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10 Things every traveler should know

Whether you are new to the mobile lifestyle or a tried-and-true traveling professional, one of the advantages to the career alternative is always being able to glean something new with each opportunity. At one assignment, you may learn a new clinical skill, gain experience on a different piece of equipment, or adopt an improved approach on a routine procedure. While fulfilling another contract, a new friend or coworker might introduce you to an intriguing hobby that makes the occasion even more personally rewarding. Or maybe you'll finally get to live in a dream locale and explore the area as a resident, not simply as a visiting tourist. As many travelers would likely attest, your experiences will be what you choose to make of them.

Still, there are certain steps or actions you can take before and during an assignment to ensure your time on the road is as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. Recently, Healthcare Traveler invited two veteran mobile providers and an experienced company representative to participate in a roundtable discussion about the factors travelers should understand before accepting any assignment. Read on to learn about some of the top issues facing every mobile professional today.

1. Who to contact if a problem arises

Sheila Groff (SG): Your travel company recruiter should be your Number One contact. I take my travelers' successes personally and want to help them in any way possible. My firm has clinical liaisons on staff who are able to lend valuable support and offer advice. If there is an issue in the practice setting, you should first report it to your unit manager at the hospital prior to calling your recruiter.

The Participants
Lorene Purash (LP): If I felt comfortable enough to go through the department director or lead technologist, I would try to handle the matter myself before turning to my recruiter. Find out if your company has protocols to follow, whether there's a 24-hour emergency hotline, and what kind of support you can anticipate. While my actions would depend on the specific circumstance, I can only recall one instance where I had to reach out to my staffing company because of what I considered to be a poor supervisory decision. What I best remember about the situation is that my recruiter addressed it professionally and in a timely manner.

Jolene Kirkley (JK): I agree with Lorene—I would try to take care of clinical issues by myself or with my immediate supervisor. In addition, I might seek guidance from my recruiter or clinical liaison at my staffing agency.

2. Whether your hours—and hourly rate—are guaranteed

Benefits to Inquire About
SG: Before accepting a contract, you may want to ask your recruiter if your pay is guaranteed for hours not worked due to low census. There are some assignments where you are paid only for low census hours in excess of 24. There are also some facility contracts or travel companies that do not have guaranteed hours. It is important to clarify with your travel company the guaranteed hours/low census specifics for each facility you are considering.

JK: Some people really want guaranteed hours but they are not that big of a deal to me. Right now, for instance, the hospital where I'm currently on assignment cannot guarantee my hours. But I've never had a shift cancelled and have never been sent home from an assignment because a facility's level of need changed. I feel that I'm there to help, and if my assistance is not needed, then I should not be paid for the time.

Originally founded in 1930 as a division of the College of William and Mary, Old Dominion University (ODU) has since grown into a public institution, offering more than 160 bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees. Located in Norfolk, Virginia, it is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Many of its academic programs are nationally ranked, and graduates include a Rhodes Scholar, a Truman Fellow, and USA Today Academic All-Americans. Among the university's faculty are a Virginia Professor of the Year, a Virginia Scientist of the Year, and numerous Fulbright award winners.

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If you have a valid primary tax home—and work away from it for a period of time—company-supplied lodging, or a similar allowance, is usually tax-free. But before providing such a benefit, most staffing agencies will ask you to sign a "Permanent Tax Residence Form" or similar document to attest to the fact that you will be working away from your primary tax home. This form should not be taken lightly. If there are any doubts about your tax home, you should consult with a tax advisor familiar with language pertinent to traveling professionals.

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