Having been in the travel business for 10 years, it’s no surprise that we frequently get calls from RNs and techs asking how to get started as a travel professional in the Cath, I/R, or EP labs.
The questioners usually all want to start traveling, but they generally have four areas of concern: compensation, whether or not there is consistent work, what type of benefits are offered, and the work environment involved with such a position.
Let’s start with compensation, since often that is the first question. Generally speaking, the market has strong demand for qualified and experienced staff, and travel professionals make more than their full-time regular colleagues (See the Cath Lab Digest January 2012 issue: http://www.cathlabdigest.com/articles/High-Paying-Career-Opportunities-C... ). Having said that, it depends on the location and contracted rates your travel company has with their client. In other words, just because one assignment pays $42 an hour it does not mean the next one will. Since most travel jobs offer housing and per-diem in addition to your hourly rate, you want to weigh that part of the compensation in your equation. Because the cost of living is so different in various parts of the country, these reimbursements will greatly vary by location. You can find a general guide that lists the maximum allowable amounts here: http://www.gsa.gov/portal/category/100120 . Also, since the majority of cath labs have on-call requirements, getting an idea of the average amount of call and call-back on a travel assignment should be taken into consideration, as this could boost your compensation significantly.
Whether or not your travel company can provide consistent work is a great question to consider. It breaks down to three factors: your license qualifications, how flexible you are on locations, and the travel firm’s specialty. RNs with a compact license have an advantage in that a single license will allow you to practice in (currently) 24 different states (A list of current compact states can be found here https://www.ncsbn.org/nlc.htm ) without having to apply for a separate license in each state. Otherwise, both RNs and techs are subject to state licensing boards, some of which can take up to a month or even longer. So if there are specific states that you are targeting for travel, the best advice is to start the licensure process as soon as you can. Most travel assignments require license in-hand (or at least in-process) to be considered, so it is in your best interest to be proactive and give yourself the best opportunity at the assignments you want.
Having an open mind as to where you travel is also important to keep you consistently working. For example, if you limit yourself to a select few locations that you want to work in, you are limiting yourself to a smaller number of potential contracts. The most successful travelers have flexibility and are open to just about any location for a 13-week contract.
Travel companies also often have areas of specialization, so finding one that specializes in Cath and EP would be important to the company finding you consistent work. Asking for references from current or former travelers would be a good resource.
Another area that we are often asked about is benefits. Many travel companies do offer health insurance. Ask your travel company if they have a group policy that covers you nationwide, and look at the Explanation of Benefits (EOB) they give their travelers. It is also good to ask what the cost is per pay period, and the waiting period for the insurance to become effective. Some companies might offer to put you in touch with an agent who will attempt to sell you an individual policy, and you will have to weigh what option works best for you. Our firm, SpringBoard, offers group health, life, 401k, disability, vision and more.
Last, but not least, we are often asked about the work environments. The environments vary widely — from a small, rural hospital to a large suburban teaching hospital (and everything in between). The best way to determine this is to ask your company. A good company and a good recruiter should have a good knowledge of the facility and area, and should be able to help paint a picture of what the assignment might be like. Keep in mind that typical assignments are 13 weeks, and the reality is that some assignments are going to be better than others. However you define the best assignments, whether it is the opportunity to make new friends, learn something new, explore new places, or make good money, be assured that whatever you are looking for is out there.
Gavin Hays can be reached at (866) 465-6286 or online at http://www.springboardstaffing.com .