The Pros and Cons of Allied Travel Jobs
Allied healthcare professionals across the country are packing their bags to begin a new career in travel. But are allied travel jobs really all they’re cracked up to be? In this blog, I’ll share a few pros and cons of becoming an allied traveler so you can determine for yourself whether it’s worth the plunge.
The Benefits of Allied Travel
Opportunities to Explore
The opportunity to visit new places is one you don’t often get in healthcare, and it’s perhaps the most salient perk to becoming a traveler. If clocking in at the same building year-round has made you feel claustrophobic, then the flux of traveling will be a welcome relief.
Besides a new place to work every few months, traveling also affords you the chance to see locales that you wouldn’t otherwise have time to explore. Instead of taking a costly vacation to visit your bucket-list location, you could work there as an allied traveler and use your off days to experience its sights and sounds.
Higher Earning Potential
Many professionals are lured into traveling by the promise of a bigger paycheck. It’s true—travelers tend to make more money per week than their staffed counterparts. But a traveler’s salary comprises multiple components, so if you only look at the hourly wage, you may be disappointed.
Travelers receive, in general, three types of payment throughout their assignment: hourly wages, travel reimbursements, and stipends. The proportion of pay you’ll receive from each category will depend on your specialty, the facility and location of your assignment, and your staffing agency.
The type of stipends you’ll receive also vary widely, but travelers can expect some sort of housing stipend to significantly subsidize, if not cover, the cost of an apartment and furnishings. Other covered costs may include CEU and licensing fees, moving expenses, and meals. Depending on your contract, you may be privy to other competitive benefits, such as medical coverage and a 401(k) contribution. Overall, the compensation package of a traveler is hard to beat.
And it gets better. Stipends are generally non-taxable, so depending on how much you receive in stipends, you could save thousands on taxes alone, even if your paycheck isn’t much bigger. That’s why it’s important to negotiate any pay package you’re offered to receive the best compensation possible!
Flexible Time Off
Although allied travelers don’t usually receive any form of paid time off, they do enjoy the freedom of being able to block out their schedule for an extended break.
So if you’ve always wanted to spend a month backpacking or visiting family, you won’t have to accrue vacation time first. As a traveler, you can schedule gaps of time in between assignments to ensure you’ll be available for the non-work opportunities that mean the most to you.
With your staffing agency as your safety net, you can create a healthy work-life balance and jump right back into travel assignments when you’re ready.
Less Boredom and Burnout
Boredom at work often leads to burnout. A stunning number of healthcare professionals experience burnout in their careers, which means a whole lot of us are bored with our jobs. And no wonder—it can get monotonous.
A permanent full-time job doesn’t usually exhibit the exciting rotation of settings, specialties, and therapists that you enjoyed as a student in your clinicals. But with travel, you can relive that variety and rejuvenate your love of the career. From clinics and co-workers to patient demographics and the ailments that characterize them—allied travel is anything but monotonous.
Besides spicing up your work life, variety can make you a more well-rounded clinician. The skills and experience you’ll gain from varied work will pay big dividends later when you settle down and take a permanent placement you know you’ll love.
Another contributor to burnout is conflict at work, whether with other therapists, clinic managers, or the unrealistic productivity standards they levy. Unfortunately, no travel assignment is immune to the possibility of unethical demands (although the questions you ask in your interview may give you a reading on this), but at the very least, it won’t last forever. When you know you have only a handful of weeks left before you’re out of there, a poor work environment becomes so much easier to bear.
Conversely, if you’ve enjoyed your travel assignment, you may be able to renew your contract and stay another 13 weeks. This way, you’re not locked into a long-term commitment at a place you dislike, but you also won’t have to leave a work situation you really enjoy.
These pros paint a pretty picture of life as an allied traveler, but it’s not without its drawbacks. Let’s take a closer look at the challenges of traveling.
The Challenges of Allied Travel
Minimal Adjustment period
Thirteen weeks move fast, and the facility that hired you will likely put you to work immediately. Thus, you’ll need to quickly adapt to a new work environment, from building orientation and equipment handling to EMR use and documentation practice. It’s a lot to learn, all at once, in addition to learning your way around a new city.
Unless you’ve moved recently, you may have forgotten how stressful it can be. Packing, unpacking, organizing, settling, learning people’s names, losing your way while driving, and relying on Google reviews for the best places to eat—it’s all part of life on the move. So if the idea of living like a nomad stresses you out more than thrills you, travel might not be your best option.
Finally, a travel lifestyle isn’t conducive to a brimming social life. Granted, you can make friends (and you should!), and you can certainly keep in touch with the ones you left at home. But much of the time you’ll be on your own, with your staffing recruiter and long-distance loved ones the only constants in your life.
The perks of travel appeal to almost everyone, and the drawbacks—although deal-breaking for some—can be mitigated. For example, you could take assignments that are closer to home, stay with friends and forgo your housing stipend, or bring your partner or pet with you when your contract allows.
All in all, thousands of healthcare professionals nationwide find traveling to be a viable way to boost income, gain new skills, and renew their love of therapy. Maybe you will too!
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Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™, and founder of PTProgress.com. He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to therapy documentation or continuing education for therapists. Follow him on YouTube for weekly videos on ways to improve your physical and financial health.