Travel Healthcare: How to Become a Traveler in 2020
Change IS good! Travel healthcare is growing due to short staffing challenges throughout the US. Travel nursing, travel therapy, travel lab......wait, did you say travel LAB? As a matter of fact, I did! If you are in the medical laboratory field, this means there is a contract out there waiting with your name on it! Travel healthcare is unique in flexibility. Medical laboratory techs will ALWAYS be needed somewhere. So you’re not afraid of change, you want adventure, but you’re asking how exactly does becoming travel lab tech work?
The essence of being a “traveler” is the freedom of choosing where you would like to work. Texas, Colorado, Florida, California? You name it; chances are the need is there. Keep in mind some states require a license. Healthcare staffing agencies work with hospitals to fill openings they have been unable to hire permanent staff due to various reasons. Some reasons could be the location, shift, retirement turnover, and access. These reasons may not necessarily be bad, but this is something to keep in mind when accepting an offer.
There are several healthcare agencies such as Club Staffing, Fusion, and Triage that have divisions specifically for the laboratory. Recruiters with these agencies are responsible for filling the staffing need. A great way to connect with recruiters and find out opportunities available is on LinkedIn or completing a sign-up form on a company website.
If serious about travel, now is the time to update your current resume to reflect updated skills with new analyzers, software, HIS, LIS, or other skills you have mastered since working at your current job. The more diverse experience one has the more likely a manager will offer a contract. Some contracts are very competitive and if the location is touristy the applicant files will reach the maximum amount fast! Like a normal hiring process, managers look through files to find the best matched candidates to conduct interviews, but in this case it’s a phone interview. Asking questions is crucial to gaining insight on the lab that needs you. This is another article entirely, but one of the best questions to ask is whether or not the lab has had positive experiences travelers before. For the tech who regularly works as a generalist in all areas of the lab, this could be an edge for an opening in chemistry or hematology. For the tech who has only worked in the blood bank or only worked in microbiology, landing a contract could be challenging because blood bank only and micro only contracts tend to be less in demand due to extensive training in these disciplines versus the length of a traveler’s contract.
Travel lab techs are hired for a specified duration of time, usually 13 weeks or 26 weeks, but most commonly 13 weeks. With that said a medical lab scientist who can work in all disciplines of the laboratory likely will not be trained to work in all disciplines due to the short duration of time, which training may take between 2-4 weeks depending on the facility. A smaller hospital may need a lab tech to work in both hematology and chemistry, whereas a larger hospital may just need a tech to work only in the blood bank. This will vary widely, and it just depends on the need. Lab managers often ask travelers to extend longer, this helps them delay the process of covering shifts in absence, the hiring process, waiting, and so on. If that’s the case, the decision to stay longer rests on you!
Soon after the phone interviews, the hiring manager will contact the agency informing who they would like to extend an offer. If your interview, skills, and experience match up, this could be you! Managers typically want an answer immediately, but some will give up to 24 hours to accept. Remember, due to shortage, the managers want to hire as quickly as possible. Once a traveler accepts a contract offer there are several additional steps that are required before starting work, these can include a urine drug screen, TB skin test, and submitting immunization documentation. The staffing agency will outline what exactly is needed and follow up to ensure the documents are submitted prior to the start date.
The excitement, the anticipation, the travel, as a seasoned traveler this is the most exciting part of the journey to me! However, I do recommend [if leaving a permanent job to travel, or even if traveling already] to have several weeks of income saved to cover temporary housing, food, and travel expenses until you actually get paid. In most cases a traveler must work at least two weeks in order for payroll history to establish and be paid. Planning in advance as much as possible will help for unexpected challenges along the way. I am pleased to recommend (not sponsored) a new company, Nursesbnb, a rising bed and breakfast company created for the comfort of all travel healthcare professionals. This is needed since we as healthcare workers need temporary housing that better fits our needs than many hotels and other BnB's currently offer.
Arriving on the first day of a new contract, in a new hospital, city, and state can be a little scary or a fresh start to a wonderful journey! Make the most of it. I like to use time off to tour the city, try new food, attend a festival, do a hobby, anything to get out and embrace the new adventure. If you’re social like me, document the experience on Instagram to share with family, friends, and colleagues.
The travel lab experience has opened so many amazing opportunities for me. I am incredibly thankful for the experience I’ve had as a traveler. I’ve met wonderful people, seen beautiful scenery, developed lasting connections, and embraced my own creativity. I love being a traveler, and I am a medical laboratory scientist.