate freedom to return home for a season and go back out on the road later, or take a permanent position in a more traditional environment if travel healthcare just isn't for you.
How will travel healthcare experience impact my career over the long term?
Travel experience can only benefit you over the long term. If you can handle the challenge of working in changing environments, then working in a permanent facility should be a piece of cake. Beyond the excitement and financial rewards, travel healthcare is a resume builder that will garner attention from future employers.
Learn more about travel careers.