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Travel assignments: The good, the bad, and the ugly

When I’m talking to candidates about beginning a career as a traveling healthcare professional, they want to hear about not only the good aspects and what they can look forward to, but the negative as well. And who can blame them? I would also want to be well informed about what travel entails before walking away, even if only temporarily, from a secure permanent position. While moving every 13 weeks may sound exciting and adventurous, the traveler lifestyle can come with challenges as well. That’s why I wanted to write a post to highlight some pros and cons that are associated with working as a traveler no matter if you’re a nurse, therapist, or tech.

The Good.
I could write a whole blog post on all of the good that can come from travel, and I probably already have (you can check out all of my previous blog posts here). But since you’re reading this blog in the first place, I’m going to assume that you’re already interested in travel and probably more enticed by hearing about the bad and ugly, so I’ll try and keep this section short. I want to leave you with one great point about traveling, and it’s that you’ll be forever changed by the experience. Taking on a travel assignment will draw you out of your comfort zone. In doing so, you’re going to grow not only as a person, but also as a healthcare professional in your field.  Your skills will be tested, you’ll have to learn to adapt to new people, and you’ll be taught new ways for getting the same end result. All those things might sound hard and scary, but I’ve never met someone who isn’t fulfilled by tackling a challenge. If you put your heart into your new traveling career just like you have in your permanent position, you’ll come out of the experience as a changed and better person.

The Bad.
There’s no sugarcoating it, so I’ll come right out and say it: working as a traveler can be lonely. Travel assignments are typically 13 to 26 weeks in length. That’s not a very long amount of time, so just when you feel like you’re getting settled into a location, you’ll be packing up to help out a new short-staffed facility in a different location. If you’re not someone who feels comfortable constantly having to meet new people and make new friends, you might find that being a traveler is not for you. Before you become a traveler, consider if you’re okay being away from your home base. Some ways around this feeling of loneliness are to travel with a spouse, partner, friend, or coworker. Having someone familiar around when you’re on the road can help ease the sadness you might feel from being away from home and everything familiar. If bringing someone along or traveling as a pair isn’t an option, you have other options to bring home with you on the road. For starters, consider taking a pet along. Traveling with a furry friend isn’t for everyone and you should also keep the personality of your pet in mind when deciding, but there’s a lot of information available if it’s something you’d like to do. You might also find that FaceTime, bringing pictures with you on the road, or even good old-fashioned handwritten letters might ease the feeling of being homesick. Another option is to take time off between assignments to go back home and spend quality time with those you love. I talk to a lot of travelers who love the freedom, flexibility and extra income travel brings. Because of this, they’re able to take more time off work than they would in a permanent full-time position.

The Ugly.
I wish I didn’t have to talk about the fact that you could end up at an assignment with people who aren’t helpful, friendly, and welcoming, but unfortunately, you might. The truth is, travelers aren’t always well received so it’s something you could run into. Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect yourself against ending up in this situation. The best way is to network with other travelers. This helps you get the scoop on what previous travelers have experienced and get an idea of what the facilities are like. I’d also suggest checking in with your recruiter to see if they know why the facility needs a traveler, and whether the facility is known to be traveler friendly. Also, listen to your gut. If you don’t feel right about taking an assignment after you speak to a manager in the phone interview, it’s okay to pass on the job offer. It’s also important to keep in mind what you can control. While you’ll never be able to change someone else’s poor attitude, you do have the power to control your own. If you find yourself in an assignment at a facility with a negative culture, I recommend you put your best foot forward and be the light amongst the darkness so that you can hopefully leave having made an impact for the better.

If you’re a current or past traveler, what would you say is the good bad and ugly of travel assignments?

Katie Lutmer is a Recruiter for the Aureus Medical Social Media Recruitment Team

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