Deciding on a travel healthcare career can be a big decision. I have been working as an Occupational Therapist for about 7 years now, and I LOVE being a travel therapist. For healthcare professionals, there are two main routes you can take in your career. One is the traditional full-time permanent position, the other is a non-permanent, contracted position. Technically speaking, a travel position IS a temporary contracted position. This means the healthcare professional is contracted to work for a set period of time at a facility/organization either independently or through an agency, such as Trusted Nurse Staffing.
There are pros and cons to each type of career path. I’ve been a travel Occupational Therapist for most of my career and as of now, due to my current goals and priorities, travel therapy is the best fit for me. A traveling healthcare career is possible for many different healthcare disciplines including nurses, therapists, techs, and more. Here is why a career in traveling healthcare may be best for you!
You get to Travel
As a healthcare professional you are eligible to work in any state you are licensed. Deciding where the best place to go is up to you and your recruiter. It’s always a great idea to speak to a recruiter, to see what areas are trending and where you are likely to get a travel position you need. Most agencies have a job board where you can see what positions they have open and in what states. Once you are licensed in a state you are able to work there temporarily.
If you love exploring new places this may be a great career for you. It’s a more viable experience to actually live and work in a community instead of just visiting. A traveler can really learn about the community and have time to explore all a place has to offer. As a travel OT, I have lived in Maryland, Texas, California, Arizona, Alaska, and New Mexico!
A travel healthcare position offers a lot more flexibility than a permanent position. A permanent position typically has set days off for an employee. With travel healthcare, you have the luxury to work when you want. I often take one or two weeks off between jobs to take long road trips between locations as well as to visit friends and family. When I work as a travel OT, I work on average 10 months a year and make more money than I would working the whole year at a permanent position.
It’s also important to know as a traveler there is no paid time off. However, I’ve discovered the “no work, no pay” part of travel healthcare, is made up for by the increase in pay when you are working.
Working less and making more money is appealing to me, as I am sure it is to most. When you are a travel healthcare professional you are in high demand, which drives up your salary. Since you are a traveling employee you are entitled to nontaxable stipends; including housing, meals, and travel. The hourly salary for a traveling healthcare professional is actually lower than a permanent position but the nontaxable stipends are how travel healthcare professionals end up making more money.
When you are a travel healthcare professional you are needed and expected to work very hard. However, there is a positive outcome to that mentality that I have found, which is fewer meetings and less drama. Every workplace has drama and when you are a temporary employee you tend to be left out because “oh you’re leaving in a few weeks.” When I am working as a travel OT, I rarely attend meetings because no one wants to pay me to sit and not see patients.
I go to work, provide my patients with skilled treatment, give them my undivided attention, and then I go home. Yes, I work very hard and at a much faster pace than I needed to at my permanent gig, but I feel like I am 100% more effective as a therapist. I find work a lot less stressful when I get to avoid all the drama and politics of the workplace.
Even though I don’t participate in meetings and other non-patient care tasks and work, I still always feel part of the team. I often make most of my friends at work during travel assignments.
The Opportunity to Help Communities in Need
There tends to be a pretty steady need for nurses (as well as many other healthcare professionals) across the U.S. simply due to the fact that there are more jobs than there are professionals (yay, job security!). However, some communities suffer more due to the lack of available healthcare professionals in their area (i.e. underserved and rural areas).
For example, a facility in need in San Diego is going to have a much easier time filling a position than Barrow, Alaska. Travel allows you to temporarily work at a place in need and to be able to help underserved communities. Healthcare workers provide a public service to which, unfortunately, many residents in the U.S. have very limited access. Travel healthcare positions allow these communities to have access to health services that are desperately needed.
If traveling, flexibility, more money, less drama, and helping communities in need sounds appealing to you, then you might want to consider a traveling healthcare professional career. If you are still not sure if you are cut out for the gig, you can see if you share the same traits as the best travel nurses in the biz here. I took a break from travel therapy for 15 months and I found myself counting down the days until I could get back into traveling therapy. I truly am happy I decided to take a chance on travel therapy.
by: Sarah Taggart
Sarah is the founder and creator of tinyvanbigliving.com. She is a travel Occupational Therapist and has been traveling for almost 7 years!