Traveler Tips: Setting Realistic Expectations For Your Healthcare Career
By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
Working in travel healthcare is a great way to branch out in more ways than one. Traveling allows you to visit new areas, expand your skills as a practitioner and build relationships across the United States. When you first leave your staff job, there is a certain thrill of anticipation that becomes embedded in your soul, and your world is suddenly open to a host of possibilities.
As a brand new traveler, it can be hard to balance these great expectations with a small dose of reality. Not every assignment will fulfill every point on your list of assignment goals, but by setting some realistic travel nurse expectations, your career can strike a balance between fun, adventure and regular employment.
Know what you want from each assignment
A great way to have success in any situation is to set goals. Travel nursing is no different. Before starting your career as a traveler, it is important to sit down and think about what you hope to accomplish by working as a travel nurse.
Decide if you have a set amount of time you plan to travel or if you are going to reassess how you feel at the end of each contract. Then, set some financial goals for yourself.
One of the most popular reasons to work as a travel nurse is financial security. For a majority of people travel healthcare is more lucrative than working in a permanent position. This could allow you to spend more money on travel between assignments, or give you enough extra cash to save for a large purchase such as a house.
During other assignments, you may have the chance to work in a dream location. While you may not earn as much during this time, there should be other positives to focus on during these types of contracts.
Every job may not come with a killer location and awesome pay rate, so setting a specific goal for each assignment is a great way to stay focused and keep a positive attitude even if you had to make some compromises on location or unit setting.
Decide if there are other “must-haves” for each contract
Some travel nurses are very particular about shift while others are happy to work nights or rotate if needed. While it is not impossible to travel as a days-only nurse, it can limit your job options. By limiting your shift preference, you may also limit your location or even pay. Most hospitals do not offer a traditional differential for travelers, but they may set a higher bill rate for a night shift position.
The same rule applies to other non-nursing specialties. If you are a therapist, limiting your setting may result in fewer job options. Radiology travelers may have to be willing to work an odd shift or take a little more call than they would like. Each field has different considerations, but being open to new settings or learning new skills is helpful when trying to land a contract.
Other things to consider for each contract are time off, holiday schedule, and floating stipulations. Adding a laundry list of requirements to your contract may cause managers to pass you over for more flexible candidates, but do not agree to something you are unable to sustain for your entire contract.
Expect a few bumps in the road
Anyone who has worked as a travel nurse will have a story or two about a time where almost nothing went according to plan. However, most of these people will also tell you they have stayed in the field and rolled with the punches.
Whether your assignment gets canceled, your licensing takes longer than expected, or you have to change housing plans last minute, know that it is all part of the journey and take each hiccup as a learning experience. Keeping an open mind and being flexible is key to working as a traveler.
If your experience is wearing you down more than you can handle, do not be afraid to reach out for help or advice. There are some great online communities for travelers to connect, and chances are someone has experienced a similar situation.
Don’t be afraid to reassess at the end of each assignment
One of the best parts of being a traveler is you do not have to do it for very long. Some people take one assignment and realize the lifestyle is not the right choice for them, while others spend years working travel jobs.
There is no one-size-fits-all requirement, and by going in with realistic expectations you can be better prepared to make your experience as a traveler right for you.
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