By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
When my husband and I first told our family we planned to work in travel healthcare, one of the first concerns voiced by both sides was “That doesn’t sound like a very stable line of work.” We assured them we could always find work, and in almost three years I have yet to find myself unemployed by circumstances other than my own choosing.
There are certainly different styles of moving from job to job. Some travel nurses prefer to go directly from one contract to the next, while others may choose to take longer breaks. You can use time off to go home and see family, take an overseas trip, or spend some time seeing the country as you move from one location to the next.
Of course, with travel, there is no guarantee of employment (the word “guarantee” is the sticking point for a lot of people), but it is reasonable to assume that if you prepare correctly you can find a job unless you have a contract cancellation or have planned time off.
I have learned some valuable tips to maintain regular employment even in slow seasons. These are the top five ways you can land a contract every time you start looking:
1. Work with 3-4 companies, and make sure at least one of them is a larger staffing firm
- The jobs presented by your recruiter are going to boil down to one factor: The hospital systems their company has a relationship with.
- Each company is going to have a slightly different selection of jobs based on their hospital relationships. By having your profile up-to-date with a handful of companies, you will have more overall options when it comes to looking for your next assignment.
2. Keep your references and resumé up to date
- The first thing a recruiter has to check prior to submitting you to a job is if you have a resume and recent references on file. To help them out, try and have these items ready before they ask for them.
- As a general rule, references should be someone you have worked for in the last year. One of the best tricks I have learned is to find a generic reference form and have my manager and a charge nurse fill one out before I leave each location.
3. Consider a California license
- Although getting your California license can be a headache, it is extremely handy to have in the event that the job market has slowed down. California nursing laws require employers to abide by specific ratios to avoid fines, so there is always a need for travelers across the state.
- Keep in mind that a California license takes several months to process once your application is sent, so if you want to go this route make sure and start the process early.
4. Keep a good relationship with previous facilities
- One secret of the travel world that doesn’t get shared often is that managers can actually create a travel position for you sometimes. A hospital may not be in dire need of a traveler yet, but a manager could be more apt to spend money on a travel nurse if they know you will require less training and have a solid work ethic.
- If you find yourself hitting dead ends in terms of assignment options, try reaching out to previous managers and asking if they need any help. They may offer per diem work, or they could be willing to bring you back for an entire contract. Usually, your agency can then submit you for a special position and the manager will let HR know to expect your profile.
5. Keep your phone close once you are submitted
- One of the frustrating parts of travel nursing can be waiting for the phone to ring after submitting for a job. In addition, it is fairly common for managers to move on to the next candidate if you are not able to answer the first time they call.
- After you are submitted, I suggest keeping your phone on and a list of interview questions close. If I get called at work, I call back on my lunch break or ask for a quick moment to step away if there is enough staffing to allow for it. Similarly, if I am somewhere like the gym where my phone is not usually on me, I will set my smartwatch to alert me to calls or simply keep my phone nearby and duck into the locker room if necessary.
Because the travel healthcare market has a very quick turnaround, the overarching theme of these tips is to be prepared. Do not sit and wait for your next assignment to present itself—take steps ahead of time to be ready and waiting when it comes along. This is especially important if you do not want to compromise on assignment details like location or shift.
It can seem risky to base your career around temporary work, but if you talk to experienced travelers you will learn it is extremely rare to find a travel nurse sitting around without a job. Follow the above tips, keep an open mind, and you should be able to land that contract each time with no problems.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
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