Traveler Tips: Tackling the Summer Slowdown in Travel Nursing
By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
When I explain to non-healthcare friends and family that there is indeed a slow season for hospitals they seem a little amused. Surely we can’t predict when people get sick, right?
Any experienced traveler will tell you that there is a higher incidence of hospitalizations during the fall and winter months. Many facilities see a drop in the number of patients as warmer months approach and are less desperate to fill staffing needs as a result. All of these fluctuations in patient population have a drastic effect on the travel healthcare market and can make the summertime a particularly slow time for travel jobs.
While you may not have your pick of jobs during this time of year, it is possible to stay employed through the summer travel nursing slowdown. Keep in mind that all of travel healthcare is a give and take, and even if you have to make some sacrifices for the summer months there will be plenty of jobs popping up again around September and October.
Consider extending at your current location.
Managers are much more likely to keep a traveler they know who is reliable and knowledgeable before they go out and search for a new person to fill the position.
In a few cases, I have even been able to extend even though the unit was no longer in dire need of a traveler because I got along well with other staff and proved that I was a valuable asset.
Even if the job isn’t your favorite or you don’t love the area, having a job is better than a few weeks of unemployment. I highly recommend if a position offers an extension that will get you through to at least August you should jump on that opportunity.
The only exception would be if your license was in danger or you were suffering extreme mental health struggles as a result of the unit culture or other stressors.
Offer to act as a float or switch units at your current job.
While your home unit at your current contract may not have a need for a full-time traveler over the summer, the hospital may still need help in other areas.
If you do really love the area or you are having trouble finding a new assignment that looks appealing, ask your agency to reach out and see if there are any other ways to stay employed in your current contract.
You may be able to reach an agreement with your current position that buys you more time to shop around for your next job by being flexible and offering to work multiple units or switch units.
Stay open to smaller towns or less-popular locations.
While you may not be able to score that awesome “summertime in Seattle” contract, don’t be opposed to going to somewhere a little less talked about during the summer.
Many of these towns come alive during the summer and it is a great time to experience local culture and meet new people in the area.
Be on the lookout for local festivals, or check out the outdoor activities in the area. We tried paddleboarding for the first time on our first assignment and also found that local breweries had some sort of event going on almost every single weekend while it was warm. Another great memory was picking raspberries off the vine in Wisconsin—something we had never done before and made for some delicious homemade treats!
Keep active licenses in high demand states.
I currently have active licenses in both California and New York even though I have never worked a contract in those states. While they are not top destinations for me, I know that there have consistently been jobs listed in both areas no matter how the market changes.
If you have a compact license, this is another great advantage. Having a multi-state license definitely improves your chances of staying employed in a slow market, although you may notice pay rates drop a bit during the slower summer months.
Be financially prepared.
If I haven’t mentioned this enough in other posts, here is another reminder: Always have a financial cushion when working as a traveler. This is beneficial not only when you find yourself facing a contract cancellation, but it also gives you more power in times when jobs are not as plentiful.
A lot of travelers who have saved wisely will use the slower summer season to travel a bit internationally. Last year we were even able to go home for a month and do some vacationing between visits with family. The beauty of travel healthcare is you don’t actually have to work if you aren’t on a contract and you get to decide when to take contracts.
Just being aware of this summer travel nursing slowdown can put the power back in your hands.
The key to making it through a potential slow season in the travel market is meeting it head-on. Knowing ahead of time that you may not be able to have your pick of jobs is empowering because it lets you make the best plan based on the options you have.
Keep in mind that less demand may also result in slightly lower pay packages, but rates will start to creep back up as flu season rolls around. Be flexible or utilize this time to take an extended vacation and before you know it those high-paying jobs will be pouring into your inbox!
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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