There are a ton of variables to consider when looking at travel assignments. Where is the assignment? Is it near a big city or in a more rural location? What setting will I be working in? How long is the contract? What does the pay package look like?
These are the questions that first cross most travelers’ minds when they’re being pitched jobs, and rightfully so. This information is most pertinent when deciding whether or not you want to interview for a certain position.
Working on the recruitment side of the travel healthcare industry, I’ve realized there are many other details that can make or break an assignment. Below are just a few of those things I recommend new (and even experienced) travelers ask before accepting any position.
These two are especially important for new grads or anyone working in a new setting for the first time. When heading into a new contract, you should have a good idea of the workload expected of you and how many patients you’ll be seeing on a daily basis. If you find out in an interview that the productivity levels are going to be higher than you’re comfortable with, don’t be afraid to voice that concern. The last thing we want to do is put you in a situation where you won’t be successful.
The same goes for mentorship. There are contracts out there where you might be the only therapist on your shift, and we try to place experienced travelers in those locations. We also have assignments at what we call “new grad-friendly” facilities where there will be at least one other experienced therapist on-site with you at all times! These are designed to help both new grads and new travelers have a smooth transition into their travel career, providing you with someone to be a resource to ask questions to and bounce ideas off of. Make sure to ask in an interview what kind of orientation and mentorship you can expect at each assignment.
Although most contracts are only 13 weeks, it’s still important that you find an assignment that you feel excited about. Since most travel contract interviews are done over the phone, make sure to have a list of questions to ask about the team culture you would be walking in to. How big is the staff? Do they spend time together outside of the office? Will there be other travelers working with you? These and other questions will give you a good starting point on getting an idea of the work environment you’re interviewing for.
Guaranteed Hours/30-Day Notice
Many facilities hire travelers because they are dealing with or expecting a high census spike. So what happens when the spike disappears and the census lowers? Most contracts are designed to be 40-hours/week positions. However, if the facility is dealing with a slow week they might send you home early. One thing to safeguard against not being paid for working a full 40 hours is to request a set number of guaranteed hours be included in your contract. For example, if you have it in your contract to get paid 36 hours guaranteed, you’ll still get paid for 36 hours even if you only work 25 hours one week.
If the facility can tell things are slowing down and they don’t need you to finish your contract, they can cancel the assignment. A 30-day notice will help you keep working during that stretch while we find you a new assignment. This doesn’t happen often, but it’s nice to have it as insurance in case it occurs.
Travel assignments are just like any other job. When you first start working with a travel agency, you’ll need to go through the basic onboarding and compliance processes (backgrounds, drug testing, fingerprints, etc.). For your first assignment, a good rule of thumb is that compliance will take about two weeks to complete. Another component to consider is the financial side. Most agencies will reimburse for these compliance items, but you might be responsible for the upfront costs. The same goes for licensing and travel costs to and from assignments. Make sure to keep all receipts that relate to these items to ensure you are getting accurate and timely reimbursements.
These are just a few things to keep in mind when considering a travel contract, but there are many others. What information is most important in your decision-making when taking a new travel contract? Experienced travelers, what are some things you wish you would’ve known before taking a certain assignment?