Locum Tenens Travel

Traveling to fill a job is a component of locums work that attracts or deters providers when in reality, you may not have to go very far at all. Statistics report that 38% of surveyed providers said they chose locums work for the travel opportunities and there are plenty of them in just about any direction. But not everyone wants to go far from home and you may be able to find locums work within driving distance. This will really depend on where you live to begin with. If your town has more cows than people, there’s a good chance you will have to go further to find work and that may mean staying away from home longer. But if you are closer to a city or town with a few hospitals or private practices, there’s a good chance you can find work that will still let you go home to your own bed or family at the end of a shift.

What’s the reality of travel?

For providers who decide to travel, most locums agencies only cover the basics: housing and maybe a rental car. They may or may not pay for a flight if the location is far away and there’s no coverage for food or other living expenses while you are away.  A lot of physicians who picture locums work imagine hiking mountainside trails or lounging by the beach on their days off from work. You know—enjoying the good life. And while it may be that way for some, it’s not typical. Work hours tend to be long, and the demands of an unfamiliar environment mentally draining. You can’t wait to get off work and relax in  your own apartment. Sorry. Not likely either.  Chances are accommodations will be similar to an Extended Stay vs a cozy house rental.  While housing may not be like home, the upside is if you hit a snag in the middle of your travels, you do have the benefit of calling your agency for help. Most companies have a department specially dedicated to handling travel details and they can help rearrange some problems.

Why Travel?

There are many pros to taking a travel locum tenens assignment; to name a few:

  • Higher pay:  Harder to fill positions tend to pay better and/or there is more room to negotiate
  • Opportunity to test out a facility/city:  Before permanently uprooting your life, travel assignments allow you to test out new facilities and cities without the commitment.
  • Freedom to choose your location: As a locum tenens provider you have full control over where you travel.  As an independent contractor, you control where you work, how often you work, and for what length of time.  Locum tenens travel assignments allow you to see the country while getting paid!
  • Have an agency do all the leg work:  Choose a desired location and let your staffing consultant do the rest.

Clarify what’s covered

Even if all of your costs are not covered, remember that you are operating as an independent contractor and some of your expenses may be tax deductible. Talk to a tax professional to know what receipts to hang on to for Uncle Sam.

If a provider takes a local job that’s within driving distance, the agency may cover the cost of gas or reimburse mileage, but that will have to be negotiated up front. Make sure to ask and always get it in writing before accepting any locums work.

There are not usually any significant incentives for locums travel. It’s sort of an assumed part of the job. Keep in mind though, that high-demand jobs that need to be filled immediately may give you more negotiating leverage. If a hospital is desperate for a provider, they may agree to pay you more to come on a moment’s notice and meet more of your requests.

Never assume that you will receive premium housing or travel benefits when you are negotiating a contract. It is the provider’s responsibility to clarify the locum agency’s role in travel assistance and to get any changes to the travel terms in writing.

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By Rachel Ballard RNC, BSN

rachel ballard squareRachel Ballard

Rachel Ballard is a certified registered nurse and owner of the medical writing company iHealth Communications. iHealth teams with healthcare leaders to create written content that boosts revenue and builds relationships. Learn more about Rachel on Google+